Socialist Alliance: Solidarity with Rojava revolution! West prefers IS killers to humane, pro-woman, democratic revolution
"At least a third of the defence forces of Rojava are female. They are in the frontlines and in the command. Many women have perished after resisting heroically to the end. Such examples by women are demolishing social taboos and challenging feudal, patriarchal values in society. Rojava has also mounted a big ongoing campaign against domestic violence."
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[For more on the struggle of the Kurdish people, click HERE.]
Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- This resolution was adopted by the Australian Socialist Alliance National Council on October 4, 2014. Below that is the text of a leaflet being distributed by Socialist Alliance members at solidarity mobilisations in Australia.
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1. Socialists have always supported the legitimate national aspirations of the Kurdish people, left divided by the colonial powers at the end of World War I between four countries.
2. The struggle of the Kurdish and other communities in Rojava (the liberated zone in northern Syria) is of enormous importance for the future of the Middle East. Their attempt to establish a society where all ethnicities and religions can live amicably and cooperatively side by side is profoundly progressive. So too are their efforts to empower women.
3. The Kurdish people in Turkey, who have suffered severe discrimination since the inception of modern Turkey, are today also struggling vigorously for their rights.
4. Today the Kurdish people are on the frontlines of struggle against the inhuman "Islamic State" gangs. The centre of this struggle is Rojava and right now the flashpoint there is the city of Kobanê, which is heroically resisting an all-out assault by the IS, backed to the hilt by Turkey. The defence of Kobanê has become a national cause for the Kurdish people.
5. Even if the IS gangs are driven back at Kobanê and elsewhere there is the danger that Turkey will attempt to impose a "buffer zone" which would be directly aimed at the Rojava revolution.
6. Socialists must actively solidarise with these struggles, especially the struggle in Rojava, which is at such a critical point.
a. Socialist Alliance branches should take all necessary steps to ensure that members are aware of the great importance of this issue. These could include reading circles around articles in Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal and Green Left Weekly and educational reports to branch meetings.
b. Socialist Alliance branches should make contact with any Kurdish group(s) in their city and discuss the possibility of solidarity activities (rallies, public meetings, Kurdish speakers at various events, etc.). Other Middle Eastern communities who are part of Rojava (Assyrian, Syriac Christian, etc.) could also be contacted.
c. In order to alert progressive opinion to the reality and importance of this issue, Green Left Weekly should plan a reasonably regular and prominent coverage of Rojava as a living revolution (articles, editorials, interviews, etc.).
Kobanê’s heroic resistance to ‘Islamic State’: West prefers IS killers to a humane, democratic revolution
Leaflet distributed by Socialist Alliance members at solidarity actions in Australia
Besieged since September 15, the northern Syrian Kurdish-majority city of Kobanê (Arabic name: Ayn al-Arab) has mounted an heroic, all-out resistance to the genocidal ‘Islamic State’ gangs. Despite all the superior heavy weaponry deployed by the IS, fierce resistance held off the IS killers. Nonetheless, the defenders have been remorselessly forced back and fighting is now taking place in the city itself. The defence forces have vowed to fight to the end.
The US-led anti-IS coalition has failed to give any meaningful assistance to the city’s defenders. It has bombed all over northern Syria but refused to target the IS positions around Kobanê, except in the most token way. The West has refused to give the Kurds any heavy weapons to enable them to effectively counter the fundamentalists’ big advantage.
Rojava a model for whole Middle East
Kobanê, 135km north-east of Aleppo, hard up against the Turkish border, is one of the three ‘cantons’ (districts) of the "Rojava Revolution". Rojava’s system of "democratic confederalism" is an inspiring attempt to build a society inclusive of all ethnicities and religious communities and to empower women.
At least a third of the defence forces of Rojava are female. They are in the frontlines and in the command. Many women have perished after resisting heroically to the end. Such examples by women are demolishing social taboos and challenging feudal, patriarchal values in society. Rojava has also mounted a big ongoing campaign against domestic violence.
Kurds are the majority community in Rojava (Rojava means "West" as in West Kurdistan) but many other ethnic and religious groups are also part of this liberation experiment (Arabs, Assyrians, Syriac Christians, Turkmen). In this sense, Rojava is a model for the entire Middle East.
