Besê Erzincan: Building a woman-led life - Part One

“The KJK stands for a very comprehensive and social system”, said Besê Erzincan, adding that “anyone who wants freedom, equality and justice and believes in socialism can join the organization.”

Besê Erzincan, coordinating member of the KJK (Community of Kurdistan Women), spoke about the origins of the Kurdish women's movement on the Xwebûn program on Jin TV hosted by Arjîn Baysal. The KJK is an umbrella organization for the women's army YJA Star, the women's party PAJK, youth work and other committees that are autonomous in themselves.

How did the KJK system come onto your agenda? How did it come about? What was the process before this system, what kind of work was done? What were your goals?

The KJK system has a historical background. Since the founding of the PKK to this day, women's activities have always been carried out. Our system first started with Heval Sakine Cansız, one of the founders of the PKK. Rebêr Apo [Abdullah Öcalan] has always valued the work of women. Political parties were created in the Middle East, but women have never been among the founders. Rebêr Apo has analyzed the history of Kurdistan, the history of the Middle East, the history of Mesopotamia and the history of society and personally saw that the struggle would not be successful without women. For freedom and democracy to emerge, women must be included. If we look at the life of Rebêr Apo, his approach was always in this direction. When the KJK was founded, there had already been a forty-year-long struggle. According to Heval Sakine Cansız, there have always been women in the army.

After 1986, Rebêr Apo analyzed the family. Then he said that an independent women's organization should be founded. On this basis, the JJWK was founded. The Women's Army was founded in 1993 and the YAJK (Yekîtiya Azadiya Jinên Kurdistan) in 1995. In 1999 a women's party was founded. In 2005, after the declaration of Democratic Confederalism, the KJB was founded. And in 2014 the Komalên Jinên Kurdistan (KJK) was created.

Each stage was a big step for women's work. With each stage, women's work became larger, deeper and broader. At the beginning, there was a deepening in the military sector. Of course, there was also work in the social and political areas, but this work was fragmented. Rebêr Apo said that a women's system would need cadres. On this basis, the women's party was created. So the KJK was built upon a forty-year legacy and has a very large paradigm and philosophy. Women are under attack within the system, their ability to organize and defend themselves has been crushed. A great deal of decomposition has taken place. Our goal is to organize women and build women-led lives.

You mentioned Democratic Confederalism. This system is based on the paradigm of Kurdish leader Abdullah Öcalan. Why did you choose an autonomous system?

The KJK works on many levels. Rebêr Apo always wanted women to have an independent will, an independent thought and an independent consciousness and that they could organize themselves. In the current system, there is no longer any living space for women. Women are seen as either belonging to the man, the state or the system. They are no longer recognized as individuals and are no longer able to make decisions for themselves and their lives. You can no longer stand on your own two feet. This is the case in the nation-state system. Because of this, women cannot express their energy, their thoughts and their potential. Self-organization is important so that women get to know themselves, become aware, come together and work together.

The state, men and authorities should not have any influence on women. It is the first time in history that there was an organization like the KJK. After the revolution, women could not form an independent organization, so they went home and continued to live as before. We said not to make that mistake. Rebêr Apo has dealt with many revolutions and seen many shortcomings regarding women. He said we should make a real revolution, not a formal one. An autonomous organization is necessary so that all women can take part in the revolution and express their will and ideas. If we were generally organized, women's color would not come to light. We have to fight as women. We cannot make a purely national and class revolution.

We have broken away from the system of capitalist modernity. We want to build a new life for women, men and society. The KJK system is not just for women. We want to lead society. We work not only for the freedom of women, but also for the freedom of men and society. If we look at other revolutions, we see that they do not have such a broad goal. The KJK system is also the basis of the confederal system.

You talked about being an army, being a party. What is your relationship with the YJA Star and the PAJK?

The KJK system is like an umbrella. It is not a centralized system. Within the KJK system there are the PAJK, youth organizations and the YJA Star. All are organized within this system, but each organization is autonomous within itself. Each organization makes its own decisions and takes its own precautions. However, the PAJK has a special status as it leads the entire system. Every organization has an autonomous mechanism. We can say that it works like a network. Then people come together and make decisions about strategic issues.

The KJK stands for a very comprehensive and social system. The cadres take the lead, but there is no hierarchy. Anyone who wants freedom, equality and justice, believes in socialism and wants to work for women's freedom can join the organization. Our paradigm is clear, it is a democratic, ecological, gender-liberating paradigm. We want to organize society on the basis of municipalities, councils, academies and cooperatives. With this system we want to build a new society, a new life. The nation-state system is based on the enslavement of women. We reject this and say that we will build a new life based on free women. We want to build a free, democratic and ecological life.

A system based on Abdullah Öcalan's paradigm was introduced in Rojava. It is true that the war continues, but the revolution also continues. Can one find traces of the democratic, ecological and women's liberation paradigm you mentioned in Rojava?

Rojava is organized based on the paradigm of democracy, ecology and women's freedom. The revolution in Rojava is a women's revolution. There is a women's system there. For example, there is the YPJ. Being a woman in the military protects both women and the country. The whole system is based on a co-board. For the first time, so many women are taking part in a revolution and in actions. In none of the past revolutions has there been equal representation. Today, thousands of women are involved in social, political, environmental, economic, health, community, communication and cultural activities. In addition to all these activities, there is a women's academy. Training courses are offered to solve women's problems. Women are becoming more aware. In Rojava, women educate themselves, have willpower and participate in activities. Arab, Circassian, Syrian and Armenian women are organized together. In addition to these activities, youth work is also very strong.