I dedicate this post to my sister, friend and fellow feminist Hawzhin, a.k.a. The Middle Eastern Feminist.
It was thanks to her that I learned about the YPJ forces and the struggle of the Kurdish people for their independence and against ISIS terrorism.
This text was originally published in her Facebook page.
An essential objective of the Kurdish YPJ (Women’ Protection Unit) is to challenge the gender norms in relation to war; including women’s role in war as well as to exist as a visible psychological boost for women in war-torn communities, demonstrating that women are not weak or passive and can actively work to defend themselves and their communities.
By the same token, their existence challenges male perception that in war women are passive subjects ready to be killed, maimed, abused, etc at the whim and will of male aggressors.
This is the Kurdish YPJ flag. They have their own distinct flag from the YPG (People’s Protection Unit consists of men and women).
The YPJ (Women’s Protection Unit) formed themselves because history has shown that revolutions are often male-centric and masculinist in nature.
For instance, Algerian women in the French-Algerian independence war (1954-1962) were fierce rebels, fought and were often side by side their male counter parts in the revolution.
Initially revolutionary movements place great value and ensure a visible presence of females in their movement. However, when the aims of the revolution have been achieved, the men dominate the post-revolution political process and women are forced back into the domestic domain, with little to no acknowledgement of their contribution.
This occurs without fail throughout history. Post-revolution, in many of these instances, such as in Iran and Algeria, women actually lost many of the rights they had pre-revolution!
Subsequently, the existence of YPJ is an act of resistance in awareness of this past history of oppression and erasure of female revolutions and participation. The Kurdish resistance movement itself (YPG/YPJ/PKK/HPG) is heavily feminist and advocates as a central core of its ideology women’s liberation.
In fact, one of its motto is “Jin, Jian, Azadi”, which roughly translates to “Women, Life, Liberty” meaning that there are three things in life that are necessary to a life lived with dignity; that is, women’s liberation (notice it is in front of the other objectives), life and liberty.
This is in direct contrast and challenge to the Liberal motto of “life, liberty and property”. In line with this, when male YPG/PKK/HPG forces join they are first exposed to an intense gender awareness and re-education program to remove internalized misogyny, before they are accepted into the movement, as it is essential for the revolutionary movement to consider the role that women play as necessary, important and legitimate!
The YPJ’s independence from the YPG is a reminder that women’s rights needs to be actively present, visible, side by side, unwaveringly, un-silenced, un-repressed and un-apologetic in its demand for women’s liberation. In light of this, all political positions of power requires one female and one male leader.
There is no singular leader, such as a male leader in the hierarchy and structure of their political organization.
The female representative is chosen BY the women of the YPJ and is completely independent of the YPG, who has no say in the selection of the female representative.
Their nature as an organization is therefore revolutionary, unlike any previous female revolutionary movement, actively represents learned lessons from past revolutionary mistakes and the erasure of women’s involvement.
This is something that the YPJ, by its very existence, actions and objectives, aims to challenge and highlight. They are, in fact, a great role model for women in any revolutionary movement as they demonstrate that women’s liberation should be an active and persistent aspect of any political movement.
Har biji jine YPJ – Long live the women of YPJ !