Jineolojî: A women’s paradigm for social liberation

This article was published by Nûçe Ciwan on 14 April, 2022

“By militancy we mean the true overcoming of the lifestyle and mentalities of the individualist capitalist system and the fight against patriarchy in all aspects of life through organization and active militancy that can lead a real social change. To end patriarchy, it is not enough to point out and oppose to the hegemonic system; we need a women’s revolution to question and change the most deeply rooted patriarchal relations and mentalities.”

 Jineolojî is the latest important step in the continuation of the intellectual, politico-ideological, self-defense and mobilization struggle and mobilization of the Kurdistan women’s movement that began more than 30 years ago. In this article we briefly present the basis of Jineolojî, why we need a women’s science and the role knowledge and science play in the construction of a free life. To understand why women’s science is necessary and why it is necessary for all social and revolutionary movements, we need to know and understand why the Kurdistan women’s movement also saw this need and what their answer to this question was.

In order to do so, we are going to make a brief overview of the development and evolution of the Kurdish women’s movement that started from within the armed Kurdish national liberation fight led by the PKK (Workers’ Party of Kurdistan). In the year 1987 the militants of the movement, while working on their autonomous organization internally, on the other hand, they also transmitted and shared their progress in all areas of the social struggle. The popular insurrections against the colonization of Kurdistan (in Kurdish “Serhildan”), which started from 1989 onwards, were led by women. From the point of view of Kurdish society, this was the beginning of a new phase of national resistance with a woman-focused nature. In this sense, the women’s movement continued its theoretical and practical work in intellectual, political, social, cultural and self-defense areas.

The following key phases in the history of the movement would be:

  • 1993 – formation of the autonomous women’s guerrilla,
  • 1996 – theory and practice of total disconnection from the patriarchal system,
  • 1998 – ideology of women’s liberation and creation of an emancipatory identity for women,
  • 1999 – formation of the ideological party of women,
  • 2000 onward – construction of the democratic confederal system within the framework of the new social paradigm whose three basic pillars are: radical and direct democracy, ecology, and women’s liberation.

In this context, women’s councils, academies and cooperatives were created. After all this evolution, and under the slogan “the liberation of women is the liberation of society”, the women’s movement then focused on ideological, philosophical and intellectual work.

Kongra Star Conference in Rojava

It is at this moment when the women’s movement in Kurdistan wonders how it could ensure and guarantee the practical achievements made during these decades of struggle, that is to say, how it could make its achievements and experiences gained in the revolution into a system that can guarantee them in time, and on what basis and values it would build that system. They asked why real socialism and national liberation movements were unable to realize their ideals and objectives of a liberated society, and especially why none of these attempts had led to a real liberation of women, rather the contrary, many were based on the silencing of women’s role and efforts in such processes of change.

The triumph of the revolution, that is, the defense and guarantee of the freedoms achieved, will be impossible in the long run without a change in the mentality of the whole society, that is to say, in order to truly transform reality and society, we must first transform thought, theory and knowledge. It is to understand revolution not as a process of substituting one government for another, of overthrow and consequent seizure of power. If we aspire to a true social revolution, the process of development of a free society cannot be planned from the outside with the above methods and be applied as a definitive model, because then the society is again incapacitated. Rather the contrary, this process must be shaped by society itself, the social groups and the individuals themselves. In this context the Kurdistan liberation movement introduces the notion of an “ethico-political society”, that is, the political capacity of the society and its collective consciousness of freedom are imperative factors in order to be able to push for change from everyday life to politics.

The main task of the social sciences and knowledge in this process would therefore be to generate this critical and political capacity, i.e., to generate a change of paradigm, thinking and understanding of reality. Moreover, only from a knowledge that considers the liberation of women in all of its analysis and procedure, we will be able to get to the true root of the social problems, find the appropriate solutions and build new forms of emancipatory life relations free from oppression under the ideological principles and values of the revolution. However, if we look at the current notion of the sciences we see that it is contrary to this understanding. The science has acquired the masculinity, sexist and classist characteristics of the patriarchal system and is used as a tool of power for the maintenance of its domination.

It is at this point that Jineolojî is proposed. Jineolojî means a radical intervention in the hegemony of the dominant male, neoliberal and capitalist mentality, a radical change in the way of observing the universe and life, a change of paradigm and the necessary merging and interaction between sociology and ideology. Abdullah Öcalan named Jineolojî for the first time in 2003 in his book “Sociology of Freedom”, where he expressed the need for a science of women as a fundamental principle for the development of a free life and society. The term Jineolojî is formed on the one hand from the Kurdish word “jin” meaning woman, which shares its root with the Kurdish words “jîn” and “jiyan”, which mean “to live” and “life” respectively; and on the other hand by the suffix “-lojî” which derives from the Greek term “logos” which means knowledge, understanding, science. Therefore we can literally translate Jineolojî as the science of woman and life.

The work of Jineolojî began in 2011 with the formation of a first committee in the guerrilla in the liberated mountains of Kurdistan. Since then, Jineolojî has spread to all areas of the movement and been put into practice in all four parts of Kurdistan and Europe, setting up committees, research centers and academies and developing its knowledge through camps, seminars and conferences.

The liberation movement of Kurdistan, which came from an experience of political formation from Marxism-Leninism begins, from the internal struggle of women, to propose the interpretation of the revolutionary process from its own experience and therefore to open itself to the updating of the existing theories and to the critique of the theories and to the critique of its own actions. This is in fact one of the main characteristics of the Kurdish women’s movement: the systematization of women’s experiences of struggle as a concrete method of ideological theorization and collective knowledge creation. The knowledge of Jineolojî will therefore be based on considering practice as a source of theory production, and in turn this theory will then improve and guide our revolutionary practice. In other words, Jineolojî proposes the path of practice-theory-practice, unlike the unidirectional methodology of modern science from the Enlightenment, which starts from theory to enlighten the world of practice, thus denying the processes of popular accumulation of experiences.

