Interviews Stories from Kurdistan

Securing Kurdish Women’s Rights for ‘Generations to Come’

Zozan Alosh is a women’s rights activist working to raise awareness for Kurdish women in the Kurdish regions of Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria. Zozan was recently in Geneva at a two-day meeting sponsored by the United Nations to support women’s participation and voice in the Syrian peace process.

The Kurdish Project was introduced to Zozan Alosh by the Washington Kurdish Institute, a nonprofit research and education institution based in Washington D.C. The following interview with Zozan was conducted by the Kurdish Project via email.

TKP: Hi Zozan! Can you please introduce yourself to our readers?

ZA: My name is Zozan Alosh. I’m a women’s rights activist and am highly interested in politics. I was born and raised in the city of Kobani in Rojava (Western Kurdistan historically- Northern Syria nowadays).

TKP: Where did you grow up? What is your educational background?

ZA: As mentioned earlier, I was born and raised in Kobani-Rojava. I stayed there until I finished my middle school education, and moved to Madrid, Spain where I got my high school diploma. After high school, I moved to Bonn, Germany and got my degree in Small Business Administration.

TKP: What do you do for work?

ZA: Right after graduation in Bonn, I started working with multiple companies. My focus was on fashion in general, and the companies I worked for were based in both Germany and Spain. With the help of my family, I started my own business, but when the revolution in Syria began, I decided to devote my whole time to raising awareness for Kurdish women, by conveying the voice of women in the region.

TKP: How important is ethnicity to the Kurds?

ZA: Ethnicity has always played a role in keeping the Kurdish identity unique throughout the ages. Not to mention that the idea of ethnicity is a double edged weapon. On one hand, ethnicity has a positive role in helping any particular group of people survive throughout history. But on the other hand, many wars throughout history were based on ethnic conflicts.

Going back to your question — ethnicity is important to the Kurds, but I don’t think that (in modern history) Kurds have been involved or dragged into war on purely ethnic grounds.

TKP: How important are women in Kurdish society?

ZA: First of all, we shouldn’t forget that the Kurdish society is a tribal society. For some reasons, and because of the patriarchal mentality that ruled the society, the role of the Kurdish woman has been obscured.

Nonetheless, the Kurdish woman has always played a major role in Kurdish society; she has defended the mother language, she has played a cultural role, and she has had an economic role. Recently, and specifically in Rojava, the Kurdish woman is the primary actor in transforming the whole Kurdish society.

TKP: Kurdish women have been recognized by the international media for having played a significant role in the liberation of Kobanî, and in the development of Rojava. Will Kurdish women in Rojava be able to hold onto their new found freedoms after ISIS is defeated?

ZA: Men are always eager to claim all the accomplishments, and this what has been going on throughout history, which is what we, as Kurdish women, are now trying to avoid. In the self-governed system in Rojava, we have been working to achieve this in four major fields; social, economic, political and military.

Socially, we have issued new rules to protect the women’s rights, such as the prohibition of polygamy, women have equal status to men in the eye of the law, Underage marriages are prohibited now, equality in entailment, the right to naturalize the children, and have the right of guardianship for the children.

Politically, Rojava works under the Co-chair system (one male and one female) in all government establishments and any other social committees. And to avoid the exploitation of women, the newly established Women’s Council is the only authorized entity to vote for the female candidate in a given election before voting opens for the male candidate. I don’t believe that such a rule exists anywhere else in the world.

Economics, too, plays a very important role in the process of the independence of the woman. In the self-governed system in Rojava, we have started women’s projects to help speed the advancement of women’s independence. This includes Rojava’s unique cooperative system, and direct financial assistance for women’s projects such as small businesses.

Militarily, the women of Rojava have taken up a policy of self-defense. Ever since women in the region became a target for ISIS’ jihadist attacks, and after what happened to the women of Shingal (Sinjar), the women of Rojava decided to organize an official female-only armed forces, called the Women’s Protection Units (YPJ). The women of Rojava believe that is not fair that men alone fight in the battlefield, and we believe that women should share the battlefield achievements with men.

So in Rojava, we think that we have secured women’s right from now on and for generations to come.

TKP: What is something that you think the American public should know about the Kurds (particularly Kurdish women)?

ZA: During my time in the United States, I have met social, academic and political figures. I’ve realized that only information they have about the struggle of the Kurdish women is about the armed struggle of the Kurdish women.

So I believe that’s very important to tell the American public that before the Kurdish women entered the battlefield, Kurdish woman have been working to improve the cultural, social, and the political landscape for women for decades. Where the Kurdish women is standing now, is the result of many years of struggling.

TKP: How can individuals (and governments) help the Kurds?

ZA: Wherever they are, individuals can support the revolution of the Kurds by standing in solidarity with them. Individuals can also help the Kurds morally and financially by supporting projects such as the rebuilding of the city of Kobanî, the symbol of heroic resistance against the terrorism of ISIS.

As for governments, we think it’s the time for the U.S. government to consider the recognition of the self-government in Rojava, especially after the campaign of coordination between U.S. and YPG forces.

TKP: Thank you for your time today, Zozan!

ZA: Thank you, Kurdish Project!

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