March 8 in Kurdistan…


Pero Dundar, HDP Member of Parliament from Mêrdîn


On March 8, 1857, 40,000 textile workers in the USA began a strike in New York to improve their working conditions. At first, the workers in resistance are attacked by the police. Those who flee from this attack are locked up in a factory. Immediately afterwards, a fire breaks out.... Workers unable to escape because of police barricades outside the factory.... The death of 129 workers…


Yes, 129 workers gave their lives in this fire. However, the fire spread from them and gave life to the development of women's struggle for freedom. It became a path, a light in the struggle against a patriarchal system that does not recognize women's creativity, devalues it and legitimizes violence against women.

Then, in 1910, in Copenhagen, Denmark, the proposal put forward during the Women's Council within the Second (Socialist) International to designate March 8 as International Women's Struggle Day was unanimously approved. Since then, March 8 has been the day of women's resistance, in all corners of the world, in various venues, in public places, in the streets, against patriarchy.

On this day of struggle, women in Kurdistan also take to the streets with their colors, with their battle cry Zilgit, with their dances, the slogan "jin, jiyan, azadî" ("woman, life, freedom") echoes in its strongest form on that day. Every year, the appearance and the message of the day become even more splendid and even more solemn compared to the previous year.

Kurdish women, across all generations, await March 8 in festive and militant condition. Preparations begin weeks in advance. The Kurdistan Women's Freedom Movement plays the leading role in this process. First, it chooses the main slogan with which it will take to the streets. It is chosen in such a way that it expresses the soul of the women's movement and fits the current process. For this, meetings with women's institutions and associations in the localities are held and extensive and profound discussions take place. Once the motto is determined, information material and brochures are prepared and women are visited. Door by door, house by house, street by street, district by district, and village by village, women are invited to March 8. Each province and county plans and publicizes its own activities and events.

These begin days in advance - films, theater performances, musical events, workshops and seminars on violence against women. Murder victims of male/state violence are commemorated sometimes at their graves, sometimes in the form of other actions. Postcards and gifts are prepared for women serving prison sentences for working for the women's movement, who are often sentenced simply for having participated in March 8. March 8 in Kurdistan also means the struggle of Sema Yüce, Rehşan and Zekîye, Berîvan and Ronahî, it is the struggle that Sakine Cansız led in prison, but also in freedom and in Europe.

In addition to their own activities and events, joint undertakings are also planned in the cities together with other women's groups on various platforms, for which the greatest possible participation is organized.

Of course, the preparations are not all rosy and joyful. The anti-women and anti-Kurdish government does not shy away from any repression and obstruction during this process, and increasingly so in the Kurdish provinces. In order to intimidate and paralyze women, the state is making use of every form of special war policy.

As soon as the starting signal for the activities is given, the arrests, bans and investigations also begin. The clearest response of the Kurdish women to the repression that increases every year is that they do not withdraw from the squares and streets. With the euphoria and motivation gained from the days before, they pour into the streets and public squares. On that day, in all provinces and counties of Kurdistan, with banners, signs and flags, the message is sent out that organized women and their struggle against the domination of male and state violence will win; every year this message becomes stronger. The first rows of the demonstration blocks are made up by the Peace Mothers who, despite having experienced every kind of pain, insist on peace, decorating their white scarves with the yellow, red and green colors. For years this event has remained unchanged.

The women color the squares in rainbow colors with their traditional garments. Those from the Serhad region, not even paying attention to the cold weather conditions, join the halay dance with their colorful dresses. The cold weather must give way to the joy and warmth of the women's movement. The women from the Botan region welcome March 8 in their most beautiful traditional dresses; in every part of Botan, in every province where the resistance is most expressive in all its forms, they sing their most beautiful songs on that day. The women of Amed begin their preparations, as they do every year, the night before at the rally square, the Amed İstasyon Meydanı. When the pictures of the nightly preparations appear on the media, the anticipation becomes all the greater. The Amed İstasyon Meydanı then welcomes the women in the morning with a magnificent scene of flags, banners and banners of the Kurdistan Women's Movement.

