New World Summit—Rojava, part I
16-17 Oct. 2015, Dêrik, Canton Cizîrê, Rojava
People’s Protection Units (YPG), Rojava
In the work of revolutionaries Öcalan and Cansiz, the concept of “self-defense” is crucial. This does not just refer to the right to armed struggle in response to military campaigns against Kurdish peoples, such as are perpetrated by the Turkish regime. In relation to the women’s movement for example, self-defense also refers to the need to self-organize and self-educate to gain independence and women and an equal position in society. Self-defense is both about the mentality and the physical right to protect oneself.
The People’s Protection Units (YPG) and Women’s Protection Units (YPJ) are the self-defense forces of Rojava. Aligned under the Supreme Kurdish Committee they follow an internal democratic structure whereby spokespersons and commanders are directly elected by the fighters themselves. Since the start of the Syrian Civil War the YPG and YPJ have defended the people of Rojava from continuous threats from the fundamentalist Islamist organization Islamic State or “Daesh”, most famously in the defense of the city of Kobanê and the rescue of Yazidi communities from Mount Sinjar in South-Kurdistan in 2014. While the YPG and YPJ are aligned, the latter has its own command structure that is decided upon by the autonomous women’s parties and councils in the region. Most recently, the YPG and YPJ were able to create a permanent corridor between the cantons of Cizîrê and Kobanê, which had been separated by fighters of the Islamic State since the beginning of the revolution. At large, self-defense plays a crucial role in the autonomous region, especially in terms of strengthening women’s communities, both in a physical and mental sense.
Hussein Shawish is a member and elected spokesperson of the YPG. Previously he served as the Deputy Chair of the Committee for Education of the Cirîzê canton of Rojava.
The New World Summit: Rojava, part I took place in the cultural centre Tev-Cand in Dêrik, Canton Cizîrê, Rojava on 16-17 October 2015. The summit was chaired by Judy Osse. Hussein Shawish' lecture was translated by Berfîn Osman during the summit and subtitled by Rodi Khalil and Mazlum Django.