At times it is hard to keep up with the fast-moving developments in the Kurdish issue, and particularly in the last three weeks this has been especially true, with Kurds in Iran taking part in general strikes, taking to the streets and in some places taking control of towns in uprisings sparked by the brutal killing of a young 22-year-old Kurdish woman, Jina Amini, by the so-called ‘morality police’ of the Iranian regime.
In fact women all over Iran, with the support of men, have poured onto the streets, ripping off their headscarves in rage and protest against the ‘compulsory hijab’ laws, with the chant, ‘Jin, Jîyan, Azadî’ ‘Woman, Life, Freedom’ in what has become the biggest challenge to the Iranian regime since the Iranian revolution of 1978/79, its outcome still unknown at this point, still being played out on the streets of Iran and East Kurdistan (Rojhilat/NW Iran) as you read this.
One woman, who was and despite her untimely death still remains a powerful leading light in the theories of women’s liberation and revolution, was Nagihan Akarsel, a Kurdish scholar, activist, journalist and co-founder of the feminist Jineology Research Centre, who was brutally murdered earlier this week in an armed assassination style attack in Sulaymaniyah, Iraqi Kurdistan. Her death, which recalls previous extrajudicial killings of Kurdish women activists by the Turkish intelligence services, has sparked further protests in Kurdistan and around the world.
The leading chant of the uprisings and protests in East Kurdistan against the killing of Nagihan Akarsel has been ‘Jin, Jiyan, Azadi’ or ‘Woman, Life, Freedom’, a well-known slogan of the Rojava (West Kurdistan|) Women’s Revolution that inspired the defeat of ISIS and no doubt also inspired the women, certainly of Kurdish NW Iran but also Iranian women more widely. But what is the origin of ‘Jin, Jiyan, Azadi’? And how have the theories born and developed in the Kurdish Women’s Freedom Movement as taught and promoted by Nagihan and her comrades, inspired or developed theories of women’s emancipation in the Middle East and beyond?
Well, I’m very honoured and happy to be joined by Meral Çiçek.
Meral was born in 1983 in a Kurdish guest-worker family in Germany. She started political and women’s activism at the age of 16 within the Kurdish Women’s Peace Office in Dusseldorf. While studying Political Science in Frankfurt she started to work as a reporter and editor for the only daily Kurdish newspaper in Europe, Yeni Özgür Politika, for which she still writes a weekly column. In 2014 Meral co-founded the Kurdish Women’s Relations Office in Southern Kurdistan (Northern Iraq). She is also an editorial board member of the Jineoloji journal.
On the day of Nagihan’s funeral I invited Meral to share with us a little bit about Nagihan and her work in South Kurdistan and then asked her if she could also kindly share with us and explain the origins of the now legendary slogan, ‘Jin, Jiyan, Azadi’ that is inspiring and arguably now leading a woman’s revolution in the Middle East, and how it can be traced back directly to the ideas of the imprisoned Kurdish leader, Abdullah Öcalan and the Kurdish women’s movement within the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Meral also explained why she thought the Turkish state was pursuing a specific* strategy of targeting Kurdish women, what she thought the legacy was of these women who had been killed by the Turkish state and how best we can honour them.
Please listen to the podcast for the whole interview.
UPDATE: *Turkish ambassador to Kurdistan Regional Government Ali Riza Guney admits Turkey’s targeted assassination of Kurdish feminist activist Nagihan Akarsel in press conference in Erbil saying “Those who are affiliated with the PKK are indeed our targets.”