YPJ

This is a war film unlike any other that you will see, written and directed by a woman, focusing on a squad of the Kurdish autonomous women’s protection units (YPJ). The systematic female enslavement and mass rape by ISIS are its subject matter. 

US president Donald Trump announced by tweet on December 19 his intention to withdraw US troops from Syria. This followed a phone call between Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who had often stated his intention to invade north-eastern Syria. 

The Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK) is an umbrella group of left-wing organisations in Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran that adhere to the ideology of Kurdish revolutionary leader Abdullah Ocalan (known as “Apo”), currently in jail in Turkey. Forces associated with the KCK have helped lead the Rojava Revolution in Syria’s north, which marked its sixth anniversary on July 19, the day Kurdish-led forces staged an insurrection.

The defeat of ISIS in Syria last year raised hopes that the long-running war that has displaced more than two-thirds of the population might be coming to an end. However, the attempted Turkish invasion of the Afrin region of Rojava (Syrian Kurdistan), which began on January 20, has underlined that the war is in fact intensifying.

Women from the Tirbesipiye-Cizire Canton in northern Syria (known as “Rojava” in Kurdish) held a women-only demonstration through the city centre on February 9.

The marchers expressed their support for the resistance by women and others in the Afrin canton in Rojava against the fascist invasion from Turkey and Islamic gangs, which began last month — and in support of the feminist, multi-ethnic Rojava Revolution.

The statement below, “Message from the Women of Afrin to the Women of the World”, was released on February 3 by Kongreya Star Efrin, a confederation of women’s organisatons in Afrin (Efrin in Kurdish).

The dark clouds of 21st-century fascism are once again hanging over the heads of the people of northern Syria. As if the inhabitants of the region often referred to as Rojava haven’t suffered enough over the course of the past 7 years of war, the Turkish state has come to the conclusion that the time is ripe to pick up the fallen, bloodied sword from the corpse that is Islamic State.

Together with Salafist mercenaries carrying flags of the Syrian ‘rebels’ – one of the many components of what at one historical juncture seemingly all so long ago was a cohesive ‘Free Syrian Army’ – Erdogan’s regime vows a ‘swift operation’ to destroy ‘terrorism’ in Afrin.

After receiving approval from Russia, the Turkish state has launched an air strike with 69 jets, bombing the Afrin centre and Cindirêsê, Reco, Shera, Shêrawa and Mabeta districts in northern Syria, on January 20.

Academics and international human rights activists launched a petition calling upon world powers to act against Turkish aggression against Afrin, .

The umbrella organisation of political and social movements in northern Syria, Movement for Democratic Society (TEV-DEM), released a statement on recent attacks and threats by the Turkish state.

Turkey has attacked the Afrin district in northern Syria, which is part of the Northern Syria Democratic Federation that is seeking to create a new revolutionary system of “democratic confederalism”.

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 flags of the Women’s Protection Units (YPJ) and Shengal Women's Units (YJS) were planted in the city centre of Raqqa, which had been the capital city of ISIS, on September 14.

Flanked by military commanders, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi was in the nation’s second-largest city, Mosul, on July 10 to announce the city’s liberation from ISIS.

An end to the three-year-long rule by the extremely violent and authoritarian terrorist group is obviously good news for the city's residents. But it seems unlikely the group’s defeat will mean an end to their suffering, which began long before ISIS captured the city in June 2014.

Turkish war planes launched air strikes against Syria and Iraq on April 24.

For months local and foreign forces have been closing in on the main ISIS strongholds: the cities of Raqqa in Syria and Mosul in Iraq. Turkey is a NATO member and recognised as an ally against ISIS by the US-led coalition of Western powers in Iraq and Syria, that includes Australia.

But the Turkish air strikes did not target ISIS. Instead, they were aimed at the terror group’s most consistent opponents — left-wing Kurdish-led revolutionary forces.

United States warships in the Mediterranean Sea launched a large cruise missile strike against government-held airfields in Syria on April 7. They fired about 60 Tomahawk missiles on the Shayrat air base near Homs in central Syria as the US government called for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to be removed from power.

Revolution in Rojava: Democratic Autonomy & Women’s Liberation in Syrian Kurdistan
By Michael Knapp, Anja Flack & Ercan Ayboga (translated by Janet Biehl)
Pluto, 2016
285 pp., $38.95

Rojava, which is Kurdish for the “west”, is to be found in Northern Syria. In the middle of a conflict zone, marked by the war against the Assad regime, a Turkish invasion and ongoing conflict with the brutal jihadists of ISIS and al-Nusra, the Kurds and their allies are creating a new kind of democratic system.

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