Tuesday, July 7, 2015
The Women Combatants of Rojava: Interviews with commander Rangin of the YPJ (Women's Defence Units)
Kurdish Commander Rangin: “International Coalition Against Isis Only in Words”
“This is the moment that ends the isolation,” declared the commander of the YPJ, Nesrin Abdullah in a news conference at the Italian Parliament in Rome shortly after the new attack by Isis on Kobane.
To discuss the new crisis that is gripping the city, we reached commander Rangin (June 26th) by telephone at her headquarters in Kobane.
Giuseppe Acconcia (GA): What is happening in Kobane?
Commander Rangin (CR): The fighting continues. There are about a hundred Daesh [Arabic acronym for Isis] fighters holed up in the city carrying out summary attacks against the population.
GA: How do you rate the performance of the international coalition?
CR: They are not doing their best. Kurdish civilians are often killed in the bombardments. They happen by mistake, according to them, but we believe they want to maintain a kind of equilibrium between the jihadis and the Kurdish combatants. If the coalition wants to bomb a cigarette they do it. Sometimes we ask for targeted attacks and they say it's not possible to proceed. Many jihadi fighters have weapons from the United States or Turkey. Yet, for months we haven't received enough weapons. After the liberation of the areas controlled by the Syrian regime we reinforced the armed struggle but we are always more dependent on the support of the people than on arms.
GA: You joined the YPJ in April 2013 and immediately entered into the professional units. How is the YPJ organized?
CR: First of all there are the local self-defence units (Haremi), then professional fighters and finally the resistance units. Men leave the self-defence units to join the YPG; the more educated women often enter directly into the professional combatants. We are like every other army; we depend on the ideology of Abdullah Öcalan. But we are not only an army. In meetings we spend time discussing and self-criticizing. We are a defensive army. In order to fight, women must know why and for what to fight. For this we begin with ideological and academic preparation, because every YPJ fighter must know her own self.
GA: So the YPJ is an army of feminists?
CR: We stand for a radical feminism. We depend on ourselves and benefit from the experience of everyone. Women at home protect the essentialness of women. Our fight is as women (no matter if Kurdish, Syrian or European) and for a nationality that identifies with democratic autonomy and is opposed to the concept of the state. During the fighting for Shingal, women went to save other women. At Til Temir YPJ fighters went to save Arab women. We went to save dozens of women captives in villages occupied by Isis.
GA: One of the themes you deal with in YPJ training is “love and death.”
CR: Love is essential, it's part of everyone's instinct. The philosophy of death is a way of living. In past times everyone knew death could come quickly; now it is different and this disconnects us from nature and does not allow us to accept the idea of death. Religion exploits death: if you're a martyr you go to heaven. For us love and death are in contradiction: when we discuss it, it's to search for a new military, communitarian and quotidian life. Women are not made to only have children. We want to reform and renew the community. We also talk a lot about sensuality.
GA: How is the YPJ received by male comrades?
CR: Some men don't accept that their commander may be a woman. If in this context the women are soldiers, it's not in vain. We have to fight against the concept that many male comrades have of women. When we talk about it with a YPG member, it often happens that he changes his mind and understands that the men's units exist because the YPJ exists and not vice versa. We are not a military adornment. Many of our female fighters have been blown skywards by mines; they are commanders (the majority of them) of male units. There is plenty of autonomy regarding this. We have mixed battalions; in almost all battalions there are co-commanders. For instance, if Kurdish fighters do not commit ethnic cleansing after the capture of a city, it is mainly because our influence stops errors from being committed. •
Interviews translated by Sam Putinja, who wishes to extend a special thanks to Ali Behran Ozcelik.