Besê Erzincan: Öcalan Waged a Great Struggle To Develop Women’s Liberation Struggle

Besê Erzincan, coordinating member of the Kurdistan Women’s Community (KJK), spoke about Öcalan’s approach to women’s freedom.

The first part of this interview can be read here

The leader of the Kurdish people, Abdullah Öcalan, waged a great struggle to develop the women’s liberation struggle. What can you tell about this?

As the women’s movement, we have evaluated many times that the international conspiracy was also a conspiracy against the women’s liberation struggle. This will be much clearer when we look at our history. The most fundamental characteristic that distinguishes our Leadership from all other leaders is its approach to women’s freedom. Rêber Apo has always paid attention to the presence of women in his own life and in the establishment of the PKK. The desire to develop comradeship and friendship with women is a very important point that emerged in our Leadership’s childhood years. It is noteworthy that no leader has ever emphasized women’s comradeship. They could not save themselves from seeing women as the second sex. The way women existed in revolutions was only on the basis of wife, sister and mother. The leaders of different revolutions could not show an approach that would overcome this.

Throughout the history of our struggle, our Leadership has continuously developed women’s participation in the revolution with their independent decisions and personality. In his personal life, he took comradeship with women, discussing with women, making decisions with women as a principle. He looked at working and living with women strategically. His greatest ambition was to discuss, decide and struggle together with developed, liberated, conscious and strong-willed women. For this, he paid special attention to the development of women within the organization. He criticized women’s backwardness a lot, while including women in the foundation of the PKK. Women were present at every stage of our struggle.

After the 90s, Rêber Apo constantly organized women’s research groups in the houses where he stayed. He personally led women’s education and discussions and, thereby, he always had infinite trust and faith in women to understand and apply the philosophy and style of the Leadership in the most accurate and adequate way. His analyses and dialogues on women’s liberation are very historical, as they are pioneering and liberating. He took the approach of overcoming the blockages, backwardness and liquidationism within the PKK with free women’s personalities and organizations. Rêber Apo always kept the women’s power within the PKK in a position that constantly criticized and put forward the truth. Rêber Apo always aimed on educating, changing and transforming the dominant male understandings within the organization. The male commanders who did not understand the style of the Leadership and did want to, have not been left to get in higher positions. He also developed social change and transformation under the Leadership of women. In essence, Rêber Apo tried to teach how to have a correct comradeship with women within the PKK and in society. Bringing women to a level where they stand on their own feet and take their own decisions, not in the shadow of men. As for example, it can clearly be seen in the person of Sakine Cansız. She made an extraordinary effort for the emergence of free women. She protected, educated and paved the way. When mistakes were made, she constantly gave them opportunities to get up and walk again. Sakine made incredible efforts to create women’s Leadership in practical life and to realize its correct representation. In this context, Rêber Apo has always taken the approach of achieving the revolution in Kurdistan under the Leadership of women as a basis to develop it on.

For example, our Leadership laid the basic strategic building blocks for realizing a radical break from the dominant male system with ‘Killing the Man’ in 1996, the ‘Theory of Rupture’ in 1997, and the ‘Ideology of Women’s Liberation’ in 1998. Rêber Apo attached great importance to the independent development of the women’s organization within the PKK and to the participation of women with their own will and organization. He constantly criticized the dominant male approach within the organization and took various measures against dominant understandings. On this basis, Rêber Apo has never abandoned the approach of creating the grounds for the development of the free female personality. For this reason, the YAJK organization, which was announced at our first women’s congress in 1995, decided to carry out its activities under our Leadership, not the PKK Central Committee. After the abduction of Rêber Apo by an international conspiracy, the YAJK became a autonomous women’s party by itself as a result of great struggles against the dominant male understanding within the organization.

In order for the women’s liberation struggle to grow, our Leadership has constantly developed a level that includes ideological deepening, new concepts and theories, its organizational models and answers to the questions of how to live. Rêber Apo also determined the discussions and principles of how to create new and free relations as well as the existing enslaving relations between men and women. The Imrali prison writings and negotiations that have developed, dimensioned and enlarged the women’s freedom struggle much more. Rêber Apo has developed and liberated Kurdistan society in the person of women’s freedom.

In the history of us women, the response to our Leadership’s approach that values  works by/for women has been the sacrifice and resistance of thousands of women in prisons, as seen in the person of comrade Beritan, Zilan and thousands of female martyrs. The reflection on society was the development of a new sociality, a new level of freedom, and the participation of liberated women in all revolutionary work at all levels. Our love and devotion to our Leadership has constantly developed, grown and liberated us women. On this basis, women have been the most supportive of our Leadership, his ideology of freedom and his work.

Therefore, among the reasons for the development of the international conspiracy that started on October 9th, the results created by our women’s liberation struggle play a major role. Because the radical women’s liberation struggle, which our Leadership developed, concerns and fears of the male-dominated system. In this context, we believe that without understanding the male-dominated character of the international conspiracy against our Leadership and the fact that it was developed with the alliance of hegemonic masculinity, the real essence of the reason for the conspiracy cannot be fully understood.

It is known that the capitalist modernist system was developed through women’s slavery. Five thousand years of written history is the history of sovereign masculinity’s construction and exploitation of women and society. Today, it is increasingly understood that the written history does not include the history of women, oppressed peoples, beliefs and groups. Their history has been incorporated into the history of the dominant male, dissolved and destroyed within this history. Not content with this, the dominant male mind and system have seized and stolen all the creations, production and labor of women and humanity by force and have realized the continuity of their system on this basis.

