Where women carry rifles and govern alongside men
January 8, 2018 9:30 PM   Subscribe

Syrian Kurds turn to Arab women to cement hold on power - " 'Who does the state beat down?' Reyhan Loqo asks her students. 'Man!' they shout back. 'And who does man beat down?' the 21-year-old instructor says. 'Woman!' the pupils reply."
Replete with whiteboard flow chart illustrations, her course introduces students to the leftist, feminist ideology promoted by the US-backed, Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). They are followers of Abdullah Ocalan, the imprisoned leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ party (PKK). His moustachioed face smiles over the classroom.

For years, the PKK has tried with mixed success to spread Mr Ocalan’s ideology of stateless governance, which he calls “the democratic nation”, among Kurdish communities across the Middle East. But it is its sister organisation, the SDF, that has the first chance to try implementing the ideology beyond guerrilla mountain strongholds. Backed by US air support, the SDF has battled Isis and capitalised on the chaos of Syria’s six-year war to control a quarter of the country...

“We’ve spent four years with a lost identity,” says Emaar, 21, an Arab woman from Tabqa. “Now, we’re being introduced to the history of women. These things were totally unknown to us.”

Ms Loqo, a petite Kurdish woman with a booming voice, teaches Ocalan’s version of women’s history, which argues that matriarchal Middle Eastern societies were destroyed 5,000 years ago as men from Sumerian civilisation monopolised knowledge through the then-newly developed skill of writing.

Next, she says, the “age of monotheistic religions” was used “as a weapon in men’s hands”. Today’s era of “capitalist filth” fares no better. She points out how women’s bodies became exploited in advertising: “She is being bought and sold”.
posted by kliuless (15 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
 
A mystery meat link to a subscription-only Financial Times article? How am I supposed to read this?
posted by drinkyclown at 10:49 PM on January 8, 2018 [2 favorites]


The Twitter-shortened link to FT works for me (gives me the full article without subscription), though their paywall is highly fickle.
posted by zachlipton at 11:24 PM on January 8, 2018


The shortened link also seemed to bypass the paywall for me.
posted by tobascodagama at 6:13 AM on January 9, 2018


The bits they offer from the curriculum about matriarchal society sound a little like they come out of "The Chalice And the Blade" and other similar feminist-theory books where the archeology is a little bit....shaky. But - it sounds like this is yet another facet of the impulse that seems to be driving the "Me too" movement - it looks like globally, women Have Had It. Which is kind of interesting to see how ultimately it's all going to play out.

On a tangent - it looks like I'm thus far the only person willing to comment on the article itself, rather than discussing how hard it is to get to. Let's actually talk about the content, please.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:58 AM on January 9, 2018 [11 favorites]


The article is not a very deep dive. Its basic points are: (1) the SDF is teaching PKK-style feminism and anticapitalism in the post-ISIS vacuum, (2) recruits are mostly young, poor, and desperate, and (3) critics wonder what all the fuss is about. Some context that I would have found helpful:

-How much of an effect has being US-backed had on SDF recruitment (probably a strongly negative effect, IMO) and curriculum -- the article states that members are mostly the poorest and most desperate, but doesn't really get into why.

-I find it hard to believe that the US foreign policy apparat and military truly wants this kind of radical feminism and anticapitalism to spread, so are they backing them just to fight ISIS? What happens when they pull support?

-What is their relationship to/how are they regarded by the PKK and local actors?

etc.

That said, I'm glad US money is teaching this stuff to someone :)
posted by Grimp0teuthis at 7:39 AM on January 9, 2018 [4 favorites]


Ocalan is strongly inspired by the communalist philosopher Murray Bookchin, which is a likely explaination for how late-eighties feminist theory wound up part of Rojavan ideology.

