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A small fieldwork team has recently returned from a short trip to Rojava, North East Syria where they met with refugee population of Kurdish Iraqi Ezidis and representatives of the self-administered areas to gain an insight into their situation.

Media reports of violence, rape and kidnap against civilian populations fleeing from Iraq into Syria prompted Roj Women, a London-based rights and services organisation, to raise the voice of women in the crisis and investigate the potential to help them. Travelling to West Kurdistan, Rojava North East Syria from Iraq’s autonomous South Kurdistan the team identified the recently established Newroz Camp, near Derik in the Al Cizre canton, as a suitable location for their initial enquiries.

The first part of the research intended to identify the perceived needs of the displaced Ezidi people living in the camp using a rapid assessment humanitarian survey tool (Humanitarian Emergency Settings Perceived Needs Scale, HESPER); the second part involved listening to members of local women’s associations and hearing about the initiatives for women’s safety and protection that have been established in the self-administered areas since the revolution began in Syria.

Harrowing personal stories were heard including a family who found a baby on their escape from violence, another who lost their maternal grandmother due to being unable to physically carry her, stories of massacre, ambush, thirst and fear and of families separated from each other with no knowledge of what has happened to their loved ones or their homes and neighbours. These stories have been reported elsewhere in the media but not so often has the news of resilience and hope been reported.

A striking aspect of the story is the response of the refugees to the questions about how they are being treated and respected by the local populations in Rojava. The overwhelming response was positive. Not only did the Ezidi people feel that the People’s Protection Units had saved their lives in Sinjar by opening a safe passage to escape from violence but now they felt a bond of trust with the local hosts for the care they are receiving as refugees. They are now completely dependent on others and have, in most cases, lost everything, yet despite this, most said they were feeling safe at Newroz Camp under the protection of the Asayis, YPG and YPJ.

A further striking aspect is the positive news about the self-administered area’s commitment to gender equality and the rapid strides they have taken towards improving the emergency and long-term services for women. Since the revolution people in Rojava have been establishing their own ways of administering including by February 2014 establishing a Women’s Commission with a minister with a specific remit to address gender equality. Women’s unions and committees established over three years are constantly working and meeting to address different services for women including safe houses, domestic violence care and intervention, family mediation, medical and psycho-social services, counselling, education, economic, political and social rights and self-help strategies. Visit the Facebook pages of the Women’s Commission at f: destya-jin and domestic violence foundation Sara f: sara againstviolence.

The associations are however not only working in a situation of war and economic hardship but also of political challenges. The self-administered areas are not officially recognised internationally and relations with immediate neighbours in political opposition include tactics of embargo and isolation.

The research team have listened to women in Rojava and witnessed their dedication and creativity in these challenging circumstances. Join us to support them. This research calls for humanitarian and campaigning organisations with an interest in refugee care and gender equality to reach out to the women’s associations in Rojava and to support them in their efforts to provide emergency and long-term services. Roj Women is supporting a fund-raising and communication campaign to bring support to these grass roots organisations directly.The report aims to assist local organisations and international organisations by providing an insight into the local context.

The findings have been reported and published in detail by Roj Women and are available to download at:

A GBV report on Rojava’s Ezidi Emergency

If you would like to discuss the findings and ways to support the work being done in Rojava to support refugees and gender equality please contact: Ayse Tekagac or Yasemin Andan at rojwomen@gmail.com. A donations website to support the campaign will also be announced within the next few days.

Research conducted on behalf of:

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Dilar Dirik is an activist of the Kurdish Women’s Movement and a PhD candidate in the Sociology Department of the University of Cambridge. Her lecture at the 4th New World Summit is entitled “Stateless Democracy: How the Kurdish Women Movement Liberated Democracy from the State”.

Source: Huffington Post, by Houzan Mahmoud

The role of women in war, peace and revolution has long been portrayed in manifold, often contradictory ways. Images of women as victims, pacifist peace makers, protestors, and home makers have dominated literature. Opposed to these images we find that the male figure is represented as a fighter, the ones who take part in war and defend the motherland against the enemy. The homeland is thus a female body a passive and defenceless geography which requires brave men to defend and protect her. It could be argued that history is written by men; therefore they narrate it in a manner that suits the usual gender stereotypes.

