· Vatican City ·


* Letter
“... to become so strong that you can pursue, as is your aspiration, non-violence. You who first shouted Women, Life, Freedom”.

Kurdish women I wish you...

Jin Jiyan Azadi
04 March 2023

I am writing to thank you. In recent years, I have seen photos of your comrades, smiling and armed, fighting against the violence of fundamentalism in one of its most atrocious forms, that of the so-called Islamic State. Powerful images, of strength, youth and beauty, that recall the best moments of so many liberation struggles, the moments when the harshness, the contradictions remain in the background, those most charged with hope. However, there is something more in those photos, because they are photos of women, of women together. It is sufficient to contrast them with other images, of those women forced to wear the full veil, who are marginalised from public life, and excluded from education, to understand how the struggle that those photos testify to is a vital issue. These are minds and bodies and consciences that cannot at any cost renounce the fullness of being in the world.  All that beauty holds at bay without erasing what lies behind it: pain, fatigue, loss, death.

I was not surprised to find that the cry “Woman, Life, Freedom”, which came to us from Iran, was shouted, before any other language, in Kurdish, “Jin, Jiyan, Azadi”. Then, the voice was heard growing in intensity in Farsi, “Zhen, Zhian, Azadi”. Those of you who live in Iran and the other Iranians shouted it together in different languages in the nonviolent battle you are waging. I was struck -but not surprised to learn- that that cry was already, as far back as the 1980s and 1990s, the manifesto of the Kurdish feminist resistance. It has its own breadth and precision, that cry, and it is not surprising to find it scattered, even far beyond the political field that produced it, throughout the Middle East where women are rebelling against intolerable conditions.

I write to you out of admiration. When I think of the minority’s plight -which you are a part-, without a nation, settled between Turkey, Syria, Iran and Iraq, persecuted in the expression of language and culture, it seems a miracle to me that you have not founded a closed nationalist irredentism and identity.

Quite another thing is the thinking behind the Rojava experiment, the Autonomous Administration of North-East Syria, which is not officially recognised by the Syrian government, whose goal is a society based on the coexistence of different cultures and religions, ecology, feminism, social economy and popular self-defense. At the heart of that experience are you. I am struck by the strength with which you place women's freedom and their capacity for political leadership at the centre of an acceptable society. I am struck by how you shake off the 19th century dream of a nation in the direction of another horizon, (which seems to me more topical, more just), that of democratic collaboration between people of different cultures, who are guaranteed the expression and study of their own language and culture. Your way of dealing with education, mutual support, ecology. It seems to me that public life as you imagine it undermines the polarities to which we are accustomed, West/East, South/North, to which a completely different element is inserted, which certainly comes from the socialist tradition, but knows how to manifest itself in a new way.

I do not know if in practice the aspirations you declare are always successfully realised. I have difficulty resisting the instinctive cheer that leads me to always defend you, whatever the cost, when I hear bad things said about you and what you are building in Rojava and elsewhere. However, I cannot trust tales of glory alone. I am grateful to you, immensely, but along with my gratitude I hope that a wish will reach you, that you will become so strong as to be able to pursue non-violence as is in your aspirations. That you will be so confident that you will be able to tell us everything, especially what does not work, what needs to be fine-tuned, in practicing a new idea of being in the world. The mistakes, the resistance, the tragedies, the faults; tell us everything, so that we can truly and fully learn from you.