Part One: A role model from North and East Syria: Mala Jin
Mala Jin (Women’s House, a kind of women’s shelter) was first opened in Qamishlo. Now, it has 62 branches across northeastern Syria. It has become a space of hope and solution for women in the region and a role model for the whole world.
Women of Rojava began to organize themselves under the umbrella of Yekitiya in 2004. After the July 19th Revolution, they established many organizations and institutions. One of these institutions is Mala Jin, which manages to be the voices of women facing challenges. Mala Jin (Women’s House, a kind of women’s shelter) was first opened in Qamishlo. All members and employees of the Mala Jin are mothers. They support and help women facing problems and violence. NuJINHA spoke to the members and employees of the Mala Jin to learn more about their activities.
The revolution led by women
One of the nations that have been deprived of their rights for centuries is the Kurdish people. The Kurdish people have always been subjected to the oppression and cruelty of the governments. The Sykes–Picot Agreement divided Kurdistan into four parts. Eastern, Northern and Western Kurds were left alone against the assimilation policies. However, before the governments achieved these goals, they faced the resistance and struggle of the Kurdish people. The Kurdish people living in Rojava succeeded in turning the Arab Spring into the revolution in Rojava. The people of Rojava, who lived under the pressure of the Baathist regime for decades, were able to realize the July 19th Revolution led by women.
Kurds did not accept surrender
The ruling powers used many armed factions such as Al-Nusra, Ahrar al-Sham, Sultan Murad Division and lastly ISIS in order to end the revolution of women and peoples. While these factions attacked the achievements of the revolution, they abducted, killed and raped women and carried out mass massacres against the civilians. Despite everything, the Kurds never accepted surrender and fought these factions. This spark grew and spread to Manbij, Tabka, Raqqa and finally Deir ez-Zor where mostly the Arabs live. Thanks to the revolution of women and peoples, Arabs, Kurds, Turkmens, Assyrians, and Armenians organize themselves today around the Democratic Modernity Project presented by Kurdish leader Abdullah Öcalan.
Society can be liberated through the liberation of women
The problems faced by women are the source of all problems broken out in all societies. The situation of women in their society reflects the society itself because society can be liberated through the liberation of women. Women used to be the source of life because they defended the equal, participatory, fair and communal life in society. However, the dominant, sly and tricky patriarchal mentality stole the roles of women in their societies and deprived them of all their rights. When the rights of women were stolen from them, the social structure was completely broken down and the nation state thinking only of its own interests took to the stage. The destruction of societies began with the enslavement of women. For this reason, women should break the chains of slavery in order for the society to have willpower again. Women should play their leading role in their societies to rebuild an equal and fair life.
Establishment of Mala Jin
Mala Jin was established in Qamishlo on March 20, 2011. It has many branches across North and East Syria now. It aims to stand against inhuman practices faced by women and children with the philosophy of equal society, democratic family culture and free-equal life by carrying out awareness-raising activities. It carries out its activities in cooperation with women’s committees in the region.
It has 62 branches
Mala Jin has a Peace Assembly, Education Committee, Justice Assembly, Press Committee to support women and children. It has 62 branches across northeastern Syria. While organizing under the umbrella of the Kongra Star, Mala Jin carries out activities to seek solutions to the problems of society and women. It has 11 branches in Qamishlo Canton, 10 in Hasakah Canton, four in Afrin Canton, eight in Kobanê, two in Raqqa, five in Manbij, six in Deir ez-Zor, 11 in Tabqa and a branches in the Zorava neighborhood of Damascus, the capital of Syria. Mala Jin also has two branches to solve the problems faced by Syriac women.
Membership applications to Mala Jin were sent to all branches of Mala Jin in North and East Syria. The applications are also evaluated by the Autonomous Administration and civil institutions. Those who want to be a member of Mala Jin must know their communities and want to serve for their communities. They should submit their applications giving information about themselves to Mala Jin. They should be over 18. When their applications are approved, they should receive training courses held by the Scientific Academy.
Organizational structure of Mala Jin
All members of the Peace Committee and women’s committees are also the members of the Mala Jin. All members of the Peace Committee are also council members of the Mala Jin. The council members who received the most votes are also spokespersons of the Mala Jin’s branches in their cantons. Three council members are elected by Mala Jin.