The Middle East, North Africa and their female populations in particular have been represented, portrayed and stereotyped in different ways, at different times and in different contexts. Take a look at the media coverage of the recent uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa region. News of the sexual harassment of women in the “Arab uprising”, brutal attacks, imprisonments and virginity tests of female protestors dominated the screens. Yet women played a significant role in these events. For them, the uprising was part of a long history of resistance to suppression and a lack of freedom in their countries. The fact is that women were fighting and have proved their existence despite the counter revolutionary and anti-women treatment that they were receiving.

Today this portrayal is reversed. We now see photos, video footage, reports, documentaries and writing about the Kurdish female freedom fighters in Kurdistan. Kobanê a predominantly Kurdish city in Rojava (Syrian Kurdistan) on the Syrian-Turkish border is dominating our thoughts, our understanding and perception of the role of women in society and revolution.

If women are suppressed, and hanged in public or stoned to death in places like Iran and Saudi Arabia, then Kurdish female fighters are up in arms against such a fate at the hands of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). They are not only taking part in a fierce fight against ISIS, they have taken a leading role in this fight against Islamists as military commanders of both women and men.

Through the interviews, statements and the role played by these women, they are showing extraordinary courage, consciousness and a rejection of traditional gender roles and relations. They refuse to be assigned with a particular gender role i.e. to be care givers, or logistics providers to male fighters, or only take part in protests and later go home to their families and kids. In fact, at the same time as fighting ISIS they are fighting for gender equality.

To those who wish to see women return to their stereotypical roles as peace brokers and peace makers, I would ask exactly who are they supposed to be making peace with? With ISIS, who are one of the most brutal terrorist organisations on the face of the planet; who have as their main mission to drag society back into the dark ages; who force female children and women into Jihad Alnikah, who rape and sell them in slave markets under their own control?

I believe this new model of women occupying the highest positions in politics and as freedom fighters on the front line against ISIS poses important challenges to feminist peace theorising. We need to examine the political context, and the outcome of conflicts on women and their futures. In the case of Kurdish women, taking up arms and fighting on the front line is perhaps their best option. To refuse to become slaves, to be raped, killed or ruled by Islamic Sharia Law under ISIS is only viable through armed resistance. We still do not know about the fate of hundreds of Yezidi women who were captured by ISIS when they invaded Shengal in Iraqi Kurdistan.

This new figure, the female freedom fighter in the heart of a revolutionary culture, provides hope. Most of the time we hear them repeat that they don’t want to remain in traditional family relations or just bring up kids; they want to live freely, and to be independent. These statements are extremely important in terms of rejecting marriage as a form of domesticating women and relegating them to second class citizens in traditional societies. They are well aware that these ambitions cannot be obtained if they are still under threat from ISIS. Therefore, they armed themselves and occupied important positions in politics and social life. They have won the trust, admiration and respect of people not only in Kurdistan but worldwide. The fact is they are up in arms against the most reactionary, misogynist and sexist mind-set of the Islamic terror group ISIS.

The reality is that their struggle is a universal one; they are fighting ISIS on behalf of all of us.

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About Roj Women Association

Roj Women Association (www.rojwomen.org) is based in the London Borough of Hackney. We work to provide ways for Kurdish women to recognise their needs and rights and to empower them to fulfil them.

Our ‘Enhanced employability, boosted chances’ project supports unemployed Kurdish women. Support, tailored around the individual, is offered via a variety of interventions including job search, employer engagement and work placements, mentoring and personal development planning.

Job title: Career and employment advice and support worker

Job scope

A part-time position (2 days per week) to offer training, support and guidance to beneficiaries, identifying key strengths and development needs relating to specific jobs skills. The post-holder will deliver training and coaching on group and one to one basis and assess clients to enable them to access and sustain employment.

