Turkey’s war is directed at the achievements of women. Interview with the Council of Jinwar (Meclisa Jinwar).
On November 25, 2018, after a lengthy construction phase, the women’s village, Jinwar, was opened in Rojava/Northern Syria. Jinwar is widely known as a place of collective living for women. Following the Turkish invasion, which began on October 9, 2019, Jinwar is in danger. Amargî Lêgerin from the Women Defend Rojava campaign spoke to the council of Jinwar about how the women of the village organise their daily life under war and what their plans are for this year.
What are the motives for founding a village for women, and what are your goals?
When we eat soup and drink tea together today in the winter midday sun, we can hardly imagine that exactly at the place where we are sitting right now, where the mud houses that keep us warm are standing, where the greenery is sprouting out of the earth again, where the thousands of trees we planted are growing, and where at dawn the smoke is rising from the chimney of the bakery, where we talk together about the plans for the village — that at this place the land was lying fallow about three years ago.
Discussions about the foundation of the village had been going on for some time. The village building committee had already been founded in 2016. Its aim was to build an ecological village where women can live together in a self-determined way.
Through the foundation of Jinwar, we are participating in the history of women. In the past, women had lively relationships of solidarity with their surroundings — with nature and people — and thus play a special role in society. They passed on language and culture. And they preserved the knowledge of how to organise the different areas of life, such as health and material care, and have developed it for the benefit of society and individuals. Social values such as respect, solidarity and care were at the heart of living together. Living together on this basis secures the existence of society and thus the life and freedom of the individual.
A society can only be democratic if women actively participate in shaping it and organise themselves in all areas of life.
If we look at the developments in Rojava and Northern Syria, we see that women are playing a leading role in the fight against the Islamic State IS and other jihadist groups and in building and rebuilding democratic self-organisation in all areas of society.
By building Jinwar as part of autonomous self-government, we have used our knowledge and experience, our strength and creativity to build a place where we can liberate ourselves from relationships in which we are seen only as objects.
At the same time, we are developing a communal, ecological way of life that ties in with the forms of resistance and knowledge which women have been essential to at all times in history. The village is based on the idea of self-government, which means that all women take responsibility for each other and for the whole village. One aim of the village is to develop and strengthen a free personality in the women and children: to become an active part of common life, to support each other, to believe in our own strength and knowledge, to grow, to take responsibility, to develop capability to solve conflicts and practical everyday problems.
How would you describe Jinwar?
Jinwar is a place where we, as women, make decisions together and organise all areas of our lives communally — such as education, health care and material support.
In this regard Jinwar is a huge step towards a meaningful and free life as women.
Probably one of the most important foundations of Jinwar is the wealth of experiences that all women bring with them, which become collective experiences through living together. In Jinwar, women with the most diverse backgrounds and life stories come together.
Through our lively everyday interaction, we share our experiences, get to know ourselves, our environment and our society better and develop relationships based on respect, mutual support and solidarity. In this way we create the basis for peaceful coexistence.
We want to be an example and show that a communal, women-centred life is possible.
How have the Turkish invasion attacks affected women and children in general and what do they mean for the women’s village?
The attacks by Turkey and its allies on the Federation of Northern and Eastern Syria are taking place under the pretext of creating a “security zone”. In order to create this so-called security zone, Turkey together with allied forces attacked Efrîn in January 2018 and since October 9, 2019, they have been attacking Serê Kaniyê, Gire Spî and other towns and villages. Turkey’s way to create a security zone in Northern Syria is to occupy the country and expel, steal, kill those who are rooted in that country.
Women are subjected to multiple forms of violence in these attacks. Many women are raped, abused, married against their will, sold and enslaved. Sharia law was introduced in Efrîn and now also in Serê Kaniyê and Gire Spî.
All this has enormous effects on the psyche of women and children.
Yet all these attacks on women and children do not happen by chance. During the attacks on both Efrîn and Serê Kaniyê and Gire Spî, it was mainly women and children who were killed. Femicide is a war tactic. History shows to this day that it is women who hold society together, who have most fiercely resisted oppression and exploitation, and who have built up communal ways of life as an alternative to destructive male mentality.