Weekly and monthly meetings
Mala Jin is responsible for controlling the works of the committees. The members of the Mala Jin prepare a monthly report on their actions, activities and financial situation. The members hold weekly and monthly meetings to discuss the activities of Mala Jin. The committees affiliated to the Mala Jin hold a meeting every week. All members of the Mala Jin hold a meeting every week and submit their reports to the council members.
Social Peace Committee
The Peace Committee is responsible for finding solutions to all problems faced by women. A representative of Mala Jin monitors/ follows the trials about women held by courts.
The Education Committee is responsible for organizing educational programs and courses for women. It holds seminars on women’s rights and activities.
The Press Committee is responsible for documenting and archiving all activities carried out by the Mala Jin. It documents the applications submitted to Mala Jin. It publishes all decisions, statements made by the Mala Jin on their website.
Women’s Social Committee
The Women’s Social Committee is responsible for monitoring the situation of women in all communes. It carries out awareness-raising activities for people with disabilities. It works coordinately with the committees of Kongra Star in order to support women and meet their needs.
Women’s Justice Council
The Women’s Justice Council works coordinately with all institutes and organizations of the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria to ensure justice. A representative of Mala Jin takes part in the Women’s Justice Council to solve unresolved cases.
Mala Jin “Eşterot” for Syriac women
Two branches of Mala Jin were opened in Hasakah and Qamishlo under the name of “Eşterot” for Syriac women with the support of the Autonomous Administration and Women’s Justice Council in order to raise awareness of Syriac women and solve their family problems.
Part Two Îlham Omer: When we started, we were three women but now there are thousands of women
Stating that Mala Jin aims to ensure democracy and equality, Cizîre Region Mala Jin Board member Îlham Omer said, “We founded Mala Jinê as three women, now thousands of women work for it.”
Great developments have been taking place in North and East Syria since the revolution in Rojava was realized. The Kurdish women managed to turn the revolution in Rojava into the women’s revolution. Today, the Kurdish women lead the Democratic Modernity system presented by Kurdish leader Abdullah Öcalan. Mala Jin has been playing an important role in the development of the revolution so that women can protect their own identity. Today, women all around the world are inspired by the women’s revolution in Rojava. NuJINHA spoke to Îlham Omer, one of the founders of Mala Jin.
“There was a great need for the establishment of Mala Jin”
Stating that Mala Jin was established in 2011, Îlham Omer said, “The revolution was realized in Rojava Kurdistan and we carried out activities for both the revolution and society. There was a great need for the establishment of Mala Jin in society. Mala Jin was first established in Qamishlo because there were opportunities in the city to establish it. There were conflicts and clashes across Syria and people flocked to our region because it was a safe place for them. We felt the need to create a space for women.”
“We have 62 branches in northeastern Syria”
Indicating that Mala Jin has 62 branches in northeastern Syria, she said, “After opening Mala Jin in Qamishlo, we opened its branches across Rojava Kurdistan. After the liberation of Manbij, Tabka, Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor from ISIS, we opened branches in these cities. Two branches of Mala Jin were opened for Syriac women under the name of “Eşterot”. We have a branch in a refugee camp for women refugees in camps.”
“We have committees”
Underlining that Mala Jin has its own charter and program, she said, “We carry out our activities through our committees; Peace Committee, Education Committee, Justice Committee and Press Committee. The Court of Justice was founded in 2011 and our Peace Committee works coordinately with the Court of Justice. We can say that the people trust Mala Jin after they get to know more about Mala Jin. Today, even men apply to Mala Jin when they face problems. They seek solutions for their problems by applying to Mala Jin.”
“Mala Jin is a role model for the whole world”
Stating that the Women’s Justice Council was established in 2016, she said, “After the establishment of the council, it started raising awareness all around the world. Thousands of people all around the world have visited our region to learn more about our system. The women of the Peace Committee, Women’s Justice Council and Mala Jin often come together to discuss and find solutions to the problems faced by women in the region. Mala Jin is a role model for the whole world now.”
“There is equality and justice in Mala Jin”
Emphasizing that they do their best to find solutions to the problems faced by women, Îlham Omer said, “Mala Jin works to solve the problems faced by women, children, men and families. We carry out awareness-raising activities for both women and men because there is equality and justice in Mala Jin.”