Accountability

The post holder is line managed by the Projects Coordinator

Salary

£24,000 per annum pro-rata

Key responsibilities

  1. To hold sessions with beneficiaries on an individual or group basis providing job advice and support including assistance with CVs, application forms and interview preparation.
  1. To maintain a good understanding of local vacancies in order to effectively match customers to suitable job vacancies/work placements and market beneficiaries to employers.
  1. To assist beneficiaries to develop appropriate skills by identifying training and placement/volunteering opportunities.
  1. To deliver outreach workshops in community centers to inform professional and the general public about our services.
  1. To monitor the performance of beneficiaries and to keep appropriate records.
  1. To undertake necessary administrative duties relating to the role.
  1. To work flexible hours in various locations (within Hackney Borough) in order to meet the needs of beneficiaries

Person Description

Essential

-Fluency in Turkish and English

-Experience (at least one year) of delivering training in group situations and providing one to one coaching

-Experience of building relationships with third parties

-An understanding of the factors to be considered in supporting people in employment

-Knowledge of the job market in Hackney and neigh bouring boroughs

-Good self-organization and self-motivation skills

Desirable

-A qualification, or accredited training, in systematic instruction, training, or social care.

-Fluency in Kurdish

Please submit CV, cover letter and equal opportunities form by 6 pm on 24th October to rojwomen@gmail.com

Please note the start date for this post is 1st November 2014

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The Women’s Platform in Defence of the Women of Kurdistan, Iraq and Syria have today released the following statement. 

We are deeply concerned that a massacre is about to take place in the Kobane canton of Rojava, the autonomous Kurdish region of Syria. Here, the Kurdish forces, the YPJ and YPG (the women’s and men’s units of the Peoples Defence Force) have been resisting attacks from brutal ISIS gangs and al-Qaeda affiliated groups, despite being deliberately ignored by the West for their links to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). It is time to recognise them and Rojava, a democratic, multi-ethnic and gender-just administration of two million people whose refugee camps are hosting millions of Syrian and Iraqi refugees of all ethnicities.

The region is now being threatened by the ISIS and also by Western airstrikes which will of course result in further civilian casualties. If Kobane falls, it will threaten the entire region.

Thousands of women have been raped, abducted and sold into sexual slavery by ISIS. None of this has been mentioned in the British Parliament, nor has the vital role of women in the YPJ in evacuating thousands of people from the Sinjar region been recognised.

ISIS owes its origins to US interventions and is funded and armed by Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Its fighters are openly entering Syria across the Turkish border. It is imperative that this is halted and the double game of these countries exposed.

The possible establishment of a buffer zone at the Turkish border would further legitimise the presence the Turkish military who have a history of massacring Kurds.

Instead of  belligerent action, we urge the British Government to listen to the demands of those successfully fighting ISIS on the ground. If arms are to be given at all, they should be provided to those who are exercising their right to self-determination and self-defence in Rojava.

Roj Women’s Association

Peace in Kurdistan Campaign

Socialist Womens Union

Freedom Without Fear Platform

Prof Mary Davis

Margaret Owen OBE, Director, Widows for Peace through Democracy (WPD)

Shatha Besarani, women’s right activist

Sarah Parker, Haringey Left Unity

The Women’s Commission of the Kurdistan National Congress has drafted a letter to encourage others to take urgent action to stop feminicide by the IS in Kurdistan and Middle East.

The letter is addressed to the Secretray General of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation  (OIC), Mr. Iyad Ameen Madani. If you would like to be a signatory, please email: knk.women@gmail.com with your name and organisational affiliation.

H.E. Mr. Iyad Ameen Madani

Secretary General of Organisation of Islamic Cooperation

P.O. Box 178, Jeddah 21411, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Fax: + 966 12 651 22 88

E-Mail oic@oic-un.org

Date

Dear Mr. Madani,

Since the turmoil in Syria we have experienced a new war of “terror” in Rojava (North Syria-West Kurdistan). The self-styled Islamic State (IS) is carrying out systematic crimes against humanity.  In the name of Islam all methods of brutality have been used against our peoples (Kurds, Assyrian, Armenian, Arabs as well as religions of Ezidi, Alevi, Kakei, Shiite, Christians).

Your Excellency might be aware, that the IS is in reality in conflict with and undermining true Islamic law. Claiming to act on behalf of Islam is producing “Islamophobia”, which the IOC is trying to prevent. We know that these terrorists are using Islam as a cover for their expansion and occupation strategies in Kurdistan and Middle East. According to the international media reports IS is backed by Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Gulf States. They are member states of the OIC. Therefore, we call on you, the Secretary General of the IOC, to use your power and urge the Islamic member states which are known to support IS, to stop this dirty war.

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