Zozan Çewlik: 2020 was a year of resistance

"Why does the regime particularly target women? Because femicide is a method of domination of fascism,” says Zozan Çewlik, a commander of the headquarters of the women's guerrilla troop YJA-Star as she assessed 2020 for ANF.

A commander of the YJA-Star (Free Women’s Troops), Zozan Çewlik, evaluated the year of 2020 from the perspective of the women's guerrilla in an interview with ANF.

How did 2020 unfold from your perspective?

Like many years before, 2020 was a year of struggle. It was marked by the resistance of Rêber Apo [Abdullah Öcalan], the resistance against the fascist system in prisons and the many actions led by the youth and women in Kurdistan, especially in Bakur (North Kurdistan), in Europe and worldwide. My special greeting is directed to this struggle. In the ranks of the guerrillas, spectacular battles took place under the leadership of selfless commanders and friends. In this sense, I first commemorate in the person of our comrade Zîn Avesta, member of the command council of the YJA-Star, Leyla Agirî, Eylem Dilxwaz, Doğa Zîlan, Aryana Baran, guerrilla commander Egîd Civyan, Kasım Engin, the martyrs of the Cenga Heftanîn offensive as well as all other martyrs of the freedom movement and bow down with respect in memory of them.

Capitalist modernity stuck in chaos

2020 is a year that needs to be evaluated in many respects. Especially if we look at it from a global perspective, remarkable developments have taken place this year. This year, the coronavirus has spread around the world. This disease is dangerous for humanity and all peoples. Considered from this aspect alone, capitalist modernity is in a serious interval of chaos. For it is the forces of capital that determine politics. Therefore, the sacrifices that pandemic imposed on humanity were particularly high. Countless people have died. Without a doubt, the system of capitalist modernity underlies these losses and we cannot consider the disease independently of the ruling system. Some consider it as biological warfare. Truly, it is a disease of capitalist modernity. Actually, the system is in chaos and crisis.

Third World War in the Middle East

As is well known, the Third World War is being waged in the Middle East. If we look at this in terms of the Middle East and Kurdistan, we can see the extent of the whole situation. Everywhere, especially in the Middle East, we can clearly see how severe the crisis of the system is. Why?  We clearly see the ways in which the racist, patriarchal system is perpetrating violence against women, and more and more assaults, harassment, and rape are taking place. In addition, more and more people around the world are on the brink of hunger. Unemployment is at its highest level. In connection with all this, racist and fascist systems are spreading more and more in Turkey, the Middle East and worldwide. If we look at the US, we see an explosion of racism right now. Again, the effect of these policies can be seen.

Hegemonic powers in deadlock

Although the end of the year is near, many problems are still waiting to be solved. If we look at the Turkish state, Syria, Iraq and Iran, none of their problems have been solved. These states practice fascist and warmongering policies to the highest degree. These policies range from Libya to the war between Armenia and Azerbaijan, and the problems in Syria have not been solved either. Despite the formation of a new government in Iraq, the problems remain unresolved. A policy of annihilation, rape and nationalism and fascism prevails in the region. In this sense, the region is in deep chaos and the hegemonic powers are in a deadlock. Without a doubt, all their forces are aimed at extricating themselves from this impasse for the sake of their own interests. But many problems have deepened rather than solved. From the economy to the health sector, the concerns are extremely serious. The so-called greatest hegemonic powers have not come to terms with a disease like Corona. 2020, in short, has more than demonstrated the crisis of capitalist modernity.

Worldwide a year of resistance

On the other hand, it was also a year of massive anti-fascist resistance all over the world. It was a year of resistance against fascism, racism and violence against women in the US. It was also the case in France, where workers led the fight against fascism. The same is true in the Middle East. Especially in Northern Kurdistan and also all other parts of Kurdistan there was resistance against the murderous system. There is a focus of resistance in Northern Kurdistan. This is due to the fascist and misogynist policies of the AKP/MHP regime in the region.

2020 brings a clear message: the peoples have clearly shown that they see hopes in the fascist systems. It was a year in which anti-fascist forces in almost all regions fought at the highest level against racism, hunger, unemployment, miserable health care, assault, rape and violence against women. In this respect, 2020 was a year of great hope, as people questioned and resisted the fascist system. It was a year of resistance led by women, youth and workers against the exploitative system. In summary, in 2020, resistance was at the center.

Attack annihilation policy directly and break through isolation

In this context, we as an organization have made the following statement: In order to bring down this annihilation policy that AKP/MHP fascism has been implementing since 2015, especially against Abdullah Öcalan, our movement and our people, it is necessary to attack this policy directly and liberate Öcalan because today our struggle for freedom has become a great hope for all peoples of the region.

State wanted to tighten Öcalan's isolation and destroy Kurdish achievements

In 2020, the Turkish state continued its concept of annihilation throughout the year and took the attacks to a new level. This year, the aggravation of Abdullah Öcalan's isolation and the attack on the Kurdish people's achievements at the social level and in the guerrilla areas were on the agenda. Wherever there was an achievement, it was attacked. First, they wanted to achieve results by destroying the PKK and the guerrillas. In addition, the resistance in Northern Kurdistan led by women and youth was wanted to be wiped out. In this way, the foundations of fascism were meant to be secured. Because the fascist systems see their main threat in the struggle for freedom. As YJA-Star we were aware of this concept and had set ourselves the goal to make it fail. At the same time, we had set out to break the isolation of Rêber Apo and avert the threat of genocide. We prepared ourselves accordingly.