(This also leads to the wonderfully postmodern factoid that a chunk of land in the Syria is being run by Kurds according to philosophy developed by a New York Jewish environmentalist)
posted by Itaxpica at 7:41 AM on January 9, 2018 [6 favorites]


Nov 6 2017 New Yorker has an essay about SDF & feminism in Syria.
posted by ovvl at 7:46 AM on January 9, 2018 [4 favorites]


Relevant
posted by jcking77 at 8:00 AM on January 9, 2018


No mention of YPJ in the entire article is.. weird.
posted by Space Coyote at 8:24 AM on January 9, 2018 [2 favorites]


Cradle of western civilization
posted by eustatic at 8:24 AM on January 9, 2018


-How much of an effect has being US-backed had on SDF recruitment (probably a strongly negative effect, IMO) and curriculum -- the article states that members are mostly the poorest and most desperate, but doesn't really get into why.

You may have answered your own question: the poorest and most desperate citizens of Rojava pursue direct action in the revolution because of their condition, not because of which state actor or otherwise funds the operations of the SDF or Rojava's military in general. At the same time, it's also misleading of the article to quote that aid worker saying that people who join the SDF are exclusively the poorest and most desperate citizens. There is a deep commitment to teaching, learning, and spreading democratic confederalism amongst the majority of citizens in Rojava, militant and otherwise. Murray Bookchin's The Ecology of Freedom and the worldviews of Abdullah Öcalan and Mustapha Barzani have more of a culturally persuasive effect on direct involvement in the movement than any sort of support or lack thereof from any state actor. It is a stateless, autonomous social experiment.

-I find it hard to believe that the US foreign policy apparat and military truly wants this kind of radical feminism and anticapitalism to spread, so are they backing them just to fight ISIS? What happens when they pull support?

Completely valid suspicion. If we make the decision to learn anything from US involvement in the Middle East the past 50 years or US disruption of South American affairs in the 20th century, it is incredibly naive to believe that the US (or any global power for that matter) involves themselves in such affairs for the advancement of any of the working class people in that region, especially those with an agenda that is radically opposed to neo-liberalism. The blatant and primary interest of the US in Syria is the dissolution of ISIS and their further embedment of power and influence in the Middle East (and the rest of the world).

-What is their relationship to/how are they regarded by the PKK and local actors?


Turkey despises the revolution in Rojava and propaghandizes the YPJ/SDF as synonymous with the PKK. Turkey has an embargo on the YPJ/SDF, which makes it difficult not just for essential goods to be transported into Rojava, but it also makes it difficult for information to be disseminated to and from the region, hence halfway hollow articles about SDF like this one. The YPJ/SDF and PKK are far from best friends, but they have a common enemy in Turkey.

I'd highly recommend reading A Small Key Can Open a Large Door for a radical perspective on the situation, although it's a couple years out of date at this point. It's a collection of articles from Kurds, Turks, and others in the region. It's a quick read, but it is short on the history of the region, minus a crash-course Kurdish timeline. In lieu of any current perspective or book on the region, Rojava is essentially a social experiment that may only be restricted to hindsight by the rest of the world in years to come.
posted by swoopstake at 10:46 AM on January 9, 2018 [10 favorites]




The mother has never left us, of course atheists needn't believe in fairytales but for those who believe in "more" start looking for the mother, and for the abundance of spirits and deities in the beyond and nearer still. Because she is rising in every physical and spiritual manifestation. Welcome home mother, to our hearts. We've needed you.
posted by xarnop at 5:18 PM on January 9, 2018


Mythology appeals to atheists too as models of the psyche and archetypal patterns. I remember my own concurrent interests in feminism & atheism following my discovery of these White Goddess/Witch Cult in Western Europe/Alphabet & the Goddess ideas. Whether these tales are taken literally or metaphorically, I think having some "explanation" for women's conditions in patriarchal societies is an important stage in breaking free of patriarchy. Plenty of ideas based on spurious historiography/archaeology form the basis for existing social orders today. Why not use a new story that benefits women? In conclusion, hail Asherah!
posted by Kitty Stardust at 4:41 PM on January 10, 2018 [2 favorites]


These SDF stories are all so exciting and hopeful. I really hope it doesn't turn into a Milkshake Duck situation.
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:11 PM on January 10, 2018 [1 favorite]


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