Mar­tyrs or ter­ror­ists? Why such an igno­ble ques­tion about wom­en’s bod­ies in this dirty Turk­ish war around Afrin?

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War is dis­gust­ing and dying in it is nev­er glo­ri­ous. The ene­my’s corpse is always the corpse of the oth­er.

But when that oth­er is a woman, men’s wars breathe rape, tor­ture and obscen­i­ty. Only to men­tion recent wars, from Bosnia to ISIS, from the Con­go to Tch­etch­nya… war crimes and crimes against human­i­ty con­stant­ly put wom­en’s bod­ies on display.

In Afrin, the Turk­ish army and its aux­il­iary forces did not stray from this prac­tice. Images of Bar­in’s body, the Kur­dish com­bat­ant who was attacked and defiled, are tes­ti­mo­ny to this. A wom­an’s body, muti­lat­ed, breasts cut off, naked­ness exposed, as if to dis­hon­or these women even after death. And, as a final insult, the words “pre­sumed ter­ror­ist” accom­pa­ny­ing the crime.

And when anoth­er fight­er attacks a Turk­ish tank and explodes along with it these last few days, the accu­sa­tion of “ter­ror­ist” and “human bomb” resur­faces. “A first among the Kurds”, dares to write part of the Occi­den­tal media (the oth­er part does not speak about Afrin at all), draw­ing an equiv­a­len­cy with ISIS and its kamikaze.

If a male fight­er con­fronts a tank with his bare hands and a grenade in a war movie,  you have the film’s hero­ic scene… When a Kur­dish female com­bat­ant does the same in des­per­a­tion before the uneven deploy­ment of forces,  there is Erdo­gan’s vocab­u­lary at the ready in the com­men­ta­tor’s mouths…“Kur­dish ter­ror­ist and kamikaze”. As a gen­er­al rule, Kedis­tan does not cul­ti­vate the cult of mar­tyr­dom. How­ev­er we have a pro­found respect for this way of hon­or­ing their mem­o­ry and of griev­ing, com­mon to com­bat­ants and pop­u­la­tions in wartime. And pre­cise­ly, here, the “mar­tyr­dom” is not linked to patri­archy but to a fight for free­dom, with women occu­py­ing the front ranks.

So, when once again, macho or patri­ar­chal com­ments get mixed in on a back­ground of war pro­pa­gan­da in which the dom­i­nant Turk­ish nation­al­ist dis­course con­stant­ly uses the label “ter­ror­ist” in its attempts to hide its crimes, the “far­away com­men­ta­tors” could learn to zip it, includ­ing on social media and in TV studios.

Here is a text that says it bet­ter than we can, fol­lowed by a homage to two free­dom fight­ers killed by this dirty war:

It is extreme­ly dis­turb­ing to see some online and media com­men­tary and even Left­ists equat­ing the final acts of Arin’s and Aves­ta’s as ‘sui­cide attacks’, and cre­at­ing an uncom­fort­able com­par­isons with ter­ror­ist attacks. This is dou­bly uncom­fort­ably for us Kurds because our lib­er­a­tion and self preser­va­tion efforts as deeply oppressed, silenced and mar­gin­al­ized minor­i­ty in the region has always been vocal­ized by the very same ter­ror­ist states and regimes (and their West­ern back­ers) enact­ing geno­cides and eth­nic cleans­ing on us as ‘ter­ror­ist acts’.

