Whatever you might think of feminism over here in America, whatever you might thing of the “patriarchy” in America, over in the Middle East, the patriarchy is undeniable. The patriarchy in the hands of the Islamic State was even more acute, more oppressive, more violent to women than even what most patriarchal cultures in the Middle East would tolerate.
In the midst of these patriarchal cultures has risen in a northern Syria region called Rojava, a feminist movement that is hardly like what you see in America. This movement involves LITERALLY empowering women to be equal to men. These folks that are currently engaging in a stateless experiment that sources its inspiration from the American Anarchist Murray Bookchin and the man who has picked up the Bookchin legacy, Abdullah Ocalan.
As men seeking refuge from the wars in Syria are coming into the camps run by this “feminist” community, their whole notion of women is being fundamentally challenged, and the types of hierarchies that such patriarchal structures have created are being undermined.
We are tracking very closely here on iState.tv what happens in Rojava. This cultural clash between the “feminists” of Rojava and the “patriarchs” of traditional Middle Eastern cultures is just one fascinating aspect of the emergence of this stateless community called Rojava.
The multiparty campaign to push Islamic State out of Syria and Iraq has resulted in a number of unusual cross-cultural interactions, but few have been as unlikely as those occurring in these camps between highly traditional Arab tribesmen and the leftist revolutionaries who are now in charge.
The party _ known by its Kurdish initials, PYD _ gets its feminist ideas from Abdullah Ocalan, a Kurdish militant from neighboring Turkey who once wrote, “A people cannot be free if the women are not free.”
………..Captured in 1999, Ocalan is now in prison serving a life sentence for treason. It was there that he discovered the writings of an obscure American political theorist named Murray Bookchin, who seemed to offer a way to achieve autonomy without secession.
The idea was to set up networks of community councils to manage local affairs within existing state boundaries. Ocalan’s version aims to give a voice to the region’s other ethnic and religious groups – Arabs, Turkmens, Assyrians, Christians – and places a heavy emphasis on women’s rights.
Though the organizational links between Ocalan’s group and its Syrian counterpart are disputed, the Syrian Kurds have sought to spread his egalitarian vision in territory they control.
Councils, each led jointly by a man and a woman, administer communities throughout the three Kurdish-majority areas vacated by the central government a year into the rebellion against Syrian President Bashar Assad that began in 2011. The idea is now being applied in Arab-dominated areas that were freed from Islamic State by an alliance of militias led by the party’s armed wing.
Ocalan’s image is ubiquitous across these regions, drawing comparisons to the cult of personality built around Assad. Many of the men who police the camps wear patches adorned with Ocalan’s face, which also looms from billboards, at checkpoints and in government offices.
The camps have been a recruiting ground for the Syrian Democratic Forces, the U.S.-backed alliance of Kurdish and Arab militias that has proved to be one of the most effective fighting forces against Islamic State. That the recruits include women has drawn the ire of some residents.
Habloush didn’t have a problem with that, however. He has a son in the force who provides the family’s only income, about $200 a month.
“Maybe some people will not accept that a girl is on the front lines,” he said. “But maybe she can work in an office or in the police force.”
The women who enlist are often driven by a desire to avenge the wrongs done by Islamic State. A 33-year-old Kurdish commander who goes by the nom de guerre Klara Raqqa – for the city where she grew up, which the extremists turned into their capital – recalled that women and girls from Iraq’s Yazidi religious community were brought to Raqqa to be sold as slaves.
“They wanted to return people to the Middle Ages,” she said. “For this reason we said Raqqa should be liberated by the hands of women.”
But for the commander and other women who helped drive the militants from the city in October, the battle for Raqqa was about more than defeating Islamic State.
“Our goal was … also to rebuild society into one that respects women and gives them their rights,” she said