Part 1: Women become stronger with committees
Women have been leading a historical revolution in a small country of the world. While the brutal attacks of ISIS on Rojava have been repelled by the resistance of women, their resistance encourages all women around the world. Despite the ongoing attacks on Rojava, women organize them in all areas, from economy to ecology, from politics to diplomacy. Yekitiya Star announced its foundation in 2005 under the pressure of the Baathist regime. After holding its sixth congress, the name of Yekitiya Star was changed to its current name of Kongra Star. Kongra Star, which has carried out important activities for women in Rojava, has 12 committees aiming to build the Democratic Nation.
Women of Rojava showed a historical resistance against ISIS in front of the world. They have carried out important activities in all areas despite ongoing attacks on Rojava. They have become stronger by organizing themselves in every part of life, from economy to art, from social life to politics, from ecology to diplomacy. Yekitiya Star is one of the most important organizations for women. Yekitiya Star was founded on January 15, 2005, to be the voice of women living in North, West, and East Syria, and the name of this organization was changed to its current name of Kongra Star on February 25, 2016, after the 6th congress of the Yekitiya Star. Kongra Star organized itself in North, West, and East Syria, Lebanon, Europe, and Federal Kurdistan Region. Kongra Star consists of 12 main committees; education, social affairs, politics, diplomacy, self-defense, law, economy, finance, culture and arts, media, ecology, and health committees. We have prepared an article series consisting of 10 articles about the activities, committees of the Kongra Star. In the first article, we give information about the foundation of Yekitiya Star, its activities after changing its name to Kongra Star.
First Yekitiya Star was founded
On January 15, 2005, Yekitiya Star was founded despite the pressure of the Baathist regime. Yekitiya Star, the voice of women in Rojava, held secret meetings at homes to organize training for women. Yekitiya Star, which secretly carried out all its activities for women and society, formed a unity among Kurdish women from Dêrik to Afrin. It organized women for the International Women’s Day and Newroz celebrations. It had an important role in the Revolution in Rojava. It first carried out activities in small groups and then expanded its organization network.
Women changed the name of their organization
On February 25, 2016, the Yekitiya Star held its 6th congress and the congress decided to change its name from Yekitiya Star to its current name of Kongra Star. Kongra Star has carried out its activities in many areas through communes and cooperatives with the motto, “Society can’t be free unless the women are free”. It carries out important works in Syria, Rojava, and NE Syria and aims to be an organization that will be a model in the Middle East. Aiming to create a women’s revolution in all regions, Kongra Star is ideologically based on Democratic Confederalism. It has representation offices in Federal Kurdistan Region, Lebanon, and Europe. It struggles for democracy, ecology, and women’s freedom. It aims to build a free Rojava, a democratic Syria, and the Middle East.
It struggles against all forms of patriarchal mindsets
Kongra Star holds a congress every two years. It struggles against all forms of patriarchal mindsets, colonial politics, assimilation, massacres, and capitalism. It sees the Women’s Defense Units (YPJ) as the defense force of women.
The aim is to build a democratic life
Struggling against all gendered discourses and patriarchal mindsets, Kongra Star aims to build an equal life between men and women with the democratic family model. Fighting against nationalist, sectarian, and chauvinist ideologies, Kongra Star is building an equal, peaceful, and democratic life for ethnic and religious groups in Rojava and NE Syria. It stands against cultural genocide and keeps cultural values alive. Solving the Kurdish political problems and problems faced by women are among its aims. It defends the co-presidency system and includes women in the decision-making processes in both political and social life. It fights against all forms of violence and strengthens women’s self-defense. It also strengthens the social justice mechanism in the region. It defends children’s rights and contributes to their development. It also protects nature. It stands against the destructive practices of Capitalist Modernity. It works to increase women’s participation in the labor force and develops projects to support women’s economy.
Communes and assemblies
Kongra Star organizes itself through communes, assemblies, academies, cooperatives, and committees. Communes work to build an ethical and political society in villages, neighborhoods. Each member of the Kongra Star takes part in a commune. Every member has to be a member of the commune where she lives. The communes solve their political, social, economic, and self-defense problems by themselves.
Assemblies are formed in towns, regions, and cantons. They work coordinately with each other. Representatives of general assemblies of the Kongra Star hold their meetings and provide training programs. Women participate in politics through assemblies. They form commissions based on the Democratic Nation and then form committees. The elections of the assemblies are democratic elections.
