The Revolutionary Women’s Army of Rojava

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In order to exist as a sovereign territory, Rojava has to face the multiple fronts imposed by national and international forces from Syria and Turkey, while building a new societal model. Dilar Dirik gives us a first-hand account on Rojava’s Protection Units, in particular the YPJ, formed solely by women.

Article published in The Funambulist 25 (September-October 2019) Self-Defense. Click here to access the rest of the issue.

In the era of capitalist nation-states and transnational military-industrial alliances, any form of violent resistance against exploitation and oppression is framed as dangerous to the established order. Picking up a stone against the state, its police, and its armies is seen as a threat to the authoritarian status quo. Knowledge produced with the purpose of questioning infrastructures of state violence and injustice is often labelled as morally questionable at best or potentially terrorist at worst. When privileged classes, including left liberals, dismiss the option of violent resistance against fascism as being ‘just as bad’ as the original injustice that disrupted the lives of the oppressed, one must tackle the ideological roots of the backdrop behind which violence in the hands of state systems is justified. 

In 2014, the so-called “Islamic State” (ISIS) made global headlines as a non-state army with a willingness to use brutality and systematic genocidal and sexual violence as a tool of warfare and propaganda. Although the state forces that collectively make up the international anti-ISIS Coalition since 2014 have tried to claim most of the credit for the territorial defeat of ISIS in 2019, those who initiated and led the eventually victorious fight against the group were the native local communities on the ground. Rojavayê Kurdistanê (western Kurdistan), more commonly called Rojava, is the majority Kurdish territory in northern Syria that led the resistance against ISIS and similar groups years before any international military coalition was even formed. Moreover, the region, with its self-declared revolution ongoing since 2012, also recently contributed to reviving discussions within the left around revolutionary violence.