There is lit­er­al­ly no ide­o­log­i­cal, polit­i­cal, or eth­i­cal com­par­i­son between what the likes of ISIS, al-Qae­da, al-Nus­ra etc do with their ter­ror­ist sui­cide attacks tar­get­ing inno­cent civil­ians and what rev­o­lu­tion­ar­ies like Arin and Aves­ta have done. The Arin’s and Aves­ta’s tar­get­ed invad­ing and col­o­niz­ing ter­ror­ist regime’s mil­i­tary and mer­ce­nar­ies which have no qualms in delib­er­ate­ly tar­get­ing civil­ians, bom­bard­ing and destroy­ing entire vil­lages, raz­ing homes and killing entire fam­i­lies in delib­er­ate acts of abhor­rent vio­lence, or using clus­ter bombs and napalm­ing cities. Instead these women were mak­ing a grand state­ment with their last act of resis­tance, using their bod­ies as a lit­er­al shield and destroy­er of the patri­ar­chal, col­o­niz­ing, state-cen­tric and cap­i­tal­ist men­tal­i­ty of the invaders and their racist and sex­ist phi­los­o­phy. The treat­ment of wom­en’s bod­ies in war has always been dif­fer­ent to that of men. This is espe­cial­ly true in the Syr­i­an war and the rise of the YPJ in their fight against ISIS and now Turkey and its FSA and co mer­ce­nar­ies. When these women fall into the hands of these vio­lent men, as we have seen trag­i­cal­ly and much to the shock and increas­ing trau­ma of the Kur­dish com­mu­ni­ty this week with the vile images of Bar­in’s body we know what the out­come is: molest­ed, defiled, muti­lat­ed bod­ies of women, their breasts cut off, their naked bod­ies on dis­play as a means of dis­hon­or­ing these women even post death. Instead, when she choos­es self destruc­tion- in both case as a result of run­ning out ammu­ni­tion in the thick of bat­tle- she choos­es how she dis­pos­es of her body: with the total destruc­tion of the ene­my, the lib­er­a­tion of her peo­ple, and the most pow­er­ful state­ment that a woman can make in the face of the destruc­tive and vio­lent patri­archy that has forced her to pick up her weapon in the first place. Her deci­sion to det­o­nate rather than allow her phys­i­cal body to end up in the hands of these vio­lent and unscrupu­lous men is a great fem­i­nist act of self love, courage, strength and ide­o­log­i­cal con­vic­tion. It is the great­est and most pow­er­ful, fem­i­nist “NO”.

As Kurds we do not accept your con­clu­sion, your polit­i­cal­ly lazy state­ments about Aves­ta’s and Arin’s using or being ‘sui­cide attack­ers’- there is lit­er­al­ly no choice between choos­ing death and the destruc­tion of your body rather than face cer­tain gang rape and worse, and the ene­my using the images of your defiled and muti­lat­ed body to demor­al­ize and trau­ma­tize your already oppressed peo­ple fur­ther. If you- as an exert or oth­er­wise- are going to analyse and claim to under­stand the lib­er­a­tion ide­ol­o­gy and approach of the oppressed then you should at least not be so polit­i­cal­ly, his­tor­i­cal­ly and ide­ol­o­gy illit­er­ate. We are no longer in the era where the shat­ter­ing of the bod­ies of our lit­tle chil­dren with the ter­ror­ist regime’s bombs, the mass kid­nap­ping, rap­ing and sell­ing of our young girls and women in the pits of hell and broth­els of the Mid­dle East and the eth­nic cleans­ing can be hid­den; and we are no longer so silenced and lack access to the means to not be able to artic­u­late the lib­er­a­tion psy­chol­o­gy and mech­a­nisms of our oppres­sion in far bet­ter terms, bet­ter ter­mi­nol­o­gy, and bet­ter and more astute analy­sis; all the while using your col­o­niz­ing lan­guage against you in far more elo­quent and more artic­u­late terms then you can ever hope to employ! Do not speak of and about the Kurds and our lib­er­a­tion strug­gles unless you have a basic under­stand­ing of the psy­chol­o­gy of the oppressed and can­not dis­tin­guish between ter­ror­ists and resist­ing revolutionaries.

Hawzhin Azeez
Kur­dish, Ph.D. stu­dent, co-founder of

and cre­ator of the Face­book page The Mid­dle East­ern Feminist

femmes kurdes ypj

Translation by Renée Lucie Bourges
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