Successful seminar on the feminist struggle in northern Syria

frederike-geerdink[By Karen Fletcher] MELBOURNE — The second seminar this year organised by Australian solidarity activists and the Victorian Kurdish community attracted some 80 people eager to discuss the challenges, achievements and lessons of the Kurdish-led feminist revolution in northern Syria.

Opening speaker Fréderike Geerdink (pictured), a Dutch journalist who recently lived for a year with Kurdish forces in northern Syria to work on a “slow journalism” project, spoke about the women and men she came to know and the extraordinary legal, social, political and economic changes progressively changing their lives. Like a young woman barely able to believe that new laws could give her rights against her ex-husband who had taken sole custody of their children.

Former Newcastle University lecturer, Hawzhin Azeez spoke via video link from the city of Kobanê, one of the three major cities in the region now governed by the people’s councils of the Rojava revolution. Hawzhin formerly work.ed.s for the Kobane Reconstruction Board coordinating work to make the city habitable again after it was all but destroyed by Daesh in 2014-15.

Her slides showed a Women’s Park with a cooperative-run restaurant (‘the nicest place to hang out in Kobane’) and a Women’s Village inhabited by women of all ages who have escaped domestic and other violence. Tens of thousands of residents have returned to the city from Europe since reconstruction began and refugees are pouring in from around Syria. Hawzhin explained that all are organising themselves into neighbourhood councils to participate in the reconstruction.

Havin Guneser, a journalist and translator of Kurdish leader Abdullah Öcalan’s work into English, joined the final panel by video link from Germany. The panel discussed the significance of the ‘three pillars’ of the northern Syrian revolution: democracy, feminism and ecology for feminists worldwide.

Australians for Kurdistan meet regularly in Melbourne to organise solidarity activities in partnership with the local Kurdish Democratic Community Centre of Victoria.