Return to Kobane - Part III

Patrizia Fiocchetti has been in Kobane to open the Women’s Academy. ANF publishes her reflections on the visit.

Patrizia Fiocchetti ends her feature about her trip to Kobane. Part 1 can be read here and Part 2 here.

Leaving this land is not easy. As soon as one moves out, leaving Kobane behind, the sense of loss is tangible. What is received in human and political terms is much more than what has is being given through funds for reconstruction: we have been welcomed by a community in which differences mean wealth and solidarity is the backbone in the life cycle that makes the Rojava experience unique in contemporary history.

Hospitality, difference, solidarity. Words offended and debased in our reality, in the Euphrates region, instead, they are in full bloom, rooted in the daily practice of the care of the other in which boundaries, physical or conceptual have no place.

Kurds and Arabs live together in Kobane and its villages, as well as refugees from Afrin or Raqqa who are part of the collective life as they are an active and responsible part to correct and improve it.

In this area the first form of organized human society, was born, a matriarchal community that welcomed and redistributed the gifts of the harvest, and always here women have regained their evolutionary role turning it into revolutionary.

The Women's Academy - The sense of a shared project - 15 -18 June 2018

17 June 2018 will be difficult to forget, especially for Carla Centioni friend and president of the Ponte Donna Association of Rome with whom I traveled: it is the day of the opening of the Women's Academy, a project funded by the Valdese Church with the participation of the Autonomous Province of Bolzano. A project for which Carla has committed herself in person from 2015 until after our return from the mission in Kobane. The reconstruction project also includes Uiki and the Reconstruction board, both represented by Ozlem Tanrikulu.

It's morning, the entrance is already crowded with women, men, children and journalists. Many stop to look at the sign that dominates the entrance door. On a purple background the picture of a young woman smiling. At the side of the inscription "Akademiya S. Silan Kobané", in which "S." stands for shahid martyr and Silan is the name of the first martyr of the city of Kobane (killed in Iraqi Kurdistan). The Acamdey is dedicated to her.

The political representatives of the canton arrive: the co-president accompanied by the minister for women; the co-mayor together with her sister (we met them in Suruc in February 2015); exponents of the Kongreya Star (Women's Movement) and the Kobane Women's Foundation. Smiles and words to emphasize the joy for the event.

Arjin, appointed head of the Academy by the female movement of the Canton, approaches Carla along with an older lady and dressed in traditional clothes with a white scarf on her head. "I'll introduce you to Silan's mother" and Carla hugs her, surprised and moved.

The three moved towards the entrance where the inaugural ribbon awaits. Hands joined over those of Silan's mother clutching the scissors and cutting the yellow and purple strip between the well-wishing zagharid and camera flashes.

Reconstructing the women's home, bombed by Daesh during the attack on the canton, seemed like an "utopian project almost impossible to realize", Carla recalls in her speech at the conference that takes place immediately after the inauguration.

"It was the fruit of a determination that is in the nature of women". Obstacles and unforeseen difficulties have been overcome: "I hope that once the borders are reopened, it will be possible for many international delegations to come here to the Women's Academy of Kobane to learn from you".

The representatives of the institutions and associations of Kobane stand up one by one giving their testimony on the importance that this place acquires in their eyes.

The words of the minister for women, in particular, are revealing: "All the women who have come here and kept their promises, have become part of a concrete bond that is essential for us". Women building bridges, every millimeter of the house is a tangible witness.

Among the applause and thanks to Carla and Ozlem the assembly is dissolved and while on the ground floor we stop to look at the work on the brown wooden walls of the more than 70 Italian and international artists have dedicated to the Academy answering to an initiative launched by Ponte Donna in 2016, Arjin smiling informs that the opening of the courses is scheduled for next June 25, although the first floor for the guesthouse still has to be completed.

She shows us the program: women's rights, jineology, sociology of liberation ... "For the moment only those destined to women will start, but we are organizing course for men too", to reaffirm the meaning of education as inclusion and change.