Why were women in particular targeted so much this year?

That's an important point. We live in the 21st century. In 2020, the attacks on women were very severe and came to the agenda in a serious way. This needs to be looked at in the context of women's policies and how women are treated. It is no longer enough to call this systematic violence against women "harassment and rape," because this is about breaking women per se. It is through women that society is wanted to be brought under control. This is a very important point. In 2020, the resistance of women and youth was in the foreground. Especially in Kurdistan, there was huge resistance of women against the fascist regime. So why is the regime targeting women in particular? Because femicide is a method of domination of fascism.

Women lead the revolution

Abdullah Öcalan's paradigm of women's liberation and the Kurdish revolution are having an impact on Kurdistan, the Middle East and the whole world. But who is leading this revolution? It is the women and the youth. In particular, it is the Kurdish women who are putting up the strongest resistance against the fascist, patriarchal system. Today, a new mentality has been revealed through them. For example, their power to defend themselves has become evident. There exists a determined attitude of Kurdish women not to accept this fascist, patriarchal system and to move towards freedom. This reveals their own strength. This power of women is a great danger for all ruling powers, especially for the fascist, racist and sexist Turkish state.  Why? Because women are again in a phase of empowerment, moving to action and leading the struggle once again. In this sense, the state sees women as a danger to itself. Women were the only ones who did not leave the streets even in 2020. Despite all the attacks of the Turkish state, the women protested publicly. The women and the youth are leading the struggle for a democratic and equal life. They fully consciously oppose the fascist attacks, do not bow to them, do not let themselves be enslaved or objectified. The weapon of enslavement is a weapon of the state. This weapon was turned against the system itself by the paradigm of women's liberation of Rêber Apo.

YJA Star demands accountability from the fascist patriarchal system

There have been serious attacks on female politicians, artists, mothers and free women, especially the attacks were directed against Kurdish women and socialists, anarchists and feminists. Most of these women are now in prison. At the same time, the guerrillas led by the YJA-Star are putting up great resistance to the system. The women fighters demand accountability from the fascist and patriarchal system. The YJA Star gives courage to all women. The regime is also so much directed against the women because they are organizing, empowering themselves and defending themselves and society. 2020 was a year that showed women's leadership in every field.

Patriarchy is a problem for both men and women

Another important point is that misogyny arises from a mentality. This problem is as much a problem of men as of women. Today, a special war against women is taking place at all levels. This war is being waged systematically.

First of all, women must unite, organize and defend themselves against this femicide. They should not give in to this fascist mentality. We still need to expand the women's resistance as shown in 2020 and continue the struggle until the sexist AKP/MHP regime is smashed and we have built a free, equal system.

Patriarchal violence is a deep-rooted problem. It is a means by which the regime  attacks society and all its values through women. First and foremost, everyone, male and female, should recognize the following:  There is a regime here that commodifies women and treats them as objects, exploiting their labor and enslaving their bodies and souls.

Current formation of male identity creates monsters

When we look back at 2020, we see that rapes and sexual assaults on women in Turkey and Kurdistan have reached the highest level. Society and all men should understand that this is a serious danger. Above all, it is also a very serious and dangerous situation for the values of the society and our people. Men, like women, should also oppose it, and understand patriarchy as their own problem.  Why do I say this? For example, a twelve-year-old boy was taught to rape. The system spreads this mentality. Fascism does not recognize human values. That's why it considers everything legitimate that serves its interests. Just look at the formation of male identity, meanwhile real monsters are created. Men are becoming time bombs. They are taught molestation and rape at a young age, and they put it into practice. Every day, violent acts take place in Turkey. Men are murdering their wives and children. This is the point to which this fascist state has brought the individual or the man. For example, in Batman-Gercüş, 27 men raped a fifteen-year-old girl. Isn't that the action of monsters? Men have been made into monsters. Does a human being do such a thing? No! Fascism means the alienation of values - the separation of morality and conscience.

For men, accepting this mentality means becoming despots

Even before women, men should know this: While masculinity reaches this level, what about standing up for values?  Is it possible to separate this mentality from the fascist character of the state? This should be clear to the men first. It is true, women must defend themselves against this situation and protest. But men must understand that such masculinity is a serious threat to society. If we look at Turkey alone, it is quite obvious. To accept this mentality is despotism. It makes every man a despot. Only a despot can handle harassment, rape and violence. People who have not lost their humanity and democratic conscience should take their own stock in this sense. This is a war and this war is dangerous for both women and men. Because man is moving towards fascism, towards despotism. This is what is happening. We as YJA-Star fighters are fighting this war because we reject this system of slavery.

Power of youth and women will put an end to fascist regime

What do you think women should do?

