Kurdish Women on Why They Picked up The Gun
Kurdish women taken on Islamic State militants
KOBANE, SYRIA: Women have played a key role in the defence of Kobanê after the revolution, and have created a revolutionary transformation in social attitudes. YPJ (Women’s Protection Units) fighters in the forefront of the defence of Kobanê are inflicting heavy blows on ISIS gangs and also demolishing taboos based on male domination.
Women fighters said they did not only see the YPJ as a defence front, but that they also saw it as a source of freedom.
Destan, who is in the front line, explained that before she joined the ranks of the YPG two years ago: “my life was between four walls. I had no social or economic life.”
Radical changes after the revolution affected Destan and her cousin of the same age, and they decided to join the YPG. A few months later, with the formation of the YPJ, they joined its ranks.
Destan replied to our question as to what had changed after she had joined the YPG/YPJ, saying: “I never used to believe a woman could be the equal of a man before. For instance, in our family the man was always deemed the dominant one and I always considered that normal and legitimate. Here there is a genuine understanding of equality and freedom. I understood in the ranks of the YPJ that male domination was not a normal part of life but was, on the contrary, against the natural order. This created a great feeling of freedom in me.”
Destan is one of those who has been in the front line against ISIS attacks that have intensified since July. She explained the defence of the “?ehit Xabur tepesi” [Martyr Khabur hill], a significant event in the Kobanê resistance thus: “Our women comrades fought to the end to prevent their weapons falling into the hands of the ISIS gangs.”
Destan lost her cousin Awaz in clashes in the village of Zor Mekhare on the western front in May.
Two more of her cousins, Shervan and Ruhat, have also died in clashes this year. She concluded: “Being in the YPJ is not just a matter of defending the land, but is also a love for freedom”.
My own language and culture
Berfin has not been in the YPJ as long as Destan. She joined up after calls to mobilise were issued following the launch of the Kobanê resistance. As she is new, she has not yet been allowed to take part in fighting.
“ I supported the YPJ and when the latest attacks began I knew I could not remain on the sidelines”, is how Berfin described how she joined the YPJ.
Berfin said: “before joining the YPJ we experienced serious assimilation. We were alienated from our language and our culture by the regime which imposed Arab culture. Here I have become acquainted with my own language and culture.”
“The YPJ has changed the perception that women are lacking and cannot do anything. I studied 7 years at school then they took me away. If it hadn’t been for the revolution, I would probably have got married and been a child mother.”
Feudal cultural values have been broken
A woman fighter named Roza, who joined the ranks of the YPJ 6 months ago, sums up the last 2 months of women’s resistance thus: “The most important gain of this conflict has been, in my opinion, the breaking of feudal value judgments in Kobanê. In the last month women have been fighting on the frontline. It may be said that women have inflicted the most crushing blows on the ISIS gangs. Many women have died after putting up heroic resistance. It is now up to us to carry on the struggle in the path of all those who have fallen, first and foremost the women.”