Ever since the Western world discovered the Kurdish Women’s Protection Units (Yekîneyên Parastina Jinê), also known as the YPJ, Kurdish feminism has been comprehensively covered in the media. However it should not be assumed that Kurdish Feminism is a new movement. Kurdish Feminism has been around for decades, originating from the nationalistic movements in and around the Kurdish community in Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Iran and Armenia (Caha, 2013). The Kurdish community is the largest ethnic minority group without a nation-state, which has been denied basic human rights, remain displaced and experience continuing persecution.
In Turkey during the mid-1990s, Kurdish women’s movements gained momentum, due to their ability to draw attention to the intersection of ethnicity and gender (Caha, 2013). This is because Kurdish women were not able to identify with Turkish feminism amid the racism against Kurdish people in the Turkish state and society. In fact Kurdish women found themselves being subject to discrimination by Turkish feminists, and found that they were not scrutinising the state for the brutal treatment that Kurdish women faced. Hence Kurdish women accuse Turkish feminists of being in partnership with the state for not fighting their systemic prosecution and ignoring their struggles (Caha, 2013). Therefore, Kurdish feminism established itself alongside Black Feminism.
Kurdish feminists drew on the ideas of Bell Hooks arguing that Turkish feminism uses the ideas of Western Feminism, which ignores the political and racial struggle of Kurdish women (Caha, 2013). This is true because Kurdish feminists must also fight political structures to gain the recognition that Turkish women do not. This confirms why Kurdish women have differing arguments to Turkish feminists on issues such as motherhood, with Turkish feminists discouraging women taking on the traditional role of motherhood. However, Kurdish feminists disagree with this approach arguing that motherhood can also be liberating to women and must be protected because it ensures the survival of the Kurdish language and culture. Whereas for the Turkish woman cultural struggle does not pose a problem.
Kurdish women believe that women have different sociological roles in society, which depend on the context in which a woman positions herself in. This movement is not only about achieving equality for women but allowing women to make their own choices in how to do so. This is why many women choose not to be part of female militancy, not because they are unsupportive of the Kurdish cause, but because there are other societal roles that work towards improving Kurdish women’s position in society. However, many Kurdish women join the YPJ to free themselves from the racist and patriarchal structures of society, viewing the YPJ as a safe haven. The Western nations have only recently drawn attention to the YPJ and female militancy because of the mainstream feminist criticism that women should end war not expand it (Benson-Sokmen, 2017). However, this argument is restricted, as it should not be the duty of feminists to end war, instead men should combine with women to advocate this. This criticism also rejects women’s ability to fight anti-colonial powers or radical forces by taking on arms, even though women have actively participated throughout history.
Kurdish feminism is also transferred into many women in the Kurdish diaspora, many Kurdish women take care of family businesses or own their own businesses. Kurdish families push their children, especially daughters to become high achievers through emphasising the importance of education. These Women play a significant role in politics and contribute to change in many ways either through female militancy, education or the home and it unites women in different spheres to fight a national cause. Therefore making Kurdish feminism the new western craze.
Çaha, O. 2016. Women and civil society in Turkey. London: Routledge.
Benson-Sokmen 2017. The Limits of ‘Western” Feminist Engagement with Kurdish Female Militancy [Online]. Available at: https://muftah.org/limits-western-feminist-engagement-kurdish-female-fighters/#.WprhyqiRrIV [Accessed: 4 March 2018].