Zilan Women’s Festival in Frankfurt vows resistance

The Zilan Women's Festival, the annual highlight of the Kurdish women's movement in Germany, has taken place for the sixteenth time in Frankfurt today.

The Zilan Women's Festival has taken place in Frankfurt on Saturday under the motto "Defend yourself! Organize yourself! Live your freedom!". The festival is the largest event of the Kurdish women's movement in Germany and was held for the 16th time this year. The festival, which could not take place in 2020 and 2021 due to the Corona pandemic, offered women a platform to network and shine a light on the many exciting activities in the women's political field. Among the many participants of the spectacle were also many internationalists, some of whom had travelled from neighbouring countries.

Concert by Dengbêj group

The programme included musical contributions in the various Kurdish dialects and dance performances. Kurdish clothes were presented in a tent, and there was a separate programme for children. At numerous stalls there was the possibility to learn about the contents of the Kurdish women's movement, to buy books, handmade jewellery and also delicious food. In one of the tents, Dengbêj singers offered a special experience for the ears and the heart. Dengbêj are Kurdish poets - also called bards - who pass on from generation to generation the pain and suffering of their society, wars and conflicts between the peoples and ethnic groups, adversities of love, customs of joy, fairytale stories, laments or prayer hymns with orally handed down songs of different genres, without musical accompaniment. Since oral literature is considered the autobiography of society for the Kurdish people, Dengbêj are also considered historians.

Message of the KJK

The 16th Zilan Women's Festival opened with a greeting to the guerrillas who have been defending Southern Kurdistan (Northern Iraq) against a new invasion by the Turkish state for months. "Bijî Berxwedana Gerîla" [Long live the guerrilla resistance] was the audience's reaction to the greeting. The opening speech was given by the Kurdish politician Ayten Kaplan, who is also the spokesperson of the YJK-E [Association of Women from Kurdistan]. Afterwards, a greeting from the campaign "Women Defend Rojava" was read out. The stage programme alternated between political speeches, dance and music, provided among others by artists Meral Alkan, Nûarîn, Ayfer Düzdaş and Çopî. A highlight was the message of the Community of Women of Kurdistan (KJK), the umbrella organisation of the Kurdish women's liberation movement; “The women, who already defeated the most barbaric terrorist organisation - meaning the so-called ISIS - and thus made one of the greatest resistances in history for humanity, now fight another battle "rarely seen in modern history" with the resistance against the Turkish invasion in Zap, Metîna and Avaşîn. "It is first and foremost the duty of us women to take on and expand this selfless resistance of the freedom guerrillas of Kurdistan, who are fighting for existence and dignity, at the highest level. We have to strengthen the struggle against the darkness that fascism wants to create everywhere."

Hezer: A "war for dignity" is being waged

The participants responded to the greeting with the slogan "Jin, Jiyan, Azadî" [Woman, Life, Freedom]. Later, the former HDP MP and activist of the Kurdish Women's Movement in Europe (TJK-E), Tuba Hezer, took the stage. Hezer described the guerrilla resistance to the invasion as a "war for dignity" and a heavy burden on the shoulders of Kurdish society that must be tackled together. "As it did a hundred years ago, the Turkish state is making plans to carry out genocide against the Kurdish people. But it overlooks the fact that Kurdish women have already changed history. Kurdish women are leading struggles for liberation and democracy and driving revolutions. We have internalised the idea of freedom, we will not leave this path. We will fight; against the isolation of Abdullah Öcalan and for his freedom, against war crimes against the guerrillas, for the collapse of the fascism of the AKP/MHP regime, and for the condemnation of the dictator Erdogan."

Zilan Women's Festival: Kurdish tradition since 2004

The first Zilan Women's Festival took place in Gelsenkirchen in 2004 under the motto "Women Cross Borders". The following year, the women's movement dedicated the festival to the internationalists Uta Schneiderbanger (Nûdem) and Ekin Ceren Doğruak (Amara), who died in a car accident in southern Kurdistan on May 31, 2005. In the following years, central themes of the women's movement, such as the struggle against the prevailing concept of honor ("We are no one's honor, our honor is our freedom!") and against feminicide ("Women are life, don't kill life!") took center stage. In 2013, thousands of women declared their determination to continue the struggle of Sakine Cansız (Sara), Leyla Şaylemez (Ronahî) and Fidan Doğan (Rojbîn), revolutionaries murdered by the Turkish secret service in Paris. Other festivals were dedicated to the fighting women in Kobanê and Şengal. In 2018, after the Turkish invasion of Afrin, the motto was "Defending Afrin means defending the women's revolution." The last festival was held in June 2019 under the motto "Women's Resistance Liberates."