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Op-Ed: Honoring the life and struggle of women Peshmerga on International Women’s Day

In honor of International Women’s Day, Kurdish national liberation movement activist Kajal Mohammadi explains why female Peshmergas have become the beacon of hope and inspiration and will be role models for generations to come.
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Across occupied Kurdistan, Kurdish women have played a key role in the social, political and economic organizations and institutions. In his famous book Sharafnama, Sharaf Khan Bidlisi makes references to some key historical women leaders who assumed power and ruled their principalities in the early 16th century. Some of these historical figures include but are not limited to: Lady Halima Khanim of Hakkari (19th century), Lady Adela, the ruler of Halabja (1919), Asenath Barzani, the first female rabbi in Jewish history (17th century), Mestureh Ardalan (1805-1348), Leila Badir Khan and Habsa Khani Naqib. Some of the more recent examples include but are not limited to: Leyla Qasim, Leyla Zana, Sakine Cansiz, Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman, along with hundreds of thousands of female Peshmerga and cadres currently struggling against terrorist states and organizations.

Kurdish women have played a key role in the national liberation movement and have resisted state sponsored terrorism, discrimination and denial of national identity and population in Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey.

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Kurdish nationalism and female participation in the national liberation movement heightened in the aftermath of the division of Kurdistan by the French and English in the 19th century. Kurdish women hold a higher position and special place in the Kurdish society and history. They have transformed and advocated for women’s roles in the social, political and military organizations. This is even more visible and widely accepted today as women across occupied Kurdistan from Rojhalat (Iran) to Bakur (Turkey) and Rojava (Syria) are at the very forefront of the national liberation movement. Some of these women have taken up arms in different political organizations and resistance movements while others have and continue to participate in human rights organizations and civil society.

The Kurdish women in Rojhalat (Kurdistan under Iranian occupation) have participated in organized national liberation movements and political parties such as the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (PDKI) and Komala. These political parties much like other Kurdish political parties have been very vocal on the importance of women’s emancipation and freedom. The PDKI, a political party struggling for the realization of a federal and democratic Iran, where the rights of all nations and peoples are protected and preserved, has since its establishment 71 years ago promoted gender equality and adopted policies and practices to bring to realization a more inclusive and equal society. There are countless women leaders, cadres and Peshmergas struggling in the party for the realization of democracy and equality. Women have held and continue to hold senior positions within these Kurdish political parties and military forces.

Kurdish female Peshmergas fought alongside their male counterparts at the time of Reza Shah and during the 1979 revolution, when the Islamic Republic of Iran, a theocratic republic with a Shia Islamic political system based on a “velayat-e faqih” (“guardianship of the jurist” or “rule by the jurisprudent”) seized control over the country. Their struggle intensified after the regime took over power and they have been struggling against this more terrifying and aggressive governmental version of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) for almost four decades now. The Islamic Republic of Iran follows its own version of Sharia law/Islamic Law and women have little to no rights or freedoms within the society and governance.

These women struggle against state-sponsored misogynistic, sexist and racist policies and practices that discard women’s rights and voices and treat them as second and third class citizens. These female Peshmerga struggle for the realization of Kurdish national rights, for democracy, equality and the dignity and survival of more than 12 million Kurds living under Iranian state terrorism and occupation. They are struggling to bring about a society where their identity, language, and culture is no longer denied and dismissed. Confronting the occupier and its terror machine requires immense courage and strength, something that these women have proved to have time and again.

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Kurdish women have become the most influential part of the Kurdish national liberation movement and resistance. There are countless examples and stories of incredible female commanders and leaders who have led and continue to lead, the struggle and battle against the regimes and states. Women organize and participate in street demonstrations and in the armed struggle. These movements have allowed for large numbers of women to come out of the private spaces and gender roles, to take up and occupy less traditional roles and positions. These women use their bodies, skills, intellects and abilities to assert their very existence on a daily basis in a region governed by medieval regimes and states.

Female activism, belief in the struggle and voice and bravery on the battleground in the leadership circles and in larger society are amongst some of the loudest and most fearless powers emerging. These women have become the beacon of hope and inspiration and will be role models for the generations to come. This is especially true today at this critical historical juncture with the renewed struggle and resistance movement in Rojhalat, otherwise known as Rasan, against the Iranian state and elsewhere across occupied Kurdistan as women take up key equal roles at every level of both civilian life and political organizations.

On International Women’s Day, March 8, 2017, we call upon the freedom loving women, and all people of the free world to support these courageous, fearless and extraordinary women in their struggle for national survival, democracy and equality, social justice and women’s rights. This support will bring about a more stable, democratic and liberal society and country and region.

JOL Blogger | Kajal Mohammadi

Kajal Mohammadi is a Kurd from East (Rojhelat) Kurdistan (Kurdistan under Iranian occupation). Her family, along with thousands of other Rojhelati Kurds, was forcefully dislodged from their towns and villages in Rojhalat because of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Supreme Leader Grand Ayatollah Khomeni 1979 Jihad and onslaught on the Kurds; and the subsequent 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War. She was born in a refugee camp known as Altash Camp in Romadi, located in Western Iraq. She completed my elementary schooling in the camp and relocated to Canada through the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) in 2002. She completed her secondary and post-secondary education in Canada. She is a first year PhD student and is a strong advocate of the Kurdish national liberation movement across occupied Kurdistan.

She is especially involved and interested in the East Kurdistan’s renewed resistance movement; and is of the strong believe that the international community and world powers need to support the Kurds in their struggle for democracy, equality and human rights against the terrorist Iranian regime.

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