According to Turkey’s president, these women are terrorists. Total crap.

YPJ militias
Tom Coburg

Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan says the invasion of Rojava (north-east Syria) is all about neutralising ‘terrorists’. Specifically, he’s referring to the mainly Kurdish militia, the YPG (Peoples’ Protection Units) and the YPJ (Women’s Defence Forces), which together form the bulk of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

Erdoğan is talking crap.

Liberation forces

SDF Commander Rojda Felat

In 2016 SDF Commander Rojda Felat (above image) led the assault on the Daesh (Isis/Isil) stronghold of Raqqa. Felat made it clear what her intentions were:

Wherever there is an attack against humanity we, as the Syrian Democratic Forces, will be there. Wherever there is a suppressed woman, that is a battleground for us. …

People are joining the SDF and YPJ [Women’s Defence Forces] by the droves. Not only for the [Yazidi] women of Shengal (Sinjar), but wherever a woman is being suppressed, wherever a man is threatening a woman, our forces will struggle against this. Our struggle for the liberation of our people will become a beacon for all resisting peoples.

And the women of Raqqa, long subjected to violence from the barbaric Daesh, dramatically let their feelings known to their YPG/YPJ liberators:

Yazidis rescued

Felat’s reference to Shengal was a reminder of when Daesh invaded and murdered thousands of Yazidi men and kidnapped thousands of Yazidi women in August 2014.

Consequently, ten thousand Yazidis fled to the mountains. The first forces to respond to the calls of the trapped Yazidi refugees were the YPJ, the YPG and the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party). Many of the rescued women went on to help form the Shengal Democratic Independence Council.

A Channel 4 News feature told the story of how the YPJ helped liberate Kobani in 2015:


Erdoğan wants to ensure there’s no link-up between the Kurds in northern Syria and the Kurds in south-east Turkey. Since the invasion, the authorities have stepped up attacks on Kurdish communities in Turkey. In Diyarbakir, for example, police attacked protesters with plastic bullets and beat up journalists.

Erdoğan also fears the feminist and socialist society in Rojava. This opposes all religious and ethnic discrimination. Indeed, Erdoğan sees “the revolution in Rojava as a threat to his own dictatorial [Turkish] nationalism, and wants to destroy it”.

The YPG and the YPJ have been defending a secular, multi-ethnic, and feminist experiment in direct democracy, based on the ideas of US anarchist Murray Bookchin, since 2012.

According to the Kongra Star women’s movement of Rojava, democratic confederalism is:

a system based on a network of small, local communes and assemblies in which people come together to self-organise their neighbourhoods and towns and to decide on their collective needs and concerns. This system is not based on the paradigm of the nation-state with its centralised, state organised democracy, but is rather a bottom-up, direct form of democracy.

International resistance call

Women of Kongra Star started Women Defend Rojava (WDR) to co-ordinate international resistance in solidarity with the women of northern and eastern Syria and the Rojava revolution. WDR issued a statement just prior to the invasion by Turkey:

The fighters of the women’s defence forces YPJ took a central role in the military defeat of Daesh, and more widely the women of the Rojava revolution have devoted their whole lives to their freedom and the freedom of their communities. This is also the freedom of all women and all men who want to create a better world, based on true gender liberation, ecological principles, and socialist values. Our freedoms are linked because of what the revolution represents, because of principles of internationalism, and because of the international links that have already been built up.

Professor David Graeber compares this revolution with the women’s liberation movement of 1936 Spain:

Rojava has not only maintained its independence, but is a remarkable democratic experiment. Popular assemblies have been created as the ultimate decision-making bodies, councils selected with careful ethnic balance (in each municipality, for instance, the top three officers have to include one Kurd, one Arab and one Assyrian or Armenian Christian, and at least one of the three has to be a woman), there are women’s and youth councils, and, in a remarkable echo of the armed Mujeres Libres (Free Women) of Spain, a feminist army, the “YJA Star” militia (the “Union of Free Women”, the star here referring to the ancient Mesopotamian goddess Ishtar), that has carried out a large proportion of the combat operations against the forces of Islamic State.

Erdoğan following in Franco’s footsteps

But, ominously, Graeber adds:

If there is a parallel today to [General] Franco’s superficially devout, murderous Falangists, who would it be but Isis? If there is a parallel to the Mujeres Libres of Spain, who could it be but the courageous women defending the barricades in Kobane? Is the world – and this time most scandalously of all, the international left – really going to be complicit in letting history repeat itself?

Indeed, the world must not see a repeat of 1939 Spain. For now, the main danger to the people of Rojava is Turkey and its jihadist allies.

Featured image via Flickr Creative Commons

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