Despite the ideological and methodological confrontation that we have at Jineolojî with the scientific academy, we do not deny the positive contributions of the different sciences that have enriched the perception and knowledge of reality. However, if we observe the injustices caused by the capitalist imperialist patriarchal mentality and its legitimization by the sciences and their methodology only in the last 3 centuries, it becomes more evident than ever the urgency of a critique not only of the sciences, but also to all systems of knowledge of history such as mythology, religion and philosophy, from which science has inherited this logic of domination and slavery imposed on women, society and nature.

From Jineolojî we seek ways to overcome the mechanicism, determinism and positivism of patriarchal rationality, which artificially divide reality between the hierarchization of subject and object: I and the other, oppressor-oppressed, rational-emotional, public-private, cultural-natural, etc; being the characteristics of the subject given to men, and those of the object to women. Jineolojî is therefore presented as a method of self-defense against the attacks of positivism and capitalist modernity. When we say self-defense we do not refer only to the armed sense, but also to the construction of social and mental structures that are capable of facing and responding to the repression and attacks of the system. Jineolojî defines several practical areas for the organization and defense of social life that will be developed with the free perspective of women and through which Jineolojî itself can also improve and develop: ethics and aesthetics, demography, ecology, economy, health, education and politics.

In addition, Jineolojî analyzes the social construction of female and male identity and conservative understandings of gender. It will question the current relations between women and men and the concept of sexuality, love and aesthetics to rescue women from definitions such as “virgin, housewife or sexual object”, thus returning her to society in the position she deserves as a free subject. We need to problematize, theorize and think politically about everyday life and question the relations of oppression in the different ways of linking ourselves, thinking about how to transform these relations. In this context, Jineolojî presents itself as the science of “free coexistence”, proposing new human relations on which social life develops and which are based on partnership and mutual respect:

“The life of a couple is a social construction. Today’s life is not between a man and a woman, but between masculinity and femininity that have been socially constructed. We cannot deny that the hegemonic construction of the binary sexes has influenced the relationships that exist between them, thus creating a hegemonic form of relationships. There can be no love in an imposed hegemonic relationship. The first basic condition for love to exist between human beings is that both sides are free and have a free will”. (Introduction to Jineolojî, 2011).

This change in the way we relate to each other and to our environment will only be possible if each of us begins a personal, willing and committed struggle that frees our personality from the capitalist patriarchal mentality. It is for this reason that Jineolojî considers it fundamental to include men in our analysis and transformation in order to know by what methods the dominant masculinity was built and is maintained and consequently be able to finally “change the man”. On the other hand, Jineolojî acquires its knowledge also from emancipatory social experiences in history such as the neolithic revolution, matriarchal communities and the achievements of feminism and all global women’s struggles, because it believes that women can learn from and influence each other. Feminisms have taught us to uncover the patriarchal structures rooted in the mindset, they have pointed out social sexism, in history and in science; as well as the importance of the racialization of women and of the sexual division of labor. They have also generated great experience of struggle for all women.

However, despite the great work of feminisms and feminist epistemology, all these efforts have not culminated in the creation of a common social knowledge that could lead to real social change and propose a political model and an alternative way of life to the capitalist and neoliberal system; many feminisms have been assimilated into the system itself. This is the main criticism that we make from the Jineolojî, the lack of generation of a social proposal and a militancy in women. By militancy we mean the true overcoming of the lifestyle and mentalities of the individualist capitalist system and the fight against patriarchy in all aspects of life through organization and active militancy that can lead a real social changeTo end patriarchy, it is not enough to point out and oppose to the hegemonic system; we need a women’s revolution to question and change the most deeply rooted patriarchal relations and mentalities. In this context, the women’s movement of Kurdistan presents us Jineolojî both as a solution to historical social problems, as well as a method of developing women’s knowledge that has the potential to unite and guide all anti-patriarchal, anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist, anti-fascist struggles of the world in the social revolution.

The issue of women’s liberation, gender liberation and the liberation of all oppressed women had never before been so urgent and intense. Therefore, a corresponding organization, formation and development of alternative structures are more necessary than ever. It is imperative for our struggles in any part of the world to analyze from an anti-patriarchal and anti-system perspective what the social problems are, to analyze them in their historical context and to formulate solutions, i. e., to regenerate a “theoretical and intellectual” work in which we can include the knowledge of our practical experiences of life and struggle, and which give a current ideological perspective to revolutionary movements in order to understand and organize the political transformation of society. In this sense we can summarize the main tasks of Jineolojî for this 21st century like this:

  • The development of the cultural bases and the theoretical and scientific framework of the women’s revolution.
  • The historical analysis of women’s liberation and resistance and the analysis of the current situation of women’s and feminist movements, as well as the results of their achievements.
  • The analysis of the main problems of society that have been developed by patriarchy and capitalism and the proposal of alternatives and solutions, from the transformation of institutions such as the family to the creation of basic structures of free living relations.
  • The development of a social science that constitutes the basis for the creation of a new system of knowledge based on the liberation of women and men, and that develops common strategies together with the anti-systemic movements and avoid their assimilation.

With Jineolojî the women’s movement of Kurdistan has taken the historical responsibility for the victory against patriarchy, putting itself at the forefront of the global fight for the liberation of women and society, and inviting us all to fight and liberate ourselves together with them.