Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) finally liberated Raqqa, in northern Syria, from ISIS occupation on October 17, after a battle of 135 days. In 2014, ISIS declared Raqqa its capital, which makes its defeat a decisive event.
The SDF is a multi-ethnic and multi-religious armed force made up of dozens of militias that is committed to the political project of “democratic confederalism”, the participatory democratic project associated with the Kurdish-led Rojava Revolution.
The SDF’s operation to liberate Raqqa was led by the Women’s Defence Units (YPJ), the all-women militia set up to defend the Rojava Revolution in Syria’s north.
ANF News reported on October 19 that, “Starting from early morning hours, hundreds of fighters from Women’s Defense Units (YPJ) started to gather at al-Naim Square where the liberation of the city was officially announced. The square, where ISIS gangs would commit mass executions, has been decorated with a huge image of Kurdish People’s Leader Abdullah Öcalan, flags of People’s Defense Units (YPG), Women’s Defense Units (YPJ), Shengal Women’s Units (YJŞ) and Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).”
YPJ Commander Nesrin Abdullah said they dedicated the Raqqa victory to Ocalan, the jailed leader of the Turkey-based Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), who developed the ideology of democratic confederalism, and to all the fighters who lost their lives during the liberation campaign.
ANF News reported that Abdullah made the statement in Arabic, which she said was a mark of respect for the Arab peoples. She also noted that women had paid the heaviest price under male-dominant regimes.
Abdullah said that since the YPJ was formed by mostly Kurdish women in 2013, it had undertaken the struggle for women’s liberation and started to end the suffering of women.
She continued: “Women have freed themselves of the exploitative male regime in political, social, cultural and military aspects, and became a solution to the problems and builder of morals.”
She noted that as a military force of women, the YPJ had become a beacon of freedom for the peoples of Syria. She said the women’s freedom march will never cease.
Emphasising the ideological and strategic importance of the YPJ in Raqqa’s liberation, Abdullah said: “Our fighters have played an active role since the launch of the Raqqa campaign. We have achieved this success shoulder to shoulder with YPG and SDF forces.
“YPJ has been a hope for all the women of Syria during the Raqqa campaign, defending women from Kurdish, Arabian and other nations and all religions and planting seeds of brotherhood among peoples.
“We inflicted the heaviest blow on the gangs here which they called their capital. With this struggle, we emancipated and glorified the trampled honour of Ezidi women. We have emancipated thousands of captive Ezidi women and children.
“Arab women who have joined the YPJ during this process declared two new battalions, under which they participated and gave a great struggle in the battle for Raqqa. Another battalion from YJS also took an active role and avenged their people in this campaign.
“We have rescued 450 thousand civilians from the clutches of the gangs and helped them reach safe zones. During the historic Raqqa campaign, 30 female fighters have fallen as martyrs. We dedicate the liberation of Raqqa to all the women of the world.”
ANF News said Abdullah’s statement ended with the slogan “Woman, Life, Freedom”, and that celebrations in the area continue.