The YPJ: Why We Exist


Formed in 2013, the 24,000-strong YPJ (Women’s Defence Units) now controls most of the revolutionary region of Rojava in northern Syria, together the YPG (People’s Defence Units). It was also part of the recent liberation of the city of Raqqa from ISIS. Here commander, Nesrin Abdullah, explains why the YPJ exists, its adherence to Democratic Confederalism and its commitment to gender equality.

Message to attendees of the meeting on Democratic Confederalism in the UK, 23 October 2017

Humanity is experiencing a serious crisis around the world, both in the east and the west. Symptoms of this crisis are seen in the Middle East. These crises take root from the lack of justice, lack of democracy and when the moral values of peoples have been stepped on. Ultimately it divides the society, within which women and children are the most affected.

The forces leading the world, despite having the influence to carry out a solution, helped to deepen these crises and caused yet new disasters in the name of political balances and capitalist interests. As a result of this politics, millions of people are displaced and millions have been killed. Again, women have paid the burden of this the most.

Using religious differences and sectarian factors, the capitalist system led to a situation where peoples started to face each other. It was already a critical state when before it was armies confronting each other, but in the 21st century the world’s peoples have been coming against each other. Based on a great level of ignorance, an international terrorism has advanced upon religion or other factors, and terrorist groups were used to cause further crises. Today a place which is in pain for these reasons is Syria. The Syria that has included many different ethnicities today has turned into a desert, becoming impossible to freely live in.

Authoritarian forces in the past 5,000 years have utilized many methods in the name of race, religion, science, philosophy, to protect their authority over the people; thus humanity today is threatened with a colossal misery. The solution, however, remains with people deciding themselves how they will keep on living.

For the mentioned reasons, many systems broke and caused great desolation. Yet democratic confederalism has emerged as a reasonable and objective project for the people. It is an alternative in which people organize themselves and decide for their destiny; this alternative grants democracy, social justice and equality. It has also guaranteed the brotherhood of the peoples, keeping them united despite the attempts of hostile actors to partition and cause bloodshed.

We, as the members of the Rojava Revolution, chose democratic confederalism as the most objective project for our future; our struggle is continuing in the same frame. Today in Rojava and northern Syria, society is organizing itself, with man and woman jointly leading and taking decisions. In the political, social and defence aspects, this way of living has had positive results.

In the field of self-defence, as the Women’s Defence Units (YPJ), we have agreed on establishing our units. For we knew if we wanted to build a just and democratic society in which women are protected, and the struggle to build new woman and man is settled, we must organize ourselves. Our main duties were to protect our people and establish a democratic system in our lands. And also to create a pioneering woman’s force that will guarantee victory for the revolution.

Based upon these, today we have been in a relentless effort to liberate the oppressed, and we find ourselves reaching Raqqa. Also the YPJ has turned into the hope to protect all women in our lands. We believe that always there should be people’s and women’s self-defence forces, not only militarily, but in an intellectual, psychological and spiritual form. We say: ‘know yourself, defend yourself’.

If ISIS’s capital in Raqqa is liberated, it does not mean that the war in the Middle East is over – still there are effects of that terrorism. Therefore we need to look at the roots of the problem, and start to join our actions for a democratic solution for our region and with those for the entire world. One of the solutions is to resolve people’s problems – as long as there is a base for terrorism, there will be crisis. Of these issues, the Kurdish people and their struggle for their rights is one of the most obvious.

As the YPJ – women, who since the beginning of the revolution have lived upon the line of self-defence and peace – we will continue with the struggle for a philosophy that rejects occupation and despotism, but works to build a democratic society, and empowers true woman and man to live in equality. Our struggle will go on until, not only our lands, but our society is freed from the traditional forms of oppression. Until then, we will raise the flag of struggle in every step we take and call on women to join this honourable fight for freedom.