The progress of the Rojava Women’s Revolution has been reversed with the Turkish president’s attacks and Turkey’s occupation of some areas in northern Syria after the defeat of the Islamic State (ISIS), Rahila Gupta, feminist author and activist, said in an article published on Byline Times on 2 August.
Gupta also called for an international feminist boycott. “Boycotting Turkey may seem an unusual cause for feminists to rally around but it should be the focus of our international campaigning if we want to preserve a template for our own futures.”
The Rojava Women’s Revolution started in 2012 and became a part of the global resistance against ISIS, while also creating concern in Turkey that it would inspire the country’s own Kurdish population, according to the author.
The administration that Kurds and other ethnicities living in the area started together was focused on improving women’s rights, based on the prevailing ideology of democratic confederalism.
“Syrian Kurds set up a secular and ethnically inclusive, genuinely bottom-up democratic system with emancipation of women being its key goal,” Gupta said. “The women’s resistance is the most exciting political development of my lifetime and deserves to be more widely known, owned and acknowledged by feminists.”
Governing assemblies in north and east Syria established a Women’s Ministry in 2014, mere months after establishing stable control in their region, and went on to ban child marriages, forced marriages, polygamy, and also attempts to prevent women from marrying as they wished. All forms of violence against women were criminalised, and women’s rights to inheritance and contracts were recognised, among other key developments towards emancipation.
“Sharia courts – the primary method by which justice is delivered across the Middle East – have been disbanded. Even in Britain, feminist attempts to have them disbanded have been unsuccessful,” Gupta said.
Turkey has carried out almost annual incursions into Kurdish-held Syrian territories since 2015. As a result of Ankara’s occupation, aided by its al-Qaeda affiliated Syrian proxies, much of the progress has been lost. “Women have been forced back into the home, deprived of their newly acquired rights,” Gupta said. Under the Turkish occupation, many women and girls have been abducted and killed, both by civilians and by occupation forces.
Currently, as Turkey continues its operations against Kurds in Iraq and prepares for another incursion into Syria, Kurdish women are demanding a no-fly zone over north and east Syria.
“As ordinary citizens, we can, at least, withhold our support for the crumbling Turkish economy by refusing to buy Turkish goods and to bolster Turkish tourism,” Gupta said in support of the demand.
Now a routine occurrence, Turkish drone strikes have targeted and killed members of the Rojava revolution in July.