Mark Campbell interviews Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, author of The Daughters of Kobani, arguably the most important book printed in English on the Kurdish issue since Susan Meiselas’s Kurdistan in the Shadow of History.
Written by multi bestselling author Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, Daughters of Kobani is a meticulously researched book telling the story of YPG/YPJ and SDF’s fight and defeat of ISIS in North and East Syria. It focuses on four YPJ commanders who led the YPG, YPJ and SDF forces against ISIS at Kobane, Manbij and Raqqa also saving the Yazidis from genocide on Sengal Mountain.
What is different about this book as compared to others books and films written about the Kurdish women fighters of YPJ, is that it places them in the historical context of the Kurdish people’s freedom struggle, beginning with Abdullah Öcalan’s arrival to Damascus in 1980, right up to the Qamishli football stadium massacre and Kurdish uprisings in 2004 that led the ground for Kurdish self organisation in North and East Syria, preparing the Kurds, so they could take advantage of the ‘Arab Spring’ revolution in Syria in 2011.
“The 5,000 year old history of civilisation is essentially the history of the enslavement of women. Consequently, women’s freedom will only be achieved by waging a struggle against the foundation of this ruling system.” Abdullah Öcalan.
Lemmon, using this quote and more explores the ideology of the Kurdish leader, Abdullah Öcalan in regards to women’s liberation and also how the ideas of Murray Bookchin on social ecology and municipal communalism influenced Abdullah Öcalan’s own ideas on his theory of Democratic Nation now being practically and successfully implemented now in the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria.
The timing of the publication of this book could not be more critical as Turkey continues to attack and threaten a full invasion of Ain Issa, Sinjar and the rest of North and East Syria just as Lemmon’s book is topping the best selling books in the New York Times list of best sellers after just weeks of being published.
All eyes are on the new US administration of President Biden and what their policies will be in relation to Turkey and the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria. And how they will honour the memory of those who sacrificed everything in the fight against ISIS to build a brighter future in the Middle East. A future that places the liberation of women at the centre of the struggle to establish a radical representative democracy respecting all religions, ethnicities and genders in equal measure.
Perhaps it is too much to ask of just one book but let’s hope this book can be read so widely and influence enough policy makers so that there is enough public pressure put on the US administration to do the right thing, and to stand by the Kurds and fully recognise and support the Kurds important and profound contribution and ongoing historical efforts to build a Middle East with a truly democratic future for all but most importantly and significantly, for women in the Middle East.