Gender, State and Resistance: The Kurdish Women’s Armed Struggle for Liberation

By Elif Genc
Submitted to Session P4772 (Emancipatory Transformations in Kurdistan: Autonomy, Radical Democracy, and Gender Liberation, 2017 Annual Meeting
Pol Science
Recently in the midst of the three-month long curfews in Kurdistan and the Turkish state’s war against the Kurdish people in Bakur (Kurdish word for north, referring to North Kurdistan) more than 600 people have been killed, 250 of them being civilians--at least 30% of them women. Presently in North Kurdistan, we have been witnessing yet another form of state violence not only against Kurdish women but also against the entire population of Kurds in the area. However, we can trace a specific thread to patriarchal dominance and dehumanization against women in the region. Belonging to one of the world’s largest stateless nation, Kurdish women contribute to a re-articulation of women’s liberation by rejecting to comply with the premises of the global patriarchal capitalist nation-state order, by reclaiming legitimate self-defense, by dissociating the monopoly of power from the state, and by fighting a brutal force not on behalf of imperialist forces, but in order to create their own terms of liberation, not only from the state or fascist organizations, but also their own
community. Over the last three decades a number of armed political Kurdish groups, with large numbers of women, have formed against the dominant capitalist state order: The Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK); The People’s Protection Units (YPG); the People’s Women’s Defence Units (YPJ), and most recently the Civil Protection Units (YPS, YPS-Jin) Currently in Rojava, power is equally distributed between one woman and one man at all political levels from party presidencies to neighborhood councils through its co-chair principle. This paper will explore how the cultural revolution of Rojava claims to have overcome the reproduction of statist patriarchal relations altogether.Focusing on the intersectional politics of gender, race, and class in relation to Kurdish struggles in Turkey and Kurdistan; this paper examines the interrelated oppression that Kurdish women face through their direct lived experiences, which predisposes them to a political consciousness evident in the women of the region.