“Mothers work for Mala Jin”
Speaking about why all members and employees of the Mala Jin are mothers, she said, “In the Middle East, old people are always respected. Mothers work for Mala Jin so that the society sees Mala Jin as an important and respected organization. When we have new members, the mothers carry out activities to educate the new members. Mothers have more experiences and they find solutions to the social problems with their experiences. Our people listen to old people with respect. But old people should be open to changes. In time, we adapt to changes. After the women’s law was enacted in 2014, we learned very well how to approach women’s problems. The women’s law defends gender equality.”
“We saved 56 women in 2021”
Speaking about the smear campaigns against Mala Jin, Îlham Omer said, “We faced a smear campaign trying to show Mala Jin as a divorce house. Our response to such smear campaigns is that Mala Jin is a training center for both women and men. As Mala Jin, we have been subjected to many threats and rumors, but we have resisted all these challenges. In 2021, we saved 56 women from committing suicide and being killed. As the women’s movement, we have a principle; wherever we go, we set up and run our own system. All cases brought to Mala Jin end with the consent of both parties. Our aim is not only to heal wounds but also to raise awareness of the public.”
“Mala Jin was awarded in France”
Recalling that Mala Jin was awarded in France, Îlham Omer said, “Women have taken great steps in Rojava Kurdistan because they were mothers, sisters, wives and friends. Women have led the revolution in Rojava and achieved great gains. Mala Jin was awarded in France and this shows how we are successful. Women from different countries came to our region, they were impressed when they learned our system. We were told that they want to build this system in their countries.”
They fight child marriage and polygamy
“We have found solutions to many problems,” Îlham Omer said, “However, the rate of child marriage and polygamy has been increasing. We have carried out awareness-raising activities to end child marriage and polygamy.”
“Thousands of women work for Mala Jin”
Stating that many developments have taken place after the revolution in Rojava, she said, “One of these developments is the establishment of Mala Jin. Many journalists, researchers and politicians visit Mala Jin and they are impressed by the works of Mala Jin. We founded Mala Jinê as three women, now thousands of women work for it. After the Deir ez-Zor region was liberated from ISIS, Arab women flocked to Mala Jin and asked us to find solutions to their problems.”
“Mala Jin is a space for women”
Calling on women to visit Mala Jin to find solutions to the problems faced by them, Îlham Omer said, “Mala Jin is a space for women to find solutions to the problems faced by them. We call on all women living in Rojava to take steps to liberate themselves and to liberate society without fear. We work coordinately with Kongra Star and mothers of all women.”
Part 3 “Women are the basis of justice”
Indicating that the Women’s Justice Council working coordinately with Mala Jin has resolved hundreds of cases, Henîfe Mihemed said,” Women are the basis of justice. Justice and equality cannot be ensured without women.
The Women’s Justice Council working coordinately with Mala Jin solves unresolved cases relating to women. The council plays an important role in society and aims to ensure democracy and equality in society. Since its establishment, it has resolved hundreds of cases and become a key for resolving social problems. In 2021, the council resolved 169 cases relating to women. And it has resolved 302 cases in the last four months. NuJINHA spoke to Henîfe Mihemed, a member of the Qamishlo Women’s Justice Council, about the activities of the council.
The Women’s Justice Council was established in 2016
Stating that women’s works started under the umbrella of Yekîtiya Star, Henîfe Mihemed said, “When the Syrian crisis started and the revolution took place in Rojava Kurdistan, the need to establish social justice arose. So, women established the Women’s Justice Council in order to resolve social problems. Women are most affected by wars, conflicts and clashes. For this reason, we first established Mala Jin to find solutions to the problems faced by women. Then, we established the Women’s Justice Council in 2016 to protect women’s rights. The council is an independent organization and women make decisions about all issues. They make decisions about themselves and find solutions to the problems faced by them.”
“Women are the basis of justice”
Underlining that the council aims to ensure gender equality in society, she said, “Women are the basis of justice. For this reason, justice and equality cannot be ensured without women. With the emergence of sovereigns, women were left without a role and justice in society. The existing laws serve the existing system. We established the Women’s Justice Council with the motto, ‘Justice cannot be ensured without women’. Because women form the basis of society since they are the architects of justice, equality, culture and ethics. Equality cannot be ensured without them. Women are the meaning of life and they lead their societies with their existence. However, the existing system is the men’s system. That’s why people suffer from problems and inequality. The problems are created by men themselves. The most challenging thing for us is the patriarchal mentality in society.”