Free science and thought
Kongra Star aims to institutionalize women’s revolution through academies. Kongra Star paves the way for women to educate themselves and improve their ideological, political, democratic, philosophical, social, cultural, and scientific awareness. The Kongra Star has developed education programs for the development of free science and thought. It opens academies according to the needs of the committees.
Women participate in the economy
Cooperatives are a production part of women’s communal revolution. Cooperatives are not only about economic integration but also a field where democratic communal culture is born and the seeds of coexistence are planted. In contrast to capitalism and industrialism, a communal and ecological economy is developed. Kongra Star develops projects to support and empower women’s economy. It aims to overcome women’s unemployment, promote equal and fair economic development, and make invisible women’s labor visible.
12 committees of Kongra Star
Committees of Kongra Star work coordinately with communities and assemblies in order to organize all areas of social life. Each committee has its own regulations and they carry out their activities according to these regulations. Kongra Star consists of 12 committees and carries out its works regularly.
Education and Academy Committee
The Education and Academy Committee works to raise awareness of women and society and to develop women intellectually. It aims to support the development of the intellectual revolution and build an ethical and political society. It organizes women’s education policies and women’s academies. It focuses on women’s issues with a free life perspective. It strengthens the education system, establishes alternative institutions and organizations. It also coordinates academies.
The main purpose of the Social Committee is to develop society scientifically. It develops projects for all people, victims of war, immigrants, veterans, people with disabilities, and elders. It carries out activities for women and society to have a Democratic Nation consciousness. It also carries out activities for women, children, youth and it focuses on many issues such as immigration, unemployment, child labor, and child abuse and on solving these problems.
The Political Committee works to increase women’s participation in local and international politics. It is responsible for developing effective, strong, strategic, and tactical politics. It organizes meetings with women’s organizations of political parties to be in solidarity with them. Contrary to the male-dominated system, it defends democratic self-management with the participation of women. It performs the co-presidency system in democratic political institutions and organizations. It forms national and international networks for women. It works coordinately with the diplomacy committee.
The Diplomacy Committee is responsible for organizing and promoting women’s diplomatic work. It carries out activities for Kurdish women’s national unity and common struggle. It forms women’s platforms with organizations struggling against femicides, capitalism, fascism, and the male-dominated system. It also carries out activities to give information about the women’s revolution and to protect the common heritage of women in the world and the Middle East. It works coordinately with the Political Committee.
The Self-Defense Committee defends women’s democratic confederalism and self-defense against all attacks of the male-dominated system. It organizes society to strengthen their struggle against the nation-state, occupation forces, and special and psychological war policies. It also organizes women in self-defense forces.
Law and Justice Committee
The Law and Justice Committee is responsible for delivering justice and improving the institutionalization of women. While the committee plays a leading role in promoting social justice, it carries out a legal struggle based on social justice. It also strengthens women’s self-defense on a legal basis.
The Economic Committee organizes women in the economy while developing the communal economy. The Economic Committee is responsible for the organization of women’s economic activities. It struggles against capitalist neoliberal economic policies and supports a social-ecological economy. It ensures the participation of people from the villages in the economy. The committee supports women’s cooperatives and organizes women’s economic academies, economy councils, and communes.
The Finance Committee is responsible for systematizing, empowering, and organizing women’s financial activities. Its main duty is to carry out financial studies. It works coordinately with the Economic Committee.
Culture and Art Committee
The Culture and Arts Committee struggles against cultural genocide. It carries out many activities to preserve and develop the cultures. It works for the culture, art, language, and literature of the Kurdish and Syrian people. It defends that all people should have education in their mother language. It establishes cultural and artistic organizations. It works in the cultural part of the women’s revolution. It develops projects with women. It also carries out activities in language and literature.
The Press Committee is responsible for promoting women’s democratic social values, as well as women’s struggle, resistance, and revolutionary developments for women’s liberation. It struggles in the field of the press against the ongoing special and psychological war policies. It introduces women’s revolution all around the world and makes the Kongra Star’s activities and work heard. It struggles against sexist approaches and perceptions in the press.
The Health Committee is responsible for developing and organizing women’s health work. It struggles against capitalist policies in the health sector. It works for everyone to benefit from health care equally based on the paradigm of a democratic nation. It works coordinately with women’s organizations.
