Don’t miss it! Tuesday 6 May at Manchester University with Necla Acik, one of Roj Women’s research on the Kurdish Women’s Movement authors, and many others.
Voter registration instructions – special form for non-UK EU citizens
On May 22 there will be a UK-wide election for the European Parliament and also local council elections for London boroughs.
If you want to vote, please make sure you are registered on the Electoral Register. If you are, you should by now have received a voting card. If you haven’t had one, phone the Electoral Registration Service at your local council to check. You need to do this well before the deadline, May 6.
If you are resident in Britain but have a passport from another EU country, there is a second thing you have to do to be able to vote in the European Parliament elections on May 22. It may not be widely known that Polish, French, German, Spanish , Italian, Austrian etc. people need an extra form to vote in the European election, on which they promise to vote ONLY in the UK and not in their passport country.
Pinar Selek is a feminist sociologist who has been imprisoned and harassed by the Turkish government for nearly fifteen years now on fabricated charges after Pinar wrote a thesis on the subject of the Kurds.
She is living in exile in France but the Turkish State is again trying to get her extradited: the last episode of a saga in which she is endlessly acquitted by a lower court and then re-condemned by a supreme court that over-rules the judgment.
The next Supreme Court appeal trial for Pinar Selek will be held on April 30, 2014. The International Spokesperson of Pinar Selek Solidarity Committee in Turkey is seeking for organizations and individuals willing to sign a statement in support of Pinar. If your or your organization would like to help, please contact Ms Yesim Basaran (email@example.com), Ms Karin Karakasli (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Mr Onur Fidangul (email@example.com).
London’s Green Euro-MP Jean Lambert has visited a Kurdish Community Centre in North London to discuss the role Kurdish people are playing in bringing stability to Syria – and how best to develop the peace process between the Turkish government and Kurds ahead of August’s Presidential election in Turkey.
Ms Lambert said many Kurdish people were working as a force for equality and stability in the region, and it was essential to develop peace between Kurds and the Turkish government.
“We need to get a better understanding of the role Kurds are playing in Syria – in particular developing at least one area of stability in the Kurdish region, Ain al Arab.
“It is always a pleasure to meet Kurdish people living in London, to hear about the positive contribution they are making to civic life both here and abroad.”
Roj Women has made it again. Another year of hard work and achievements. A new membership scheme and on-going employability services, more lobbying in international forums for women’s rights and an open invitation to participate in a research project about the Kurdish Women’s Movement are some of the issues you will find in our latest Activity Report 2013-2014.
Roj’s action research project is building on existing literature with a view to contribute to the current review of the Kurdish women’s liberation movement’s praxis, both in Turkey and in Europe, where hundreds of thousands of Kurdish people now live in Diaspora.
By engaging practitioners based in their countries of origin and in the Dias-pora the study will benefit from the different experiences and expertises de-veloped as a result of their location. It is also a way of contrasting the differ-ences between the Kurdish women’s liberation movement practiced in Kurdi-stan and abroad.
Ultimately, the goal of this project is to build and transform the movement through collective learning and action research, as its findings will reach and feed the praxis of numerous activists, and of course, to publicize the struggle of the Kurdish women’s liberation movement.
Practitioners and activists are invited to join the online discussion forum that will take place in late May 2014, where the preliminary findings of the re-search will be put to test! Have something to say? Email us to firstname.lastname@example.org to join.
Choman Hardi: It is the legacy of violence. Not just from the Iraqi dictatorship, but also from the Kurdish revolutions that glorified killing, violence and revenge, and justified that because it leads to survival. Violence was such a normal thing. People were killed on the suspicion of being a spy, or a prostitute.
The Iraqi government was promoting violence as a spectacle; for the shooting of someone in public, officers were brought out to applaud. People were tortured and released so that others would see what happens when you disobey. It is about scaring and threatening people, but it also normalizes the violence.
During the Iran-Iraq war, the TV program “Images from the Battlefield” was broadcasted in the daytime, so children would see it. It showed mutilated and dead Iranian soldiers and glorified the victory. And in reaction, the Kurdish revolutionaries were glorifying their ability to fight, and to kill and get killed.
Rudaw: So violence became normal. But is that the only factor?
Choman Hardi: The rise of tribalism is a major factor, too. The Iraqi government armed tribal chieftains to stay in Kurdistan and fight the Peshmerga. It gave them power and prestige. They could do as they pleased. If a Jash (little donkey, a name for Kurds who worked with Saddam) leader wanted a girl, he would get her.
After the uprising of 1991 all their crimes went unpunished. They were told that they would be amnestied if they cooperated. The KDP and PUK were fighting to get them on their side. So if one side threatened to persecute them, they would go to the other. These tribes kept getting stronger, so did the tribal values, and the community reversed.