The contrast between the humane, democratic Rojava project and the brutal, fundamentalist, women-hating Islamic State could not be greater.
Kobanê a national cause for Kurdish people
The defence of Kobanê has been a national cause for the Kurdish people.
The PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party), which has led a decades-long struggle for Kurdish rights in Turkey, called on Kurdish youth to go to Kobanê. Thousands of people crossed into the city from Turkey to join the defence effort led by the YPG-YPJ (Peoples Protection Units-Women’s Protection Units). Thousands of PKK fighters left their bases in Iraq’s Qandil Mountains to go to Kobanê.
Kurds established a solidarity camp and vigil on the Turkish border opposite Kobanê. It was attacked by police with water cannon and tear gas.
Turkey using IS to attack Rojava Revolution
NATO member Turkey, which has long severely oppressed its 20% Kurdish minority, is implacably opposed to the Rojava Revolution. It decided to deal the revolution a massive blow by using the IS gangs to attack Kobanê.
Despite all the media obfuscation, Turkey is giving direct support to the IS killers. Jihadis freely transit Turkey to join IS in Syria; IS wounded are openly treated in Turkish hospitals; Turkey has supplied, tanks, weapons and ammunition to the IS gangs; IS buys large quantities of vehicles in Turkey; and large amounts of IS oil from their captured fields in northern Syria is sold through Turkey. And while Turkey allowed refugees from Kobanê to enter, it prevented people crossing the border to help defend the city.
And now the Turkish government is pushing the idea of a "buffer zone". The buffer would be on the Syrian side of the border. Clearly, it will not be aimed at the IS but at crushing the deeply unpleasant example of a democratic, self-governing, multi-ethnic, Kurdish-majority Rojava. Turkish troops may yet cross the border and deal Kobanê the final blow
Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan is supposedly engaged in ‘peace’ talks with the Kurds but his support to the IS killers against Rojava makes this farcical.
To crush the IS killers, arm Rojava
Despite the enormous courage and commitment of the people, Kobanê always faced a tremendous challenge fighting an opponent backed by state power and armed with vastly superior weaponry.
The fall of Kobanê will place the Rojava Revolution in great danger.
The West — including Australia — talks about waging war on the IS but the real fight against the fundamentalists is being waged on the ground by the YPG-YPJ, the PKK and their allies. The imperialist powers do not want to help Rojava in any way. The IS may be a headache for Washington and its allies but a real people’s revolution is a far greater one.
Resistance is not terrorism
The PKK, together with the YPG-YPJ, is the backbone of the people’s resistance to the IS gangs. Yet it remains on the US, European Union and Australian lists of ‘terrorist’ organisations. It is thus an offence for any Australian to raise funds for it.
This travesty should be rectified immediately: Resistance is not terrorism. Take the PKK off the terror list now!
Solidarity with Rojava
The US-Australian-EU war drive will not crush the Islamic State. Only the Kurdish, Syrian and Iraqi people can do that. Right now the people of Rojava — and especially those fighting so bravely at Kobanê — need our solidarity.
By Elizabeth Griffin
There's a group of 7,500 soldiers who have been fighting an incalculably dangerous war for two years. They fight despite daily threats of injury and death. They fight with weapons that are bigger and heavier than they are against a relentless enemy. And yet they continue to fight.
They are the YPJ (pronounced Yuh-Pah-Juh) or the Women's Protection Unit, an all-women, all-volunteer Kurdish military faction in Syria that formed in 2012 to defend the Kurdish population against the deadly attacks lead by Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad, the al-Nusra Front (an al-Qaeda affiliate), and ISIS.
In a recent BBC article, the YPJ, and their male counterpart unit, the YPG, were deemed "extraordinarily successful" in the battle to squash the growing ISIS militant force, despite limited means. The Washington Post has also weighed in on the importance and impact of the YPJ, suggesting the forces could be an effective ally to the West. Both the YPJ and YPG have also been credited with helping the U.S.-assisted effort to evacuate thousands of Yazidi refugees stranded on Mount Sinjar after ISIS invaded their towns.