Of course, women are not helpless. Women must organize and build unity to stand up for their freedom. The year 2020 has also shown us this; it will be the strength of women and youth that will eliminate this fascist regime. Women have shown their strength. But was that enough? Of course not. More struggle and organization of women is needed to smash fascism. It poses a great danger to society and humanity. In this sense, women's protests and actions must continue to grow. Yes, 2020 was marked by women's struggles, but that is not enough. Everyone should notice this dangerous policy and fight against it.

The State had comprehensive extermination plan

2020 was a year of repression. Was the Turkish state able to achieve its goal?

As I said, Rêber Apo is in heavy solitary confinement and our movement is under attack. The Turkish state is practicing a policy of annihilation and denial. But this is not a new concept. Since 2015, this concept has been implemented with the help of a plot. In 2018 and 2019, Afrin, Girê Spî and Serêkaniyê were occupied in Rojava. There was a women's revolution in Rojava and at the moment there is great resistance there. The basis of this concept was as follows: First, the guerrillas in Northern Kurdistan were to be liquidated, then the Medya Defense Zones were to be fully occupied, and then the Kurdish people's achievements in Shengal and Maxmur were to be attacked. These actions are being implemented on the basis of a domestic as well as foreign policy concept of annihilation.

Guerrillas respond with actions

Air and ground operations in northern Kurdistan took place first. But despite everything, the "Lightning" operations, as they were implemented in Bakur until September, did not bring any results. The idea was to destroy the PKK and subdue the entire Kurdish people by crushing the guerrillas. But with the action of Heval Sema Koçer in the spring, a clear answer was given to the enemy. We as guerrilla fighters of the YJA-Star see in the action of our friend Sema the spirit of the current phase embodied. Actions also took place in the areas of Dersim, Amed, Garzan, Botan and Amanos. Yes, towards the end of the year we had some losses in Bakur. In particular, our fallen commander Yılmaz Dersim, as well as Egîd Civyan and some female friends should be named here. But the guerrillas answered the purge operations with actions. Of course, Turkey's goal was to clear Bakur of the guerrillas and then occupy Southern Kurdistan under the pretext of the PKK. 

Occupation zone planned from Qandil to Kobanê via Shengal

The guerrilla command center was to be destroyed and an occupation zone to be established from the Medya Defense Zones to Shengal. The enemy's goal was to occupy the region with the help of the KDP by the autumn. Thus, the enemy wanted to expand the borders and advance to Qandil. In addition, northern Syria was to be occupied from Kobanê - Dêrik to Shengal. This was Turkey's occupation plan. That is why the enemy conducted operations on the ground and in the air. However, if we look at the year as a whole, the Turkish state made every effort to implement this plan, but could not achieve its goal. As we all know,  an operation started on June 16 under the name of "Eagle's Claw” in which Shengal, Maxmur, Qandil, Asos and Heftanin were attacked from the air. Then, on June 17, Operation Tiger Claw was launched. The plan was to occupy the guerrilla areas in southern Kurdistan. With this in mind, Heftanin was attacked. But the guerrillas' Cenga-Heftanîn offensive and the resistance in the entire Medya Defense Zones and in Northern Kurdistan dealt a heavy blow to the Turkish state's plans. If we look at the year, we could not realize our goal of lifting the isolation of Rêber Apo and smashing Turkish fascism. Yes, the struggle in the Cenga-Heftanîn offensive has thwarted the plan of the Turkish state, but we could not neutralize it completely. The invasion continues. But despite all the difficulties, the resistance of the guerrillas stopped the advance of the Turkish state which thus could not realize its plan for this year. The concept of AKP/MHP fascism was not successful. The fact that we could not neutralize the plans completely is a subject of self-criticism for us.

With self-criticism into the new year

What does the resistance of Heftanin mean in terms of the military women's struggle?

As YJA-Star fighters, we began 2020 with strong self-criticism. We entered the new year with great determination. As women guerrillas, we pushed forward with the restructuring of the guerrilla. 2020 became a year of guerrilla resistance. In particular, the resistance in Heftanin made a mark. The YJA-Star took a leading role in this war. The women put into practice their strength, their comradeliness, their will for freedom on the line of Rêber Apo against the enemy. They mounted great resistance.

Turkish plans thwarted under the leadership of women

At what level did women play a role?

First, at the military level, women played their role as modern, professional guerrilla fighters against the enemy's intelligence and technology. Second, the YJA-Star played a leading role in implementing the tactics and forms of modern guerrilla warfare in Heftanin. The YJA-Star became as much a leading creative force of modern guerrilla warfare in the war in Heftanin as it was in the actions. We won with our way of life, our comradeliness, our sacrifice and the spirit and attitude of our party in the Cenga-Heftanin offensive. Under the leadership of the woman, the modern guerrilla has won and inflicted a defeat on the Turkish state with all its technology. The success under the leadership of women is a success for the guerrillas, for the Kurdish people and the women.

In addition to the military level, the women showed a clear stance on the level of party organization and liberation in Heftanin. As YJA-Star, we have to stand up for the values of women. The resistance that developed in Heftanin represents the spirit and form of resistance of the new phase. It is the YJA-Star that thwarted the Turkish state's plan in Heftanin. In this spirit, it will now oppose the fascist system.