The Women’s Defense Units (YPJ) was founded on April 4, 2013. Interview with YPJ spokeswoman Nesrin Abdullah who takes a look back to the early days when Kurdish women in Rojava took up arms, from ANF:
“Women play a strategic role in the freedom and independence of peoples and in the peace and justice of society. Gender equality, social justice, a life of free organization and identity are important to a society. We see this above all in the Kurdish society. […] Here, women were always significantly involved and have come to the fore. Even at times when there were no women’s organizations, single women have shaped events.”
“The YPJ were not suddenly founded by resolution from above, and they did not just come into existence. They were founded on the basis of a consciousness, on a scientific basis. […] Our first finding in the start-up phase was the existing need for specific women’s units for self-defense. Second, we realized that such an organization would not be possible without ideology. An ideological participation was necessary, the pure accession was not enough. If women do not trust themselves and their own strength and have no consciousness, there would have been no difference. Women would have carried weapons and men as well. That’s why the women’s liberation ideology was essential to us.
It was the first time that women’s defense units were established in the region. Women wanted to take up arms and represent their own identity in this part of the world. It was not so easy for society to accept, people did not accept it. We know that the society is feudal in Kurdistan and the Middle East. There was a patriarchal way of thinking.”
“We have noticed that we first needed a small group of women who can organize other women. […] The personalities of women were not prepared for this because women are socialized within the traditions of society. The dreams of women did not go beyond attending school, a house, a partner and children. Such was the situation of women in our society. For us, the accession of a woman was as meaningful as the liberation of a nation. In this consciousness we went forward. It was difficult for us, but it was very important. We knew that we were doing a very difficult job, and with each new woman joining us, our burden became lighter. It was a success and this success motivated us further.”
“The YPJ was founded under the leadership of Kurdish women. They started with the Kurdish women and then organized themselves throughout northern and eastern Syria, not only within the Kurdish society, but in all the peoples of the region. The YPJ are the defense forces of all the women in the region, and women from other peoples have joined as well.
Within the YPJ there are Arab, Syriac, Armenian, Circassian, Chechen and Turkmen women. The colors of all nations are represented. The handling of the YPJ has ensured that women of other peoples have found their place within the YPJ. Every woman can find herself in the YPJ.”
Read the full interview here.