Photographer Erin Trieb recently spent a week documenting members of the YPJ at several military posts in Northeastern Syria and along the Syrian-Kurdish border. She recalled to us an incident that occurred during her time there: "One morning, I heard two loud blasts, one followed by another. I asked my translator, Rama, what it was and she said, 'That's just the YPJ and ISIS saying good morning to each other.'"
So who are these women who confront some of the world's most notorious and lethal groups and why have so few in the West heard of them? We asked Trieb to share with us her experience (and photographs) of the YPJ and the harrowing words these women fighters wanted the rest of the world to hear.
Evin Ahmed, 26. Photographed at a YPJ checkpoint-base, on the outskirts of Rabia, Kurdistan, on Aug. 7, 2014.
"We have to be free from the Syrian government," says YPJ member, Evin Ahmed, 26, (pictured above). She continues, "We need to control the area ourselves without depending on them. They can't protect us from [ISIS], we have to protect us [and] we defend everyone…no matter what race or religion they are."
Ahmed, like many of the YPJ, is fiercely loyal to her fellow-soldiers. She insists, "I love being a YPJ soldier, I love the other soldiers, we are closer than sisters. This is the only life for me. I can't imagine living any other way."
This sentiment, says Trieb, is echoed by all members of the YPJ, who live by a code of honesty, morals, and justice. "Their motto is 'Haval' or 'friendship'," explains Trieb, "and is of utmost importance to them. They treat each other (and treated me) with a sense of solidarity and sisterhood. They address each other as Haval, and when they spoke to me, they would call me 'Haval Erin'. It enforces a constant sense of belonging and support."
The women range in age from 18-40, though there are some younger
recruits like Hevedar Mohammed, 12, (pictured below). Recruits under the
age of 18 are not permitted to fight, though they go through some
physical training and participate in the group by way of carrying out
'household' chores. Hevedar, like many YPJ, was inspired to join because
of the group's reputation for developing strong, independent women and
because of its positive standing in the community.
YPJ soldier, Hevedar Mohammed, 12. Photographed at a YPJ training base near Derek City, Syria, Aug. 20, 2014.
"At home," says Hevedar, "I saw all my friends going to join the YPJ. My friends told me that [the YPJ] was amazing and that I should join. One day, I went home and told my mother that I wanted to join. At first she said no, because I was too small. I asked her again and finally she said I could. My father said he was very proud of me."
Several of the women, like General Zelal, 33, (pictured below) one of the leaders of YPJ, expanded upon the idea of the independence the group brings women of the region: "I don't want to get married or have children or be in the house all day. I want to be free. If I couldn't be a YPJ I think my spirit would die. Being a YPJ soldier means being free—this is what it means to truly be free."
"There is a sense among the women," says Trieb, "that the YPJ is in
itself a feminist movement, even if it is not their main mission. They
want 'equality' between women and men, and a part of why they joined was
to develop and advance the perceptions about women in their
culture—they can be strong and be leaders."
General Zelal, 33. Photographed at a YPJ checkpoint-base, on the outskirts of Rabia, Kurdistan, on Aug. 7, 2014.
Sa-el Morad, 20, (pictured below), shared with Trieb that she enlisted in order to prove that, "we can do all the same things that men can do; that women can do everything; that there's nothing impossible for us. When I was at home," she recalled, "all the men just thought that the women are just cleaning the house and not going outside. But when I joined the YPJ everything changed. I showed all of them that I can hold a weapon, that I can fight in the clashes, that I can do everything that they thought was impossible for women. Now, the men back home changed their opinions about me and other women. Now they see that we are their equals, and that we have the same abilities, maybe sometimes more than them. They understand we are strong and that we can do everything they can."
According to Trieb, the women are indeed seen as just as strong, disciplined, and committed as their male counterparts. They endure many months and levels of rigorous training in weaponry and tactical maneuvers before they are even allowed to fight. They are also wholly celebrated by their community, which Trieb notes is unexpected in a part of the world where women are often seen as inferior to men.
To some in the region, they are seen as potentially more of a threat
to ISIS than male soldiers. As Trieb recalls, "The saying among many
Syrian Kurds is that ISIS is more terrified of being killed by women
because if they are, they will not go to heaven."
Sa-el Morad, 20. Photographed at a YPJ training base near Derek City, Syria, Aug. 20, 2014.
