Zapatistas and Rojava Kurds embrace a new gender politics: women up in arms

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By Charlotte Maria Sáenz
March 18, 2015

Resistance and strength manifest like weeds through cracks in Chiapas, Mexico and transnational Kurdistan where the respective Zapatista and Kurdish resistance movements are creating new gender relations as a primary part of their struggle and process for building a better world. In both places, women’s participation in the armed forces has been an entry-point for a new social construction of gender relations based on equity.

While the Kurds have been fighting for their survival against ISIS in the Syrian/Turkish border town of Kobane, the Zapatistas put down their arms over 20 years ago and have maintained a non-violent struggle since. In both cases, women have fought alongside men against their own collective obliteration while making radical changes in their gender relations. Working towards more equity makes possible more direct democracy in building greater autonomy from the state.[1] In both efforts, there is also a deep connection to the land[2] that regards the value of women and the environment as essential to life itself.

In both resistances, women took up arms to fight alongside their male counterparts, showing both willingness and capacity to fight as soldiers. However, their principal objective in the mountains is not military. Rather, their most important task is to form new persons: men and women in a more equitable relationship to each other–a relationship that is also anti-capitalist. “Above everything, we want for our militancy to create a new personality, one that is in complete contradiction to Capitalism,” says a representative of the Kurdish Committee of Jineology (a committee of and for women founded by the transnational PKK (Partiya Karkerên Kurdistanê), the Kurdish Workers Party.[3] Theirs is a commitment to building democracy, socialism, ecology and feminism.

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