ISE board and faculty member Brian Tokar reports:
Dilar Dirik, a noted international voice of the Kurdish women’s movement, was a keynote speaker at the recent fifth international conference of Trise (Transnational Institute of Social Ecology), the European social ecology organization. Speaking via Skype from Cambridge, England to an audience of well over 100 in Athens, Greece, she offered a wealth of important background information on the Kurdish movement, various international support efforts, and the current situation on the ground.
Dirik began by emphasizing that the Kurdish militias’ alliance with US forces was a tactical response to the threat of ISIS, which was best known for enslaving women, and slaughtering the Yazidis, among other abuses, and should not be confused with a geostrategic alliance. The Kurds knew from the outset that the US could not be trusted in the long run, and was merely tolerating Kurdish self-governance in order to defeat ISIS.
It is important to recall that Turkey has the 2nd largest army in NATO. Today, they are weaponizing 3.6 million Syrian refugees as part of their rationale for attacking northern Syria. Demonstrations have been held around the world to support the people of Rojava and the Kurdish-initiated revolution there, but also to further the defense of alternative institutions in all our communities. It’s a new kind of internationalism, and a significant departure from the predominantly state-centered internationalism of the Soviet era, she suggested. Some recent events have also celebrated the life and work of Ivana Hoffman, a young Black German feminist, who was the first internationalist to have been killed in Rojava.
The current movement reaches beyond the limits of traditional solidarity, and highlights all our common struggles, Dirik explained. It is about self-determination, democratic self-development, and the ability of all peoples to define themselves beyond the limits of the State and patriarchy. Kurdish activists, especially women, work actively within the larger society while also creating separate, decolonized spaces to more fully realize women’s autonomy. They were able to accomplish this, not only within Kurdish enclaves, but in a variety of ethnic and religious communities across northern and eastern Syria.
The international support movement highlights the role of women, youth, artists, Indigenous peoples, and others who are historically marginalized, highlighting the tensions Abdullah Ocalan has emphasized between democratic and authoritarian aspects of modernity. The movement engages in various forms of popular and women’s diplomacy and cultivates strategic alliances with left tendencies around the world. It is helping preserve cultural knowledge that has been undermined by statist and capitalist hegemony, assimilation, and social engineering. Rojava represents a prefigurative and subversive historical legacy for all of us, rooted in a distinctively non-essentialist understanding of Kurdishness.