YPJ International: Rojava is a model for the entire Middle East

Comrade Dilan from YPJ International said that all components in Rojava participated in the revolution and the construction of a democratic society, and that the Rojava Revolution model could offer a solution for the entire Middle East.

Comrade Dilan from YPJ International said that YPJ International is the place for women who seek freedom and who want to work to understand, develop and defend the women's revolution.

Women who come to Rojava voluntarily from all over the world continue to play a role in the construction of a free life.

Comrade Dilan from YPJ International talked to ANF about the work and aims of the organisation.

What is YPJ International and what are its aims?

YPJ International is an internationalist organizational structure within the Women’s Defense Units of Rojava. It organizes and educates internationalist volunteers in line with the framework of Democratic Confederalism, enabling their active participation in the women’s revolution and building global alliances. Since the battle of Kobane in 2015, there has been a worldwide interest in the YPJ and more and more women have reached out to us, asking how they can join. It was then that we saw the need to organize an internationalist battalion within the YPJ, and since then YPJ International has become a place in which women receive ideological and military training, learn the Kurdish language and become ready to work in the different areas of work within the YPJ.

Why is it important to organize for self-defense as women and why do internationalists join the defense forces of Rojava?

Every living organism has its own system of defense, like a rose has thorns to protect its beauty. From the dawn of human life, self defense was a task naturally organized by society. With the institutionalization of patriarchy, the accumulation of capital and the emergence of the class system, the capacity for self defense was seized by the ruling class and men and women were stripped of their means of self defense. Armies were established, and rather than being used to protect society they are used as murderous war machines that exploit peoples around the world.

When we take up arms, we do so in opposition to patriarchal militarism, with the aim of defending women and our people, not the interests of capital or nation-states. The YPJ sees itself as part of a historical legacy of women defending their land against fascism and occupation or protecting revolutions like the Mujeres Libres in the Spanish Civil War, the female partisans fighting Nazism during the Second World War and the Vietnamese women defending their land against occupation.

The Rojava Revolution built up a grassroots democracy that organizes society through local communes and councils. Women are building autonomous women’s structures at all levels of society. The co-chair system guarantees women’s participation in any political body, education for women is organized extensively through academies, and women’s cooperatives give women the chance to gain economic independence. Jineoloji - the science of women – provides a scientific basis for the women’s revolution without reproducing positivist doctrines, women’s justice councils aim to create justice, and with the YPJ women created their own self-defense forces. Those achievements are made for the women across the entire world, and seek to benefit the development of true democracies.

Turkish fascism and Islamist groups like ISIS are attacking the liberated areas of North and East Syria. They try to occupy our liberated land and seek to implement their misogynist, oppressive system. Additionally, hegemonic powers try to misrepresent the Rojava Revolution and make it out to be a project of Kurdish separatism, presenting the war they force on us as an inter-ethnic conflict. But the Rojava Revolution is not a Kurdish revolution. It is based on Abdullah Öcalan’s paradigm of Democratic Nation which includes every religious, cultural or ethnic group within the region. It aims to create unity between the different peoples of the region. People from all of the ethnic communities of Rojava are involved in the revolution and the building up of a democratic society. Because the Rojava Revolution offers a political model for religious, cultural and ethnic cooperation, it can offer a solution for the whole Middle East. The hegemonic powers have turned the Middle East into a playground in which they turn different ethnic groups against each other, and the Rojava Revolution undermines this plan, so it is dangerous to them.

The volunteers of YPJ International understand the potential of this revolution and see it as their own, not as perspective restricted to Kurdish people. The three international revolutionaries Ivana Hoffman from Germany, Anna Campbell from England and Alina Sanchez from Argentina became martyrs within the ranks of the YPJ. Their commitment is proof to us that women who came to Rojava found what they were looking for: a concrete way of liberating themselves from 5000 years of women’s oppression. Women from around the world find freedom here and therefore are willing to defend it.

Based on the experiences you have had with internationalist, what do you think are the main attacks on women in capitalist modernity and what are your strategies to counter them?

