Anthony Beevor's history of that war cites Juliàn Marías, who "never forgot the expression of a tram-driver at a stop as he watched a beautiful and well-dressed young woman step down into the pavement. 'We've really had it,' Marías said to himself. 'When Marx has more effect than hormones, there is nothing to be done.'" I thought of this when reading about the Kurdish guerrilla fighters now.
Joseph Anthony Lawrence joined them as a photographer. The power of images, as the SCW with Robert Capa and Pablo Picasso taught us, endures to document and admittedly heroicize war as well as lament its destruction. Lawrence, according to an article in the Huffington Post, was curious whether the fighters, 40% women, were "fearless warrior women" as the "foreign press" treated them, or terrorists, as the Turkish government depicts them in their fight against Assad in Syria and ISIS.
Joey L., as he calls himself, reports on his admittedly handsome subjects how their pride and martial ardor are evident in his photography of the YPJ, the female counterparts of the YPG. This army rescued many Yazidis from ISIS retaliation in Rojava. "Some carry the signs of a hard-fought war: chemical burns, chapped hands and scars. All the women are treated as equals to their male counterparts, but it is the men who will readily admit that a woman can fight better because she is a natural creator of the world, so she therefore has more to lose -- and therefore more to fight for."
My wife always chides that if women ran the world, there'd be an end to war. As this movement takes its guidance from the PKK, with its roots in Marxist-Leninism, I wonder. Their English-language website features a depiction of Abdullah Ocalan, in Borat-like celebration as the mustached and olive-fatigue uniformed leader at the center of emanating yellow and red rays, in typically People's Republic fashion. Admittedly, a glance at this reminds me of Qadafi's Green Revolution, or the later days of the paper Ginesta translated for, Pravda. Or maybe Granma, Castro's regime's mouthpiece. Our American media, with its corporate-sponsored slogans about "heroes coming home," echoes this.
The HuffPo snippets on the Kurdish fighters don't explain the background. Go to an earlier piece this year, by Gareth Watkins on the site CvltNation. "The Revolution Nobody's Talking About" draws parallels to Spanish anarchists and the Catalan dominance of women in leadership and in combat. Ocalan calls this "democratic confederalism." I am unclear as to the YPJ/G ties to Ocalan, as not the PKK but the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and Kurdish National Council (KNC) are credited by Watkins in Rojava, where left-libertarianism is said to thrive along with eco-feminist structures.
Learn more at the Libcom reading guide on Rojava. The comments debating, typically, David Graeber's affirmative visit to Kurdistan are telling as anarchist-communists argue over the situation. Graeber enters the thread and despairs that the radicals cannot give credence, when their theory obscures the truth, to any left-libertarian progress, but opponents caution any praising Ocalan's "cult."
At the PKK site, "Killing the dominant male: Instituting the Third Major Sexual Rupture against the dominant male" features Ocalan. "The male has become a state and turned this into the dominant culture. Class and sexual oppression develop together; masculinity has generated ruling gender, ruling class, and ruling state. When man is analysed in this context, it is clear that masculinity must be killed." Reading this essay, I can imagine many peace-loving Westerners nodding in agreement.
Concerning the predictable debates at Libcom and the media attention towards the female fighters, I confess mixed reactions. Aren't we expected to cheer on the revolution from suppressive categories and restrictive belief-systems? Is Lawrence's photo-journalism the necessary exposure of a step towards freedom for Middle Eastern women? Is violence the necessary and only practical reaction as self-defense rallies men and women to protect the Yazidi and the Kurds from Islamic State and Syrian Army-led decimation? Perhaps so; I doubt if any pacifists among Jews, Muslims, or Eastern Christians survived the Crusader's invasions. Yet, part of me shrinks back wary of the celebration of armed men and women as the ideal we should strive towards. And then part of me retaliates, as my sympathies remind me of revolutionaries who rose up to free our ancestors from slavery if not debt.
With my own direct ancestor implicated in such rebellion in Ireland, who am I to discount its perpetuation? Yet he was murdered mysteriously for the Cause. I used to be self-righteously bent on a refusal to listen to any opponent of Irish independence. Now, despite my atavistic intransigence, after three decades and more leading classroom discussions, at least I hear out all sides in any debate. In the conflict with the Islamic State and Assad's regime, are there any sensible voices on the other side? Addressing war, we must ask this, unlikely as it seems to us. And, who am I not to reiterate the most lasting path to equality and harmony, and to come closer to anarchic dreams, is to lay down that RPG.
(Photo by Joey L. Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) Guerrillas Patrol Makhmour Countryside, Iraq .)