Attacking children means attacking the future and the existence of a society.
The policy of invasion and occupation has an impact on the everyday self-organisation of women.
Thanks to the great achievements of women, their untiring resistance and countless struggles, many places have been created and relationships established in recent years within the framework of autonomous women’s organisation which are of great importance to women. Women’s shelters, academies, co-operatives and cultural centres have been built on their initiative and with their strength. They have made it possible for women to free themselves from traditional family structures, to educate themselves, to gather together and develop a common strength and will. These places are targets of the occupying forces.
The execution of Hevrîn Xelef, a well-known representative of the Women’s Revolution, illustrates the targeted violent action against women and their organisation.
Women and children are the first to be deprived by the war of access to education, health care and legal support. Tens of thousands of children are currently unable to go to school under the conditions of war.
When the attacks began on 9 October, the lives of women and children of Jinwar, and the village itself, were threatened, as were the lives of all other women and children in our area. Some women had already had many painful experiences before and had found a safe place in Jinwar for the first time, but now they were again exposed to war and violence. As part of the defence of our society, our country and all the achievements of the Women’s Revolution, we participated in demonstrations and various meetings. We have participated in funeral ceremonies for the dead, we have supported their families and we have strengthened each other.
What is the current situation in and around Jinwar? What does this threat mean for the women’s village? What is the attitude of the inhabitants?
Both historically and today, the Middle East is marked by conflicts and colonial attacks on women and the societies that live here.
The current attacks are targeted at the peaceful coexistence of different population groups, at the project of autonomous self-administration and above all at the achievements of women. Every village that is attacked could be Jinwar.
Jinwar stands against this war, against the occupation and invasion policy of Turkey, the jihadist groups and their allies, against violence and destruction and the mentality of oppression from which this war results.
We are taking a position in this conflict by coming together as women and together building a way of life based on freedom, contrary to the mentality of oppression.
The embargo on Syria and the attempt to seal off Rojava completely also has an impact on the regional and local economy. The sharp devaluation of the Syrian lira against the dollar has led to a sharp rise in the price of basic foodstuffs and many everyday items. Many building materials that we need to implement our projects are very difficult to obtain.
But our daily resistance goes on: we bake bread, make yoghurt from the milk of the village sheep, come up with ideas on how to shape the village, make plans for the coming garden and field season, prepare an educational unit on naturopathy, repair the houses and make them rainproof, discuss and come together to reflect on and evaluate our life together and the work we have done recently. Two women of the village have just returned from a week-long education on health and women’s history.
What are the plans and projects and what kind of support?
There are many ideas and plans, some of which we want to implement in the near future. A few days ago we installed several solar panels on the roof of the communal kitchen as part of our solar project, and some of the houses were connected to the solar power supply. The goal is to produce enough solar power to supply each house in the village with electricity and hot water.
Then there is the project for the village school. The lessons take place in one of the round Kerpiç houses. This year we want to design the classrooms, build an outdoor playing area for the younger children, a soccer field for the older ones, and a cafeteria.
We are currently preparing to open Şifa Jin, the health centre for women and children. The health centre is based on natural medicinal approaches. In addition to providing obstetrics and medical care for the women and children of Jinwar and the surrounding villages, we want to provide further training in all aspects of health, reappropriate old healing knowledge and produce our own natural remedies. In this way we can get to know and understand our bodies and our environment better and strengthen our health.
Anything else you want to say?
Jinwar means building a life together as women. The village is a result of the achievements, struggles and resistance of women in the region, whether in the long history of women-centred societies in Mesopotamia, in the defensive struggles of the YPJ women’s defence units or in the building of self-governing social structures, the municipalities, women’s councils and co-operatives in northern Syria. Jinwar lives through the experiences of women around the world.
We invite you to come to Jinwar to share our history and knowledge.
Jinwar is part of the search of women all over the world for a free life. Our principles of a democratic, ecological and women’s liberated life are not only linked to Jinwar but serve as inspiration for women all over the world.
Whether a village, a collective, a community — let us come together as women and fight together!
JIN JIYAN AZADÎ — WOMEN LIFE FREEDOM