Rêber Apo’s radical approach to the line of women’s liberation in the Kurdistan revolution, the fact that he nullified the discourses, ideologies and lies of the dominant male world about women in every aspect, the continuous development of women in military command, politics, organization and ideology within the PKK, the participation of women in all social activities in Kurdistan society on the basis of Leadership, the role played by women in the brotherhood and unity of peoples have caused a very serious fear and anxiety for the current dominant system.

It is noteworthy that women participated in all revolutions, but such a mass, collective women’s Leadership started to develop for the first time in the revolution here in Kurdistan. In other revolutions, as is known, the dominant male understanding did not allow women independent, free participation and autonomous organizations. After the revolution, women returned to their old positions in their homes, to their status as the second sex.

The most fundamental strategy of our Leadership in the revolution is the strategy of creating free people and a free society. That is why he has set before us the task of realizing the women’s revolution. The women’s revolution is not just about women gaining some rights. It is the reconstruction of the entire social life based on women.

One of the most fundamental characteristics that distinguishes our Leadership from other leaders is the strategic importance it attaches to the creation of free women and men. Creating a free relationship and social level between men and women has been among the most fundamental educational activities. The work that enrages and frightens the given sovereign system the most is the work to liberate women. Our Leadership created its own personality on the basis of a free male profile and reflected this daily and instantaneously to its surroundings, setting an example. On the grounds where our Leadership was present, traditional approaches to women and taboos would be shattered. The free days to come and free relationships would be concretized in the moment. In this context, thanks to the analysis of sociality in Kurdistan and its recreation on the basis of freedom principles, the Leadership of Kurdistan and women’s revolution developed. With the approach that revolution can only be developed with liberated individuals, our Leadership attached more importance to the analysis of personality and women’s liberation than anything else. He constantly made plans to develop women’s liberation efforts and activities and developed them step by step. Taking women’s liberation and Kurdistan’s liberation as extremely intertwined and inseparable, he has always taken the principle of women’s liberation as a basis in the Kurdistan revolution and has dealt with women’s freedom and our struggle at a strategic level.

Rêber Apo most of all opposed the male-dominated, appropriate understandings developed around women. He said that women should be at the front of social development and liberation, not men, and that women should belong to themselves and live ‘Xwebûn’ [to live what your real being is]. In order to put this into practice, he wanted women to take part and play a role in all areas of life. Rêber Apo put these ideas into practice with important implementations like co-presidency and equal representation.

Our Leadership’s criticisms and evaluations of the understanding of love within the capitalist modernist system are extremely striking and historical. He rejected the murders committed in the name of love, the hypocrisy, the understanding of property and the enslavement of women. He analyzed the false understandings of love that develop within the capitalist system. He stated that free love cannot develop within the living arrangements of colonialism. Also Rêber Apo analyzed how the family phenomenon in Kurdistan has turned into a deadlock. He stated that free love and free relationships can only develop through social liberation, patriotism, organization and struggle and put forward the principles of love. ”Only slavery, ugliness, immorality, injustice and inequality develop in personalities, lifestyles and relationships that are on the side of the state and colonialism. Those who are not aware of the enemy and do not fight against it cannot feel and express love. A man or a woman who is with the enemy and his collaborators, who is in betrayal, can never be loved. Love has principles and can only develop on the basis of patriotism, freedom consciousness, will and struggle. Free men and women who recreate and restructure themselves on the basis of women’s freedom and social struggle can develop free spousal lives.” As Rêber Apo said. “Love and affection cannot develop without women belonging to themselves, organizing and struggling”.

Therefore, the fact that the conspiracy against our Leadership is so comprehensive, that almost all states are partners in this conspiracy, and that they approve of it, is due to the fact that states are built on the basis of sovereign male character. The state is the most basic strategic tool created by dominant masculinity to exploit and enslave women and society. Obviously it does not want its slaves to leave its hands.

Since our Leadership is the guide and leader of women’s liberation, the international conspiracy of October 9th was developed. For this reason, our women’s liberation struggle has to play a decisive role in frustrating the conspiracy, in achieving results while developing the struggle to ensure the physical freedom of our Rêber Apo. It is not in vain that Rêber Apo, after he was taken to Imrali prison, stated in one of his interviews that women’s liberation was his “most epic work”.

Today, in the world, in the Middle East and in Kurdistan, there is a string of women’s freedom. Women’s organizations and women’s Leadership that is gradually developing on the basis of Rêber Apo’s ideology and philosophy of freedom are spreading. Our women’s liberation ideology and struggle developed by our Leadership is gradually becoming universal and socialized. We have seen and experienced this in the social uprising known as the “Jin, Jiyan, Azadî” uprisings, which developed in Rojhilat [Eastern Kurdistan] and Iran with the murder of Jina Emini in September 2022 and resonated all over the world. The slogan “Jin, Jiyan, Azadî”, which our Leadership created as a magic formula, has developed as a basic approach and argument in Rojhilat and Iran. It turned into a manifesto of struggle. This discourse and struggle is a direct result of our women’s revolution and our revolutionary work in Kurdistan. In Rojhilat, in the North, in the South, in Rojava, in Şengal [Sinjar], in every geography where women militants of the PKK, PAJK following their politics and freedom-loving people live, the seeds of our women’s revolution have been sown. It is growing and developing step by step. This women-led revolution is attracting the attention of the whole world and humanity. Our women’s freedom struggle and resistance has reached a level that involves millions of women and men. In this context, our success rate will increase as we understand and apply our Leadership. Undoubtedly, the most fundamental aspect of frustrating the international conspiracy against our Leadership is to continuously increase our women’s freedom struggle.