YPJ International: Capitalist patriarchy common enemy
"We do all come here because of strong humanitarian values and the awareness of the importance of the women’s liberation struggle. And we are all willing to take all steps necessary for this."
Têkoşîn Zekî, Official spokeswoman of YPJ (Women’s Defense Units) International Fighters Info Office, spoke to ANF on the motivation and background of YPJ-International.
Could you present yourself shortly?
YPJ International is the international department of Women's Defense Units (YPJ) in Rojava and northern and eastern Syria. Female fighters who identify with our values and principles join us in ideological, medical and military education and then work in the various structures of the YPJ.
YPJ International was founded during the big war in Kobane in 2014 as autonomous women's force.
What is your motivation, which backgrounds do you have?
The motivations as well as the backgrounds of our fighters are different. But we do all come here because of strong humanitarian values and the awareness of the importance of the women’s liberation struggle. And we are all willing to take all steps necessary for this.
Some joined to fight against DAESH (ISIS), experienced DAESH attacks against women and humanity as attacks against themselves. Others joined to give their medical and combat knowledge and abilities for a sense- and meaningful struggle. Again others are coming for ideological reasons or feeling connected to the Rojava Revolution and its basic pillars democracy, women-liberation and ecologically economy.
Some were organized in political groups before, some came just as interested and sincere individuals.
The nationalities also are very different, mostly from Europe and USA.
How do you relate to YPG/YPJ?
YPJ International is an autonomous part of the umbrella of YPJ. This means our members are members of YPJ as well. We have our own academy, Acadêmîya Șêhîd Ivana, named after Șêhîd Avaşîn Têkoşîn Güneş (Ivana Hoffmann), who fall a martyr in Til Temir at 7th March 2015 through ISIS attack. And we’ve got our own press and public relations work. Both is theoretically and practically strongly connected to YPJ. For fighting and other works, our fighters are included and under command of YPJ structures.
As being part of YPJ, our relation to YPG is the same as theirs. It’s not possible, that male comrades are making decisions about our structure or our fighters; and they can also not give any lessons in our academy, but the other way around. Of course there are common works and tasks, in which there’s a strong cooperation, for example in battlefield or on-the-ground-presswork.
The relation to YPJ and YPG is grounded on sharing the ideologically idea, inspired deeply by Mr. Abdullah Öcalan, who’s one of the greatest philosophers of our time and is imprisoned by the fascist Turkish since in 1999. By seeing us fighting against the same enemy, for the same goal and defending the same people and land, you can imagine the strength of this relation.
Why do you organize autonomously as international women and do not join the YPJ?
As YPJ International we’re part of YPJ. The reasons to organize autonomously inside this umbrella are quite simple. As women and non-binary people from different parts of the world, there’s a language barrier and different cultural backgrounds. Therefore we’ve got our own academy, to learn and slowly get in touch. Later on we are joining the units of YPJ, there is no autonomous battalion of YPJ International until now.
Also there are different needs for international fighters.
Referring to our press and public relations work it’s also about giving perspectives and opinions from the point of view of international women and non-binary people fighting alongside YPJ. As not being from the region but mostly even from countries, which profit from the war in middle east and being involved, as we can say that the third world war is going on in middle east, with the historical background of colonialism, it’s important to identify this background in our statements. Therefore we built up own press.
How are the reactions you receive in the region, from the people of the region, from the enemy and the friends?
A really common reaction of the people is to ask about our parents and families, while knowing what it means to suffer for war, to lose your loved ones. Especially in this region and with Kurdish identity, fighting since decades for self-determination with this incredible number of martyrs. People recognizing the different origin quite fast and mostly being interested, starting political discussions. Everybody is providing everything for us, yet it is cultural habit to do so for each other.
The reaction from friends is similar. They are glad about the internationalist bond, starting mostly immediately to ask and to discuss about culture, history, internationalism, political situation and ideology. The values and principles are in common and building the base for criticism and self-criticism, for this we are same.
The enemy in this region is not showing a special reaction towards us. No matter if it’s DAESH or Turkish fascism, they are not treating anybody in a human way. But we have to face the enemy in our homelands, the nation states and their persecution organs. Right now there are different cases of investigations and on court in European countries.
How many activists from which countries are you?
The number of YPJ International fighters is increasing all the time.
Until now the majority is from European and US-American countries.
Do you think leaving your countries to fight in Rojava is a contradiction to staying and leading a revolutionary struggle there? Do you think there is a drain of activists to Rojava or what could be the role of Rojava in the international struggle for democracy and emancipation?
The revolutionary struggle in Rojava is led by Rojava’s peoples. We’re sharing the ideology and learning about the history and current situation of middle east. Our participation in this revolution is following the tradition of internationalism in the consciousness of the necessity of a worldwide revolution by having a worldwide enemy, the capitalist modernity. Of course we’re faced with our own orientalist approaches, which means a big prospect to overcome them. Joining YPJ International means you cannot see middle eastern life as cheaper than your own and is a towards overcoming this mindset. The philosophy of this revolution is inspired by different revolutionary movements all over the world, therefore we behold our presence and discussions likewise as part of the development.