Of course, the repression when trying to enter the square increases every year. What happens in the run-up, when first the submitted assembly applications of the organizing committee were left unprocessed, only to be rejected, meets with the resistance of the women. The next hurdle erected are the barricades at the meeting places. That more than one barricade and checkpoint are erected at the assembly site is just another tool to deter women and keep them away from the assembly. Then the deterrence strategies go further by even checking the inside of the shoes or not allowing the women to enter the square because of the colors of their dresses. The women who overcome all these hurdles move to the square with their battle cry, the zilgit, and their dances. At that very moment, the squares turn the colors of the women, slogans of freedom cross the borders and join the voices of the struggling women around the world. It becomes "woman, life, freedom"... It becomes "jin, jiyan, azadî"... It becomes the revolution in Rojava... This revolution becomes the muse, the resistance and the reason of struggle for the women of the world.

This is how March 8 is greeted in Kurdistan. Getting to this stage was, of course, not easy. Kurdish women have put in a lot of effort and work and paid a high price. With this effort and performance, they have won victories for themselves. They have experienced the strengthening of hope, organization and resistance to policies of oppression and cruelty. When the Kurdish women were murdered, their bodies lay in the streets for seven days and seven nights, their bodies were desecrated and these pictures were published, there was only one goal behind it: to break their resistance and struggle. When the Kurdish cities and provinces were encircled, Kurdish women were the first target here as well. The murder of Seve, Pakize and Fatma had the same message, just like the murder of Hevrin Xelef, because they could not stand a revolution in Rojava led by women, as well as the murders of Sakine, Fidan and Leyla in Paris. Their goal is to subjugate the driving force of the Kurdistan Freedom Movement, the Kurdistan Women's Movement, and to erase a popular reality based on women.

Kurdish women have many reasons to strengthen their struggle. Mothers who lost their children in "murders of unknown perpetrators" in the 90s are fighting without ceasing so that the perpetrators are named. Women who were married under duress and had to relocate in the same years do not stop even for a moment to live their language, their culture and make them blossom in the places where they stay. Just like Deniz Poyraz, who was murdered at the headquarters of the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) in the İzmir governorate. Women who have lost their children in the struggle for freedom continue the fight for peace undeterred. Women do not retreat a millimeter in their struggle against a dirty war policy waged against the young women in Kurdistan. They still ask: Where is Gülistan Doku? They still accuse the sergeant Musa Orhan of full responsibility for İpek Er's death and accuse him. They do not give up giving a voice to imprisoned activists and politicians who advocate equal parity representation and the system of co-chairs, they do not stop strengthening their struggle. They don't stop making it clear to the whole world that dual leadership with female co-chairs is their "purple line".

The Kurdistan Women's Movement has reached a level today where it seeks to create a women's alliance against patriarchy. Not to create a one-man regime, but to create a common, fair life with each other under the leadership of women. Instead of a male-dominated judiciary, to strengthen together the struggle for equal and fair justice. Never to renounce women's life guarantee, the Istanbul Convention. To strengthen the Women's Freedom Movement at all levels, not to retreat from the streets. Not to let poverty be defined through women. To strengthen the struggle against rights violations in prisons and the isolation policies there.

Kurdish women flood the venues of March 8 with this conviction. The slogans on their signs express their revolt in all its clarity. Each woman prepares her sign with regards to the point where she is affected. Some express their demand for justice by carrying pictures of their murdered mothers and neighbors, others testify to their revolt by writing the names of their murdered comrades in capital letters. Some signs read "Continue the resistance!". The slogan "jin, jiyan, azadî" is the most common year after year. The banner they stand behind demonstrates their uprising in writing. The shouted slogans are the moments when their common demands echo and find an echo in all parts of the country. We are not silent, we are not afraid, we do not bow down! This slogan is a cry of freedom. This is an uprising.

In 2022, March 8 will be celebrated in Kurdistan with the same conviction and determination. Kurdish women will once again shout out their demands with all their strength and motivation in the venues of March 8. Not the state/male violence, no, the free women's movement will be victorious. And finally, of course, the 21st century will be the century of women. It will be the century of women's liberation.



This article was first published in the March/April2022 edition of the Kurdistan Report.