The Ecology Committee focuses on everything including water, people, nature, soil, and plants. It aims to raise awareness of people to protect water, soil, and nature. It struggles against all anti-nature practices and aims to create a balance among people, nature, and all living creatures. It fights against sexism to build a democratic and ecological society.
Part 2: Remziye Mihemed: Despite the pressure, we left our mark in history
Remziye Mihemed: Despite the pressure, we left our mark in history Emphasizing that they continue to work despite the pressure by inheriting the legacy of resistance of many women such as Beritan, Zarif, Leyla, and Zilan, Remziye Mihemed, one of the first members of Yekitiya Star, says “We have been determined to be organized. Despite the pressures, we left our mark on history.”
Emphasizing that they continue to work despite the pressure by inheriting the legacy of resistance of many women such as Beritan, Zarif, Leyla, and Zilan, Remziye Mihemed, one of the first members of Yekitiya Star, says “We have been determined to be organized. Despite the pressures, we left our mark on history.”
Remziye Mihemed, one of the first members of Yekitiya Star, is current the spokesperson of the Kongra Star. She told us the works she has carried out since the foundation of the Yekitiya Star. Stating that Yekitiya Star was founded for women of Rojava Kurdistan, Remziye Mihemed said, “At that time, Yekitiya Star had contact with women’s movements, its activities were illegal. It was founded in 2005 for women in Rojava Kurdistan to organize themselves. Women of Rojava Kurdistan made their works heard for the first time through Yekitiya Star. Dozens of women organized themselves under the umbrella of Yekitiya Star despite the pressure of the Baathist regime. At that time, the Kurds weren’t recognized and they were killed in Rojava Kurdistan. They weren’t allowed to carry out their political work. And we couldn’t carry out legal activities.”
Dozens of women from each city
Stating that women, whose children were fighting or who lost their children, were members of the Yekitiya Star, Remziye Mihemed said, “Mothers, who had pain in the heart, took part in the works of the Yekitiya Star. At that time, we aimed to increase the number of women even more. Dozens of women from each city took part in the works. The mothers of Rojava were the strong pillar of the Yekitiya Star since they led the activities. Education and science were not advanced than today, but the sacrifice was very strong.”
Emphasizing that Yekitiya Star was the first organization of the women of Rojava Kurdistan, Remziye Mihemed continued to talk as follows: “At that time, they were political parties but women couldn’t take part in them. For this reason, we needed to organize ourselves. We, as Yekitiya Star, left our mark in history. Yes, Yekitiya Star consisted of Kurdish women, but women from other ethnic groups could also participate in its works. We carried out our struggle under the umbrella of Yekitiya Star. We wanted to eliminate violence by combating violence against women. We chose the name Star because we wanted to have a name from history. We held secret meetings in houses.”
“Many of our members were arrested”
Speaking about the pressure of the Baathist regime against them, Remziye Mihemed said, “We carried out our activities in secret so that no one would denounce us. When the state heard about our meetings, it began to attack us. We organized activities for the International Women’s Day and Newroz celebrations in a secret way. We couldn’t decorate the areas of the demonstrations before people came together. When there were masses, the pressure of the Baathist regime decreased and they couldn’t attack us. Only mothers could carry out activities due to the pressure of the Baathist regime. Young people couldn’t take part in the activities because the Baathist regime arrested them. After we began to organize ourselves under the umbrella of Yekitiya Star, the pressure of the Baathist regime increased. The Baathist regime detained and arrested dozens of members. Some of them were held in prison for years. Many women were threatened. When their threats didn’t work, they arrested the women. They wanted the Baathist regime to be the only organization in the region. They threatened families to not take part in other organizations. But the mothers kept working despite all the pressure.”
“The anger of mothers was stronger”
Stating that they organized many actions after the foundation of the Yekitiya Star, Remziye Mihemed said, “After the foundation of the Yekitiya Star, we organized mass marches, rallies, and celebrations. The regime attacked us as we held stronger actions. The regime didn’t allow us to carry out our activities. When the regime couldn’t find our location, the mothers said “This protest is not enjoyable today”. When the regime attacked, the anger of mothers became stronger. Despite the attacks, our will was strong and the mothers’ stance was stronger than the violence of the regime. Women were organized and we worked for the freedom of women.”