The Academy appears to be a bit like the mother house of the many centers for women you find in every district of Kobane and in every village that composes the canton, rebuilt immediately after the expulsion of black militias from the territory, as the urgency of a system that had not been eradicated by the barbaric attack but had instead been the mastermind of the victory over it.

And while in Rome and Italy, one after another, Women's centres are threatened with eviction and closed, canceled with a single bureaucratic stroke, the path of years to fill the voids of institutions suddenly forgotten, in far away Rojava women rebuild and build inclusive places of study and practice communal experiences.

Jinwar - The village of women

The view is suggestive. The blue of the sky even more powerful due to the midday sun on the red earth dotted with low traditional buildings in a darker shade placed in a semicircle of a large central structure.

If Jinwar is the "place of women", nature is its foundation.

We left Qamishlo behind and we are on the way back to our world. The landscape that welcomes us is part of the last stage of this journey full of emotions, returning the other cornerstone of democratic Confederalism: living in the name of respect for the environment.

To welcome us is Nujin, a young 27-year-old German member of the constituent committee of the village. We sit on the benches, fresh water to quench your thirst while the eyes wander over the work of people in the earth from which they will take the bricks for the houses and the green fields and the orchard.

"Today you find only me" - Nujin tells us smiling - "The others are in Kobane for the selection interviews of women who have asked to enter Jinwar".

There are many but the criteria are accurate: priority will be given to widows of those fallen in battle, victims of domestic violence and finally those motivated to follow this path.

The idea of ​​a place that women could build with their own hands dates back to 2015.

In 2016 the committee was formed in which the various women's associations of Rojava were represented.

Their goal was to establish the principles on the basis of which an experience of such magnitude could actually come to life. On 25 November of the same year, on the international day against violence against women, news of the project was given during a press conference.

"The central body was pre-existing and was used as a common space". The walls are frescoed with female symbols. One in particular grabs our attention: a female figure with the palms of the hands facing upwards from which miniature trees stand.

"There will be 30 houses in total. Then a school for children will be built, an academy in which some courses will be also open to men, and a center of natural medicine. We will live in an ecological way".

Family units, as well as single men, will not be allowed to live in Jinwar, but a married woman who decides to move in with or without children can do so.

"We want to experiment with a new idea of ​​relationships, not only in the context of the couple relationship, which contemplates the choice by the woman of an independent model of life, beyond feelings and obligations, which puts at the center a way of life free from the terms of society".

Nature, in this daily relationship becomes a central element. "Working with it means living it as a source of evolution. In the academy will be held courses in economics related to ecology. Land, water and wheat are essential to create those bricks that will build our homes. And the fruits will enter the economy of Jinwar, for our sustenance and also to be sold to markets in neighboring villages".

Nujin guides us in a short excursion of the women's place: the area where the bricks are drying; the academy yard in front of the swimming pool, "women did not have a place to go swimming. Therefore, we built it. The water will then be used for the fields"; the terrace placed to cover the patronal house (matronal, rather).

When we go down, a woman with a traditional flowered dress is waiting for us. "Before starting the work, once the land was declared free and was granted by the local administration, we went to talk with the families of the various neighboring villages. We talked to men and women to explain the meaning of the project and told them that they were welcome if they wanted to help us," explains Nujin.

"She has nine children and a husband. She asked us right away if he could come and help us. Now she is on the committee, he arrives early in the morning and returns to her house in the evening. Even her children come to work and her husband too, helps with whatever he can, from the fields. She will not live here but it is an integral part of it".

In the place of women, inclusion and openness to the other are concrete realities, and while we are leaving, we ask Nujin if, in the case of too many requests, they think of turning the village of women into a city of women.

She laughs. "In that case we will have to think about building a Jinwar in another part of Rojava". Many places of women, perhaps built in different areas of the world.