Women’s Justice Council and Mala Jin
Speaking about the relationship between Mala Jin and the Women’s Justice Council, Henîfe Mihemed said, “Mala Jin is part of justice. Mala Jin, Women’s Justice Council and Peace Assembly work coordinately with each other. Mala Jin works to resolve problems faced by women and when it cannot find any solutions to problems, it transfers the cases to the Women’s Justice Council. Mala Jin documents all cases and submits its report to the council. Then, the council resolves the problems. We determine our members.”
“It has saved hundreds of women from being killed”
Talking about the role of women in ensuring social justice, she said, “We have courts ruling about the cases. The people feel comfortable in courts. Many women and men apply to Mala Jin to find solutions to their problems. Women are also mothers so they always make fair decisions. Mala Jin has saved hundreds of women from being killed. Mala Jin works coordinately with all women’s organizations.”
“Thousands of cases have been resolved”
Speaking about the cases unsolved by Mala Jin, she said, “Mala Jin sends us reports about the unsolved cases. Most of the cases sent to us are social cases and the council launches investigations into these cases in order to make fair decisions. As women’s rights defenders, we have resolved thousands of cases until now. If a woman is subjected to violence, the women’s movement sends her to the women’s shelter. Then, Mala Jin protects her. We have archived the files of solved cases.”
“The problems have decreased but not ended”
Indicating that they have carried out many awareness-raising activities, she said, “In the past, the biggest problem in society was social media. Many young people were deceived on social media platforms. So, we launched a campaign to raise awareness of the public against the danger on social media platforms. In addition, the number of child marriage, polygamy and femicide case have been increasing. We have carried out awareness-raising activities to eliminate these phenomena. We have organized training programs and seminars according to the needs of society.”
“We aim to raise awareness of women”
Giving information about the seminars to be organized this year, she said, “We will organize seminars about women’s rights, free co-life, gender-based violence and women’s political participation. We will visit every house to raise awareness of women about their rights. Now, we suffer from a crisis and this crisis affects the whole society.” Henîfe Mihemed added that all women should seek their reality and said, “The women facing challenges should know that there are many women’s organizations and institutions supporting them. There are 62 Mala Jin branches across northeastern Syria and they can apply to them. We aim to develop our society and raise awareness of women.”
Part 4 Mala Jin plays an important role in all regions of North and East Syria.
Mala Jin members spoke to NuJINHA about their activities.
The Peace Council is the solution space for women and social problems. It is one of the achievements of the 2011 revolution. It plays an important role in society since it resolves disagreements in society. It also has an important role in communes. The members of the council consist of old people. One of the aims of the Peace Council and Mala Jin is to resolve the problems faced by women and society. The council was established to ensure peace, democracy and equality in society. Qamishlo Peace Council member Recih Salîh spoke to NuJINHA about the activities of the council.
“The main aim is to resolve problems”
Speaking about the aims of the Peace Council, Recih Salîh said, “The main aim of the Peace Council and Mala Jin is to resolve problems in society. Mala Jin, Women’s Justice Council and Peace Council work coordinately with each other to resolve the problems faced by women and society. When people apply us to resolve their problems, we try to understand the problems by listening to them. The council has both women and men members. When a woman asks for a safe space, she is directed to Mala Jin. We try to resolve problems between spouses, neighbors, siblings, and father-children. We listen to both parties and try to resolve the problems because one of our aims is to ensure equality in society. But we can say that 90% of women do not have any rights. The women’s revolution is the hope of women to achieve their rights. We never say that women should be superiors to men. We aim to ensure gender equality. We do not only build houses but also society. We aim to ensure equality and freedom for the whole society. When I demand equality, freedom and democracy at home, my children and grandchildren will also demand them.”