Although our members come from different regions of the world we have a common enemy. Imperialism, colonialism, war and fascism are existential threats to women around the world. Capitalism oppresses women twice; they need to sell their labor-power for less money than men do and at the same time are forced to be unpaid workers responsible for reproductive labor in their homes. We know that it is those economic conditions that push women into dependence on men, which makes them more vulnerable to violence.

Capitalism is turning everything into a commodity. One of the largest industries in the world, the sex industry, uses women as commodities, making profit from their sexual exploitation. Reducing everything to simply its material value is denying intangible and ethical values. But we believe that ethical values are vital to keeping communities strong. We need to understand that this system has even degraded the meaning of love to the extent that “love” has become a legitimate excuse for the killing of women. This system is an attack on life itself and we are not willing to let this murderous machine keep going.

On an ideological level, we see liberalism as a major attack on women and their struggle. It tries to placate us by integrating women in the exploitative system. By using female bosses and leaders as supposed proof of women’s emancipation, it aims to make our demands for liberation seem unnecessary. The influence of liberalism on feminism is preventing radical struggle and change. Any choice made by a woman is presented as a “feminist” choice, and women are convinced that oppression is not oppression as long as they are free to choose it. We need to understand that this completely denies the material and historical conditions under which women make choices. It cuts women off from their history, pretending that just the individual and the moment is important. It breaks everything down to individual choices, distracting us from the real cause of our problems, which is the exploitative patriarchal system. We can see that this approach prevents any critical debate because individual autonomy is used as something that can never be questioned or challenged. We see individualism as something that prevents building up strong communities and have noticed that women are getting more and more isolated from each other. If women are separated from each other, they are easier to control. And what is even more dangerous is that it makes women less willing to stand up for each other.

In the discussion we had within YPJ International, we could see how these strategies are affecting the psychology of women. Not seeing the system as the source of their oppression makes women believe that it is their own fault if they face exploitation and violence. We can see that shame and guilt are common patterns in our biographies. This is why we see liberalism as an ideological attack on women. We see that all around the world women are waking up, not accepting patriarchy any longer. But we also see with great concern that liberalism is offering itself as a solution, preventing women from engaging in revolutionary politics. This is why we see an urgent need to offer education about the dangers of liberalism and spread a revolutionary narrative instead. A narrative that analyses the system of oppression and enables women to struggle for liberation.

YPJ International is a space in which women can educate themselves in a revolutionary context, free from the control and repression of nation-states and bureaucracy. Against the oppressive system’s strategy of isolation, we aim to build unity and love among women. We create education about the history of women’s oppression but also about the history of women’s freedom. We teach the Women’s Liberation Ideology, a concept rooted in the Kurdistan Women’s Movement, which offers core principles to guide how women can liberate themselves. We believe in the strength of education and know that the system is afraid of educated, revolutionary women. This is why we see the need to build up women who can inspire others and spread the revolution to the world.

What are the requirements for joining YPJ International and how can women contact you?

YPJ International is a place for women who are searching for freedom and are willing to give energy and effort to understanding, developing and defending the women’s revolution. We don’t expect anyone to have read a lot of theory but rather we ask people to be open to learning and living values like collective care, compassion and selflessness in daily life. Anyone who is open to educating and developing herself is welcome to join us. To be part of a revolution means to make the revolution take place inside yourself as well. In our daily life, we use the method of criticism and self criticism to analyze, learn and grow together.

But of course this process needs time and so patience is needed when coming to Rojava. Although the women in Rojava have made a lot of achievements, there is still a long way to go. People shouldn’t expect a perfect revolution in which all problems or contradictions are solved. In order to have time to learn the language, get to know the culture, receive military training and understand the philosophy of the revolution, volunteers should stay one year minimum. Previous military experience is not needed.

People can reach us via email (womensrevolut[email protected]) and find us on twitter @YPJ_volunteers. We want to emphasize that we are especially interested in strengthening our alliances with women in Latin America, Asia and Africa and we invite them to contact us. From the heart of the women’s revolution, we send greetings to all our sisters who are resisting the capitalist- patriarchal system and we give you our word that we will do everything to defend and spread the women’s revolution.