They carry out the struggle of Leyla, Zarife…
Underlining that the women’s freedom movement struggles for women, Remziye Mihemed said, “We wanted to focus on our activities. Many women such as Beritan and Zilan struggled for Kurdish women to come out of the darkness. We knew that the pressures of the Baathist regime would decrease as we consciously carried out our work. As Kurds, we couldn’t give our children a Kurdish name. Our will was not recognized in society. As women got to know their history, they grew their struggles. Many women such as Leyla Qasim and Zarife waged a great struggle. Women in Rojava Kurdistan have also waged their struggle with this legacy.”
Education in Kurdish
Mentioning that women carried out activities for peace, Remziye Mihemed said, “Yekitiya Star didn’t have assemblies as Kongra Star. We named mothers as the mothers of peace so that they could carry out their activities. Those mothers solved the problems of families and tribes in society. They solved all problems faced by women and they went wherever there was violence against women. When our members were arrested, the mothers went to the courts in Aleppo and Damascus and protested their arrest. Many mothers went to the village of Leader Apo (Abdullah Öcalan) on his birthday. The mothers protect the Kurdish language. For this reason, the regime couldn’t assimilate our language. Some mothers gave Kurdish courses in a secret way. There were Kurdish courses on Fridays. The number of children attending the courses was less but we couldn’t protect our language. After the revolution, our children have been able to have education in Kurdish. We even have universities today.”
“We were determined to struggle”
Underlining that young women also carried out their activities in secret, Remziye Mihemed said that they founded young women’s assemblies after the revolution. Noting that the journey they started with a few people was crowned with the Rojava Revolution today, she said, “We formed the Women’s Defense Unit (YPJ). We held our first congress outside of Rojava Kurdistan. For this reason, many couldn’t attend the congress. I and Mother Esma attended the congress as members of the Yekitiya Star Coordination. When we heard our first congress would be held, we felt very happy. One of our mothers named Fatma Hesen from Aleppo took part in the coordination. Mother Zehe from Kobanî carried out activities for the coordination. Naima from Damascus and Welide Boti from Hesekê carried out important works for the coordination. As the coordination, we held a meeting once a month to discuss our works. Despite everything, we were determined to struggle. Mother Eyşe was from Kobanî, she was sentenced to one year in prison. The Baathist regime always targeted mothers and arrested them. Esma and Reyhan were sentenced to three months in prison. Rojin Remo and the martyr Rojin were held in the Baathist regime’s prisons for three years. But they kept working after their release.”
“Women rose up in many cities”
Pointing out the resistance in 2004 after the massacre of Kurdish children, Remziye Mihemed said, “The Baathist regime killed Kurdish children at the football stadium in Qamishlo on March 12, 2004. After this event, the people saw the real face of the Baathist regime. Women’s organizations played an important role at that time. Kurds rose up in many cities such as Derik and Damascus. This uprising was led by women. At that time, many men were arrested. Women weren’t arrested because of their customs. Women took part in every protest. As the protests spread, the Baathist regime began to arrest politicians and members of the Yekitiya Star. The Baathist regime began to attack women because it couldn’t break the will of people.”
The second congress was held in Qamishlo
Stating that they held their congress every two years, Remziye Mihemed said, “When we founded the Yekitiya Star, we decided to hold our congress every two years. We held our second congress in the Emis village of Qamishlo. Women across Syria attended the congress. We held our second congress in secret from the Baathist regime with the participation of 65 women. Even the delegates who attended congress hadn’t known that they would attend the congress. We prepared our banners in a secret way. Our congress lasted two days. The Emis village is a museum for us now. We held our third congress in the Kefrexiz village of Aleppo. In 2011, we held our fourth congress in Afrin. At that time, we had our women’s defense units and they protected the women attending the congress. The number of our delegates was 150. As the Kurdish people, we led the revolution with years of experience. All the people supported the revolution.”
“We changed the name of Yekitiya Star”
Emphasizing that all peoples saw the Yekitiya Star as a model organization, Remziye Mihemed said, “The Arab women organized themselves under the umbrella of Zenûbiya. Many Arabs took part in the Autonomous Administration. Autonomous Administration was built on the foundation of the Democratic Nation and defended women’s representation. We realized that Yekitiya Star had grown and it wasn’t enough for us anymore. We wanted people from different ethnic groups to join us. For this reason, we changed the name of Yekitiya Star to its current name of Kongra Star. Many mothers, who worked for the Yekitiya Star died. We bow our heads respectfully before their memory. We learned many things from them. We keep working with the strength we get from them. We will continue to work with the legacy of resistance of many women.”