“Education is important to ensure equality”
Behiye Mûrad, a board member of Mala Jin, spoke to us about the role of the Education Committee in Mala Jin. She told us, “Education plays an important role in institutions and organizations of the Autonomous Administration. The Education Committee organizes educational programs for all institutions and organizations. Education is very important for Mala Jin. We both educate ourselves and other people. Mala Jin holds educational courses in cooperation with the Education Committee. We resolve social problems through education. We first educated ourselves in order to educate our society. As leader Apo (Abdullah Öcalan) said, education is more important than bread and water. Mala Jin aims to build an equal and common life for both women and men. We organize courses across North and East Syria about the roles of women in society, women’s history and rights. We also hold seminars on special days such as International Women’s Day and International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. Our society suffers from many problems such as child marriage, polygamy, gender-based violence, bride exchange and forced marriage. We organize awareness-raising activities and training to end them.”
Mala Jin “Eşterot” for Syriac women
A branch of Mala Jin was opened in Qamishlo in September 2019 for Syriac women under the name of “Eşterot”. Eşterot is a space for Syriac women to find solutions to the problems faced by them. We spoke to a member of Eşterot about its activities.
Ayda Melkê, a member of Eşterot in Qamishlo, told us they named the Mala Jin for Syriac women after Ishtar, a Mesopotamian goddess. “In the beginning, the Syriac society did not believe that Eşterot would resolve the problems faced by women. For this reason, we faced challenges. After the people got to know more about the women’s house, women began to apply to us to find solutions to their problems. We had meetings with women to tell them that the women’s house works to protect their rights. The women, who are subjected to violence, apply to us and we do our best to end violence against them and provide a shelter for them. Now, five women work for Eşterot. All our committees work coordinately with each other to support women. Until now, we have resolved many problems. All Syriac women should come to Eşterot to find solutions to their problems because we are here to support them,” Ayda Melkê told us.
Mala Jin is a space for solution
Stating that the duty of Mala Jin is not only find solutions to problems but also carry out awareness-raising activities, Perîşan Reşîd, a member of Mala Jin branch in the Aleppo’s Şêx Maqsûd neighborhood, said, “The branch of Mala Jin was opened in the neighborhood in 2011. Mala Jin has only one branch in Aleppo. The aim of the branch is not only to find solutions to problems but also carry out awareness-raising activities to ensure equality in society. Mala Jin carries out its activities coordinately with communes, councils and committees. We support each other to benefit society and women.”
Mala Jin in Manbij
Speaking about their activities, Îman Hemşo, a member of the Mala Jin branch in Manbij, said, “The branch of Mala Jin was opened in 2016 after Manbij was liberated from ISIS. We have three branches in Manbij in order to reach all women. When men and women apply to us in order to find solutions to their problems, we discuss and try to find solutions to their problems. The discussions sometimes last months. Until now, we have resolved 1,755 cases.”
Mala Jin in Raqqa
Zehra Şilaş, spokesperson of the Justice Committee of the Zenobiya Women’s Community in Raqqa and its villages, told us that the branch of Mala Jin was opened in Raqqa in 2018 after the city was liberated from ISIS. “In 2021, the branch of Mala Jin was transformed into the Zenobiya Women’s Community Office. There are 19 Peace Committees across Raqqa. In addition, the Zenobiya Women’s Community has 20 offices across the city. The main aim of these offices is to find solutions to problems of spouses, particularly to family problems. We find solutions to about 1,080 cases every year. When we do not find any solutions, we send the cases to the Raqqa Court for Social Justice.
Mala Jin in Shahba
Silava Cuma, a member of Mala Jin in Shahba, said, “The branch of Mala Jin was opened in Shahba in 2017 with three members. We faced many challenges when we opened the branch because our canton was under the control of ISIS and other armed factions. Over time, we managed to overcome all challenges. Now, there are many branches across Shahba and women support each other thanks to Mala Jin.”
Mala Jin in Tabqa
Stating that the branch of Mala Jin was opened in Tabqa in 2017, Recae Ebid El-Rehîm, a member of the branch of Mala Jin in Tabqa, said, “Then, seven more branches were opened in rural areas of Tabqa. Our main aim is to find solutions to the problems faced by women and ensure peace.”
“Mala Jin is the power source”
Şaha Elî, a member of the Mala Jin in the Euphrates Region, told us that Mala Jin is both a safe space and the power source for women. “In 2012, the branch of Mala Jin was opened in the Euphrates Region. At that time, many women were subjected to violence and pressure. For this reason, we decided to open a branch in the region. The Mala Jin in the Euphrates Region has been a source of faith and strength for women by providing a safe space for them.”