Another factor is the rise of radical Islam. In the 1990s suddenly there were these radicals patrolling the streets, and if a women was wearing a short dress, they would put acid on her arms, legs and face. This created fear.
Rudaw: The society has moved on ever since, and now there is a quota of 30 percent women in the Kurdish Parliament.
Choman Hardi: Many women in the women’s movement told me the quota was filled with the ‘wrong’ women, who had political or tribal affiliation, but no skills. They are chosen because they would not threaten the system. The Kurdish government fights an invisible war against women. It changes the laws but does not implement them, yet it tries to appear democratic and progressive. It says it changes the patriarchal system, but that always finds ways to become stronger.
Rudaw: If you women are not considered equal to men, what effect does that have, if the violence is so near the surface?
Choman Hardi: This is where the idea of women as dispensable beings comes from. She’s not very important or capable, she cannot rule, she cannot make decisions. She is only good for things like house care and child bearing and rearing. If she cannot abide by these traditional values, she is of no use. And as she’s not a full human being, of cause you can get rid of her.
The fact that it happens and has for a long time, and that hardly anyone gets caught – all of it encourages perpetrators. The leniency in convicting them remains; before it was in the law and now it is in how many people are brought to justice.
Rudaw: How do you explain that men can kill their children, and that women are involved?
Choman Hardi: Patriarchy is not a war between men and women. It is a fight against women by a system, which also includes women. Many women have internalized the patriarchal values through socialization, religion and tradition. And when you believe in the system, you will oppress women who cross the line.
When you want to understand how men can kill their daughters, you have to look at the complexity of the value system around them that is supported by culture, religion, the law and gaps in the law – by the discourse surrounding a person that becomes sometimes stronger and more important than his emotional connection with his daughter.
There is this fear behind holding one’s head high and walking as an honorable man. While these feelings are so important, shame and honor are so attached to a woman’s sexuality that a man might not need any evidence against her. He values these images of himself and the social capital they bring more than his love for his daughter.
Rudaw: What can be done to erase these kinds of negative effects on society?
Choman Hardi: I have often felt desperate and depressed when I thought of that. Violence destroyed our bonds with each other, destroyed trust in our communities, friendship, love and respect, and it created hate, selfishness and greed. The sense of community was destroyed by the Iraqi government and later by the Kurdish revolutionaries. In particular during the Anfal campaign when the revolutionaries did not defend the villagers. They were taken by the government and even when they were released they were isolated and looked down on. We need to recreate those severed bonds of love, affection and respect.
We have to work with young people, to get them to think. In 2007 and 2008, on the invitation of the Minister of Youth and Sports, I did many workshops in remote towns and villages. Within three hours of discussion I could already see a change in their views. But it has to be a process of maintenance. If you are providing an alternative discourse, you have to do this continuously.
Now, the only discourse available is the Islamic one, and the young are taking it on. The education system has completely neglected the sense of gender equality. In English (speaking) schools, on top of their dedication to gender equality and democracy they bring in writers and speakers to have another kind of input. But in Kurdistan we do not have a good education system that is dedicated to these equalities, nor the other input.
Roj Women’s partner Nafsiyat Intercultural Therapy Centre is now offering Group Psychotherapy to Turkish speaking Haringey residents as part of their new Haringey Include Project.
This project is for Kurdish, Turkish and Turkish Cypriot clients. The aims of the groups are:
1) To challenge stigma attached to mental health issues within the community and within the families.
2) To help people through the group process, to understand the issues and prevent emotional and physical difficulties.
Women can attend the carers group (male and female), which has been set for carers who provide practical and emotional support to a relative, partner or a friend who experiences mental health issues.
For information please contact: Nafsiyat Intercultural Therapy Centre, Unit 4, Clifton House, Clifton Terrace, London N4 3JP: Tel: 020 7263 6947. Email: email@example.com. Fax: 020 7561 1884.
Source: Deutsche Welle; edited by Roj Women
About 200 women and girls of the People’s Defence Unit (YPG) in Kurdish Syria stand at the ready on a sandy stretch of ground behind a small hill. “This is the brigade’s military base,” Warsin explains.
A year ago, Warsin, now 25, joined the Kurdish militia near Qamishli, the unofficial capital of the northern Rojava region of Syria, which is mainly settled by Kurds. She is clad in a typical Palestinian scarf and a protective vest. Roj, a petite young woman who fought against the al Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front on the Iraqi border, stands beside her. Last winter, the YPG militia drove the Islamists out, Roj proudly states, adding that they managed to chase out Bashar al-Assad’s troops a year before that.
