The growing struggle of women in Rojava – VI

52 women's organizations have been getting organised more efficiently under the umbrella of the Women's Assembly of North-East Syria.

The Women's Assembly of North-East Syria was established on 14 June 2019 based on three main principles. The Assembly, which includes 52 women's movements from Kurds, Arabs, Syriacs, Armenians, Chaldeans, Turkmen and Circassians, is currently drafting a constitution for the future of Syria.

The Women's Assembly Coordination Member Jîyan Hisên answered ANF's questions about the development of women's struggle in North-East Syria.

How did the idea of such an organization emerge? How was the preparatory work?

With 12 years of Yekîtiya Star experience, which was followed by Kongra Star, women liberated many areas during the course of the revolution and played a role in society in the fields of military, diplomacy, cultural, political and economy. Yet, there was no assembly that brought women together in a common environment. Each party, non-governmental organisation, political party, institution and organization carried out activities in its own field. After the liberation of Raqqa, Tabqa, Deir ez-Zor and Manbij, there was a need to form an assembly. Under the leadership of Kongra Star, women and their movements in the region took a major step in 2019 following an agreement that there should be a women’s assembly to unite other assemblies in all fields. A preparatory committee visited political parties, non-governmental organizations and independent institutions and organizations in the region. The purpose was to establish women's assemblies for all activities and to gather them under one roof. All the organizations that were visited presented a favourable opinion about the project. Gathering women under one roof was a reaction against both occupation and femicide.

When and where was the Women's Assembly of North-East Syria established, what organizations does it include?

The Congress to found the Women's Assembly of North-East Syria was held in Amude on June 14, 2019. The draft charter of the assembly, designed by the Preparatory Committee, was submitted to the congress and approved. On June 11, 2021, the 1st Congress was held. Within the Women's Assembly of North-East Syria, there are 52 women's movements and organizations that include women's assemblies, 18 non-governmental organizations, Chaldean, Syriac, Circassian, Armenian and Turkmen peoples and independent institutions and organizations.

Two representatives from each organization take place in the assembly. Before the establishment of Zenobiya Women's Community, there had been representative agencies in liberated areas. Each region had three representatives. Women representatives and women's youth organizations from the Autonomous Administration institutions are also included, as well as some independent women.

How many offices does the assembly have and where?

Originally, there was no intention of forming assemblies in all provinces. We just wanted to establish a central office in Qamishlo. We wanted to carry out our activities through representatives which were already organized in all provinces. However, with the occupation of Serêkaniyê and Girê Spî and the movement restriction after the Covid-19 pandemic, it was necessary to open a central office to carry out our activities more efficiently in other regions such as Kobanê, Raqqa, Tabqa and Deir ez-Zor. Thus, a central office was opened in Raqqa. Based in Qamishlo and Raqqa, our activities take place across North-East Syria.

What committees does the assembly have and on what basis are its activities carried out?

After the assembly was founded, two committees came to the fore; the Women's Law Committee and the Constitutional Committee. Afterwards, the Women's Organizations Action Platform was established.

Concerning the activities of the Women's Law Committee, the Women's House and the Women's Justice Council were established in 2014. These were promoting the revolution. The laws enacted were restricted to the Cizîre Region due to attacks. After a discussion of ways to develop it, it was concluded that everyone from all over North-East Syria should take part in this committee, and it was thus expanded. A draft concerning the activities of this committee was prepared until the first congress of the Women's Assembly of North-East Syria. The draft was approved at the congress. Afterwards, this committee was able to carry out its activities efficiently everywhere. We used to call it 'women's law', but it was changed into ‘family law’ to include children and families. We put this law into practice in the Cizîre region. In the future, we will gather women and present it to them in Kobanê, Shehba and liberated areas. It is more urgent in those regions.

Concerning the activities of the Constitutional Committee, we established this committee throughout North-East Syria as we believed that a solution could only be offered there under the leadership of women. Representatives of all peoples take place in it. It introduced a strong outline of what the women of North-East Syria want for the future of Syria, and it continues to work effectively. It was founded to meet the demands of the whole society, especially of all women in Syria. Institutions other than the assembly were also asked for their opinions. We wanted to be ready in advance by the time the Syrian Constitutional Committee work kicked off. This committee was established on this basis.

Moreover, the Women's Organizations Action Platform was founded. The activities of this platform, which had been carried out within Kongra Star before, were transferred to the assembly. This platform was established to mark important days and to take action against attacks directed against women.

Has there been any disruption to the goals of the Assembly?

With our organization based in North-East Syria, we set the goal of reaching women and their movements in Syria, the Middle East and all over the world. We also organized online forums due to the travel restrictions introduced in the region for different reasons. We are working to spread the achievements and experiences gained through the revolution to the whole world. Women in the Middle East who participate in these forums express that they take inspiration from this revolution.

The attacks and embargo against the region affect the work of the assembly negatively. Without these, our work would have been more efficient. We discuss ways to overcome these shortcomings in the future. We hope to overcome them quicker through the congresses we hold every two years.