Featured Reader: May 29, 2015
Moira Weigel is a Ph.D. candidate at Yale University. Her first book, Labors of Love, a feminist history of dating, will be published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux next year. Follow @moiragweigel.
Meredith Tax?s report on ?The Revolution in Rojava,?
in the most recent issue of Dissent,
took me by surprise. That is her point. Once I began reading, I vaguely recalled having seen images of members of the YPJ, or "Women's Defense Forces," a roughly 7,000-member, all-female, all-volunteer Kurdish military faction that has been fighting President Bashar al-Assad and ISIS in Syria since 2012. Together with the male YPG (?People?s Protection Units?) and autonomous women?s militias, the YPJ controls an area ?slightly smaller than the state of Connecticut? in northern Syria and western Kurdistan.
?You?d think it would be big news that there?s a liberated area in the Middle East led by kickass socialist-feminists, where people make decisions through local councils and women hold 40 percent of leadership positions at all levels,? Tax writes. You would. Yet, somehow, their story has not attracted as much international attention as Tax argues it deserves.
The role that the Rojava cantons played
in evacuating members of the Iraqi religious minority group, the Yazidis, last August did get reported in U.S. news media. The American photojournalist Erin Trieb took an extraordinary set of photographs
of YPJ volunteers late last summer. And after a delegation of academics visited one of the cantons last December, David Graeber wrote an essay
for The Guardian
comparing the struggle that the Rojava cantons are engaged in with the Spanish Civil War, and asking why they had not received the kind of international support that the Spanish Republic did.
Tax offers a more detailed description of the history of the YPJ, its affiliation with the Kurdistan Worker's Party (PKK), and the evolving views of the PKK leader, Abdullah Ocalan (pronounced ?uh-djah-lan?). He calls his philosophy ?democratic confederalism," and Tax suggests that it represents an authentically feminist movement: ?While this philosophy has much in common with anarchism, participatory democracy, and libertarian socialism, no other major left-wing movement, with the possible exception of the Zapatistas, has put women?s liberation so squarely at the center of its revolutionary project.?
For someone who knows as little about the region as I do, it takes a careful reading to stay on top of the acronyms involved. Yet the week after the African American Policy Forum released its powerful brief
on police violence against black women, and #SayHerName protests closed streets in cities across America, Tax provides a fascinating introduction to a faraway group arguing -- as Ocalan puts it -- that ?women?s liberation is fundamental to everyone else?s.?