Original article by Amara Şervan, The Independent, 25 March 2019
I decided to join the YPJ in 2013. From the very start, Rimelan until Derik, Tel Kocer, Sere Kaniye, Manbij, Shengal, until now in Deir Ezzor, in every campaign, we went through so much. What I remember from the war against Isis is our will to rise up, our desire for life, and our connection as comrades.
Here in Rojava, a lot of women cannot live with dignity in their families because of their feudal approach to living. But with my decision to join YPJ, my life changed forever.
My decision showed how women can take their place in the fight for liberation. For a Kurdish girl, who cannot speak up in their own house to defend her rights, this is really significant. At first, my family were afraid I would end up in the hands of the enemy and be treated dishonourably. But after a while, they were proud of me. They saw how I struggled.
Six years is a long time. We were constantly in the middle of war and bloodshed, and as women, this was an education for us. We saw a different, wider view of what life was. Every step we took together was like a child learning how to walk, until it can stand on its own legs. The comradeship inside YPG and YPJ is really strong.
The first time we came under attack from Isis, I started to think: “Maybe we cannot fight against these enemies. Maybe we will die here.”
But those moments strengthened us. After we passed through that hardship and were victorious, my comrades were excited, smiling, talking about what they did. After, I felt that I could carry on, making sure to take things step by step.
The first time I saw a corpse wasn’t easy either. Though this person was an enemy, they were also a human. But given the way Isis fought against us, it was necessary to defend ourselves.
We were forced to attack in self-defence, against occupying forces that were destroying our society. Isis dirtied the name of Islam, dirtied the name of religion, and deceived the people.
The jihadists thought that people who were killed by a woman’s hand would go to hell. When women fought against them and they heard our voices, they ran away.
I remember some happy times too. We had one mission where he had to liberate a village in which Isis were punishing the people. Every day they were executing, torturing, punishing women. No matter how many people are martyred, we said, we have to take it back from Isis.
As it turned out, we were successful. There was a large office in the village, and we climbed to the top. Our male comrades went first and put up the YPG flag. After we took it down and we raised the YPJ flag in its place. We were joking around and arguing, and in the end we said, OK, we can put up both.
But the happiest moments in the war were when we were advancing together, seizing places from Isis, when we were victorious. I have so many memories like that.
The war against Isis in Rojava drew the attention of the whole world. There was never anything like it in history before. Women and men fought side by side together, and lived together in an ethical way. It’s not only in marriage that women and men can come together. They can unite and struggle and resist attacks against them.
Against our enemies and their ideology, our war will never stop. In particular, we are always struggling for the minds of the people. But we take morale from the military defeat of a force like Isis, which has carried out such a repugnant war, particularly against women.
In the name of women, we liberated women from a dark place. Under Isis a child, a girl of ten years old, could not enjoy her childhood. They were forced to cover their heads and their right to life was denied. Now, the children have been released.
The most significant thing we’ve achieved is that people can live freely in their own identity, especially with regards to political organisation and education.
When we liberated Deir-ez-Zor, we liberated some women who were in Isis’s hands. We spoke together and we said, “You see how women can rise up? How they can fight for liberation? How Arab women rise up and become leaders?”
The most beautiful women are those who sacrificed themselves when men sought to dirty and subjugate them and the women of the world.
We’ve lost so many fighters, so many young people, women, children and families have been killed. So many people have been burned alive and decapitated. We’ve gone through so much pain to get to this point.
It had to end in Isis being eradicated. But our war against oppression is not over yet.