The YPG was officially founded in 2012 in an attempt to keep Syria’s civil war from spreading into the region. The group is regarded as the military wing of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD). In effect, the entire region is isolated from the outside world because the Syrian Kurds’ attempts at self-rule aren’t welcomed by all their neighbors. Ankara fears a Kurdish uprising in Turkey should the Syrian Kurds’ model succeed. The Kurds in Iraq are split; some carry on a brisk oil trade with Turkey, and would rather not threaten the good relations with Ankara. The Iraqi government entertains sympathies for Syria’s Kurds, but remains guarded as long as it is not clear who is to rule in Damascus in the future.
From the classroom to the battlefield
As a result, Syria’s Kurds are on their own. But that has led to an outright surge in mobilization in the course of which Roj and Warsin decided to join the YPG. A few months ago, Syrian Kurds proclaimed Rojava to be autonomous.
“First and foremost, we are here because our native country is under attack and we want to defend it,” says Canda, a 21-year-old who’s a member of the Military Council. “No one forced us, we’re volunteers.” Canda is talkative. “My parents are proud of me, they support and motivate me, and feel I’m doing the right thing,” she says, and adds that, should she be killed in battel, her family would say “she died for peace and democracy.”
Eylem looks young for her 18 years. She’s just graduated from high school and had planned to study Arabic. “No one spoke Kurdish here, and it wasn’t taught in school, either.” A degree in Arabic was much sought after and would have been beneficial, Eylem says – Kurds in Syria were used to adjusting to Assad’s regime.
But now, for the first time, Syrian Kurds – above all the women – have the opportunity to shape their own lives. Women make up 35 percent of the 45,000 fighters. “Women used to be suppressed and exploited in our society, and regarded as inferior by the men,” Canda says. “Now we have the chance to be role models for Kurds and for other ethnicities – for instance, for Arab women.”
Women will decide the future
The Kurdish party PYD has also introduced a women’s quota of 40 percent, and the party’s executive is half women. Co-chairwoman to Asya Abdullah is fully dedicated to her political work and equality. She is convinced that “women have become the benchmark.” And she continues, “In some sectors, women have become so dominant that now men are demanding a quota.” Not every man is happy about that, she says, laughing. Even the male member of the regional parliament who’s sitting beside has to laugh at that, but he doesn’t contradict.
The Kurdish women’s great role model is the rebel leader Abdullah Öcalan, imprisoned in a Turkish jail since 1999. The leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), who spent 20 years of his life in exile in Syria, repeatedly demanded the liberation of women. Many Kurdish families still display his photo in their living room, and Öcalan’s nickname Apo is sprayed on numerous buildings. In their fight for autonomy, the Kurds may turn out to be the winners of the Syrian conflict – as long as they aren’t pulverized amid the conflicting interests of Syria’s neighbors.
In a report carried by ANF, Jina Zekioğlu interviews members of a 6-women committee from the Cizîre Canton in Rojava on a visit to Diyarbakir. The committee met with various local organizations in an attempt to develop joint-projects and to improve cooperation between women’s organizations in Rojava and North Kurdistan. Zekioğlu spoke with the six women – Necah, Axin, Sadia, Jînda, Nora and Mona – about the Rojava Revolution and the role that women are now playing in transforming politics and society. Below is the second part of Zekioğlu’s report, translated into English. Part one can be found here.
Jîna Sêxmûs is 26 years old. She has two children. The fire of the struggle sparklers in her eyes.
Zekioğlu: When you think about the past how do you feel?
Jîna: Very strong! I want to hope that we have left those dark days behind us. It was very difficult. It was difficult in every aspect. I had two children, I was to raise them – the war was a personal awakening for me as a woman. It was all very difficult. We, the youth, played our role and our mission in the revolution. Rojava is a region that possesses fantastic riches both below and above the ground. Our resources are very rich. The youth population is large. There is so much to do that we have no time now to waste. If the cooperatives are able to be brought together they will provide for the livelihood of women. A large majority of those migrating because of the war were men. Many of those who have lost their lives or became soldiers are also men. For that reason there is now a large population of young women. We want to create new projects in order to that this population might be utilized. In this way we will be worthy of our freedom which we have won through countless difficulties.
Roj Women will be represented in the upcoming Hackney Half Marathon on 22 June by a team of volunteers running to raise their voice to stop violence against women and to fundraise to support the work of Roj Women.
Want to join us? Email us to firstname.lastname@example.org uk.
You can train individually or come together with other team members; Roj Women will provide you all with unique T-shirts, specially designed for the occassion. Running half marathon will also get you free membership for a year.