Zevin Botan, 20. Photographed at a YPJ checkpoint-base, on the outskirts of Rabia, Kurdistan, on Aug. 7, 2014.
There is, despite the toughness of the YPJ, another unexpected side to the group that Trieb uncovered. "Though when training or on a mission they're very serious," she says, "in their downtime they're always joking around. The younger ones were a lot like American teenage girls and my time with them at the training post felt similar to summer camp—daily routine, lots of activities, and new recruits were getting to know one another."
Mizguin Emraly, 14. Photographed at a YPJ checkpoint-base, on the outskirts of Rabia, Kurdistan, on Aug. 7, 2014.
YPJ solider, Narlene, 20. Photographed at a YPJ checkpoint-base, on the outskirts of Rabia, Kurdistan, on Aug. 7, 2014.
Trieb reveals that the YPJ are also very concerned with America's perception of them, "worrying that [Americans] think we're terrorists". The YPJ soldiers would ask Trieb 'What do they Americans think of us?'. "The truth is," says Trieb, "most of the West hasn't heard of the YPJ. It was really hard to have to tell them that. Because for them, they've been fighting this war every day for almost three years, so they were shocked to hear that most Americans don't know they exist."
It is difficult to say exactly why the force is largely unknown to Americans and many western nations, though it may in part be due to the dwindling number of Western media in Syria. Historically, Trieb explains, the "YPJ has been closed off to being covered by Western media, partly in fear of how they will be portrayed in the West...." The YPJ (and YPG) have been closely linked to another Kurdish fighting force known as the Kurdistan Worker's Party or the PKK and the U.S. State Department, N.A.T.O., and the European Union have all designated the PKK a terrorist group, mainly due to its violent three-decade (1984-2013), struggle for autonomy from the Turkish State (a N.A.T.O. member). Although some have pointed out the success of the PKK in stopping ISIS, the tag still stands.
For now, the YPJ has no backing from western nations, relying mainly on their community to provide funding and supplies.
Nonetheless, the women remain committed to the YPJ and its mission and are dedicated to protecting their people. They are not at all obligated to stay, says Trieb, and all who join, remain out of loyalty. In fact, none of them sign contracts (as with most militaries) and they can leave whenever they choose. Since the YPJ exists on a volunteer basis, many of the women are also unpaid and even when supporters offer them payment in return for their service, "they will refuse the gift or donate it to the YPJ," Trieb notes.
The YPJ operates in two-week rotations on the front lines. Small groups are stationed at various observation posts all along the border of Rabia to keep the area secured, explains Trieb. Some live in abandoned Iraqi army buildings, which, as one might imagine, are run down and lack any luxuries. Often, ISIS snipers are just 500 feet away, ready to shoot. Trieb, who made these photographs using the dilapidating building walls as backdrops, remembers having to duck and run between YPJ buildings to avoid possible enemy fire.
Yet even under such intense conditions, the YPJ are always "staged and ready for conflict," Trieb says. She continues, "Some of the had their own personal cars parked outside the building so that they could quite literally 'drive' into conflict, should it erupt. They are fearless," says Trieb, "though they might not say they are. They consider fear and then they go forward anyway."
Avinar Kolcer, 26. Photographed at a YPJ checkpoint-base, on the outskirts of Rabia, Kurdistan, on Aug. 7, 2014.
Mizguin Ronahi. Photographed at a YPJ checkpoint-base, on the outskirts of Rabia, Kurdistan, on Aug. 7, 2014.
Evin Sadak, 20. Photographed at a YPJ training base near Derek City, Syria, Aug. 20, 2014.
Sosen Shingel, 17. Photographed at a YPJ training base near Derek City, Syria, Aug. 20, 2014.
Shavin Bachouk, 26. Photographed at a YPJ checkpoint-base, on the outskirts of Rabia, Kurdistan, on Aug. 7, 2014.
Hasrat Sahad, 23. Photographed at a YPJ checkpoint-base, on the outskirts of Rabia, Kurdistan, on Aug. 7, 2014.
Editor's Note: In recent weeks, the YPJ has come under increased attack. Several of the women photographed by Trieb have been injured and some have been captured by ISIS.