The role of Rojava in the worldwide struggle for democracy and emancipation is and will be amazing. The methods and the harmony between theory and practice already caused a big awakening in different countries and especially in their political left groups, parties and movements. Following the importance of internationalist unity by inviting all kind of people to come to Rojava and being honestly interested and open minded, the Rojava-Revolution is at the one hand an example and at the other hand a central point of merging. The unique aspect is the leading role of women. It makes this revolution pervasive and lasting, something what has failed in several historical examples. As being the first oppressed colony of humankind, women will create a real alternative by finding other ways. And because women are existing everywhere around the world, this strong movement, this idea, makes the whole planet prickling.
Does it make sense for activists to come to Rojava and join you? What are your tasks?
Definitely yes, there‘s a big sense for all women to come to Rojava and join the women’s self-defense units. It means to defend our gender and humanity, to liberate ourselves and to show a solidarity without restrictions. It also means to realise the capitalist patriarchy as common enemy and thereby opens the eyes and the heart to search for truth.
Our tasks are as colourful as this revolution is. Staying in YPJ International means it‘s possible to join all the different structures of YPJ. Right now our fighters participating in YPJ battalion with weapons to fight in small distance (such as Kalashnikov), in YPJ battalion with heavy weapons (such as DShK), in press and public relations work, in institution for heavy wounded comrades and in our academy. They’re working in the process of evacuating the civilians, DAESH families, from Al-Baghouz. They’re taking part in ground operations, cleaning operations and patrols. They’re in frontline in Deir ez-Zor to fight as well as for documenting and covering. They’re living and working in institution for heavy wounded comrades, giving physiotherapy. They’re driving, organizing the life in the academy and giving seminars. They see ideological, medical and military education. For the future we also want a cooperation with the free women’s village Jinwar, to build up the defense structure and educate other women there.
What do you see in the revolution of Rojava and what perspectives do you have for YPJ-international?
In the revolution of Rojava we see the true attempt to build up real democracy in a way fitting to the different people and not being the so-called democracy, working hardly to motivate and include everybody and empower all different identities to self-determination. We feel the cost of all this and we see the risk caused by economical interests and fascist ideas from the outside.
If ever somebody has a romantic idea of revolution: it’s true. But also it’s just one part of the picture. Witnessing how so many different structures are developed, improved and changed if necessary; seeing women liberating theirselves, evolving self-confidence and self-consciousness as women; sharing life with people facing all kind of problems and not being shy to try new ways… this has got something romantic and really beautiful. In the same time the region is so stable, because of the high military presence of various defense units. Everyday people are killed by attacks of the enemies and the population is suffering a lot for this. Because of war and embargo the process of building up economic structures and ecological solutions is strongly aggravated. Both of these parts together give the whole picture of the Rojava-Revolution we see. Everything is happening quite fast, yet step by step, because there is an unbelievable simultaneousness.
For YPJ International we have the perspective to go on growing and developing the structures for international women to participate in this revolution. Within this we see an important due for a connected global fight against the patriarchal capitalism.
In which regions are you active? How is the situation in Deir ez-Zor?
At the moment we are active in the Cizîrê Canton, Hesekê Canton and region of Deir ez-Zor.
The final operations in Deir ez-Zor against the DAESH caliphate are going on successfully but were slowed down, even stopped, because of the process of evacuating civilians from Al-Baghouz. Just a pocket of about half a square kilometer is left. It will not take long. Meanwhile we can say, that the big majority of outgoing ones now are deeply convinced families of DAESH and surrendered DAESH fighters. But also 24 comrades, who were hold as hostages by DAESH since months, were liberated. The process of evacuation comes to an end, even though the forces of SDF, YPG and YPJ didn‘t give a reprieve, but will provide the corridor all the time. It’s not easy to know how many DAESH terrorists still are inside the pocket, because they hide themselves. The number of civilians was higher than expected.
Airstrikes of the International Coalition are going on and DAESH is completely surrounded by SDF on the ground. We will not give any date for the liberation, just to say that it’s very probable, that it‘ll be in the coming days. On the first of March 2019, at six o’clock pm the final operation started. 15.000 troops are involved and there are heavy strikes going on right now.
The humanitarian situation in Al-Baghouz is getting worse. There’s a big lack of all imaginable necessities. We hear from those that have left the region that babies are dying of starvation and that there is not enough food and water; no medicine, no heaters and sicknesses are spreading. Some are saying the big ones inside would still have all the supplies they needed, which just again shows the inhumanity of DAESH. Inside the camp in Al-Baghouz the fighters are scaring the civilians with horrible stories about the Kurdish forces. In general we can say, that the physical conditions get worse the later the people are leaving Al-Baghouz.
But still between all these civilians with DAESH mentality, there are Yazidi people coming out. Most of them women and children, who succeeded in escaping the enslavement of DAESH by the liberation through SDF and YPJ, five years after the feminicide and genocide in Sinjar. In this sense there’ll be the liberation of areas from DAESH, but the victory will only be, when all of the Yazidi women are free of enslavement.
Altogether more than 45.000 people left the shrunking territory of DAESH during the last three months. The effort and the cost this means for YPJ and SDF can now be imagined, but the resources are limited. Therefore the Syrian Democratic forces called the international community for support.