Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Healthcare centre of the Foundation for the Free Women in Rojava

The following day I visited the Foundation of the Free Women of Rojava's healthcare centre in Qamishlo. It consisted of one doctor and four other workers who had been trained by the doctor in medical issues related to women, children, and war. All were volunteers. Doctor Ronahi was the most inspiring woman I had ever met up until this point in my entire life. A European by birth, she had committed her life to this struggle after spending years on the front line providing immediate medical care to injured heroes of Rojava. She now works at the centre, no salary, training new female workers, providing care for up to thirty women and children per day, until the centre closes at 14:00, after which she heads to the front line to continue her work. The centre is the cheapest place for women and children to see a GP, some walk from villages for up to two hours to reach the only place they can afford.

”We charge 300 Syrian Pounds (13 SEK) per visit, but that also includes medicine, if I have it. With the money I buy small things like needles for IV drips and syringes for medication. All other clinics and hospitals charge more than 1500 Syrian Pounds per visit, then the medicine is 1000 or more on top of that. The whole of Rojava has a huge shortage of medicine now. We have an embargo from all sides – in the South is Daesh, in the North is Turkey who closed all borders for trade years ago, and now in the East so has Iraqi Kurdistan. The KRG (Kurdistan Regional Government (in Iraq)) have blockaded Rojava since the massacre in Shengal, closing borders for people and ever increasingly so for trade. So now I have to improvise with medicine. I find out which is the cheapest version and mix the ingredients myself to create what should be given. It's turns out the same, just not sugar-coated like in Europe. *laughing*. We have a huge load of medicine waiting in Germany to bring here, but until the embargo from the KRG side, we can't bring it. No amount of individual smuggling of a few packets will make up for the need Rojava has.”

An Arabic woman walks into the centre with her child so the doctor interrupts the interview. She attends to the girl who has a large abscess. Ronahi returns. ”I had to send her to the hospital. The abscess was inside the limph node, so she needs an operation. I know some doctors there who will do it for cheaper if I send a note.”

”I'm educated as a GP and also as a gnocologist. But I've had to learn so much more than that. Here, I mostly perform blood tests, urine tests, I treat basic infections, checks for problems with breasts, I perform abortions too, but I only have the pills that were used up until the 80's in Europe, but it works. If I see that something is wrong with the uterus then I have to send them to the hospital because I don't have the equipment here for the cleaning. I also have to take over when there is a woman giving birth and there are complications. I've seen it so many times that if a birth gets complicated then the midwife breaks down and can't continue - most haven't had the full training, they take the job because there's nobody else to do it.”
”I believe in the ideology behind Rojava - that the people, everyone, should take charge of their lives, empower themselves to live independently from hierarchy and leaders, making their own decisions collectively, living in peace away from the reality of capitalism. So I feel that my contribution here is worth more than any I could do anywhere else.”

After hours of deeply interesting conversation, realising that this doctor is the definition of an angel and that this healthcare centre is a project that all anti-capitalists and supporters of Rojava would approve of – I presented to them 500 US dollars (around 4000 SEK) of the money donated in the week before my arrival in Rojava. The money will be spent on medical equipment and medicine if available.

Presenting the 500 dollars in this way to be transparent to those who donated!

International Women's Day in Derbesi, Rojava

My first full day in Rojava was a perfect introduction to the women's revolution – International Women's Day. The streets of Derbesi were filled with women, both young and old, Kurdish or Arab, marching down the streets lined with permanent posters of Rojava's martyrs to chants of ”Women! Life! Freedom!” Smiles were on every face, women hugged and kissed me, welcoming me to Rojava.
The women's community-ran police force organised the march, dressed in khaki uniform and traditionally patterned scarves wrapped around their heads to protect from the heat of the sun. Old women held the peace sign in the air and were dressed in traditional Kurdish clothes of bright sparkling sequins, and the classic red, yellow, and green colours striped across their headscarves. Children wore tiny uniforms of the YPJ to represent their brothers or sisters who were fighting on the front line. Heroic fighters of the YPJ headed the march, their magical aura bursting out inspiring every woman, man, and child of Rojava. The march ended in a huge field where speeches were made about the women's revolution, about all women getting involved in the development of each others lives, about empowerment.

International Women's Day in Derbesi, Rojava

International Women's Day in Derbesi, Rojava

International Women's Day in Derbesi, Rojava
International Women's Day in Derbesi, Rojava

The YPJ at International Women's Day in Derbesi, Rojava

International Women's Day in Derbesi, Rojava

International Women's Day in Derbesi, Rojava

International Women's Day in Derbesi, Rojava

International Women's Day in Derbesi, Rojava

Tuesday, 22 March 2016


Since my last travel post in 2013, I settled down to some degree. Global social and political issues that I had learned whilst travelling shook me so hard that to live happily but aimlessly wasn't fulfilling anymore. After I met the Syrians at the end of the year, my life was changed forever.

To cut things short, I became very politically active using direct action to help change lives. After spending the majority of the last two years living in Sweden, one of the most important trips I made during that time was in Turkey and Iraqi Kurdistan where I visited the refugee camps along the border of Syria to interview and photograph the people there (I will blog about those trips at some point soon).

A few weeks ago I was invited by a friend of mine to join her to Rojava for two weeks, to report on the revolution. I accepted immediately.

From the first day I arrived I was completely in love with the place, the people, and the revolution that is so strong and real. The Kurds have fought for so long for their freedom that they have now perfected an ideology that actually works as an alternative to the capitalist system which is so engrained in the whole world's lives and minds. It takes lessons learned from the past, from all of history's systems and power structures, and has transformed a complex ideology into a working solution for freedom which is simplified by morals and love for all.
This people's revolution is far beyond any activists/ humanitarians/ revolutionary's dream. It is far beyond any persons dream of what life is and means. The women's revolution stands elevated to a level that is beyond any feminist theory. It encompasses solutions for the empowerment of women; it surpasses feminist comparisons to men because a comparison creates an obstacle not a solution.

The war is a side issue to the revolution; it is a hinderance but not a block. The different groups of fighters are working in unison to protect their people's revolution from the evils of ISIS. The embargo on Rojava is a hinderance but not a block. Turkey is forcing Iraqi Kurdistan to blockade medicine, produce, and people of any kind from crossing to and from Rojava. The EU have paid billions of Euros to Turkey to stop refugees crossing the border, which is then used to support and trade with ISIS, as well as oppress the Kurdish revolution in Turkey and to murder thousands of innocent people who are their own citizens. I implore people of the world to stand in solidarity with the Kurdish struggle. Not only is it a fight against the power stuctures of the world, it also provides a solution for all people of the world. You can be more free than you imagine is possible. Any chains you feel can be broken.

Since my first day here, I have met countless organisations, women, men, children, ideologists, teachers, medical staff, volunteers, fighters, and all. Everybody here is filled with absolute joy at the realisation that people from the outside want to support their revolution. I have learned that here I have the opportunity to realise my dreams of contributing to society in a real and direct way. I have been given the chance to join projects or to create any from my own ideas - to have complete autonomy with my work that is guaranteed hard work but also success. This is a chance that I would never have gotten in any other way – no matter what organisation I would work for with a degree in political science, one is always working within a system that goes against the very nature of changing lives for the better. Here is different. The revolution provides this chance. This chance is bigger than my dream. This revolution is bigger than any dream.

So, after less than two weeks here, I made the decision to stay. I do not know for how long; I am now living day by day and thankful for every one. I will put no timelines or obstacles in front of my decisions because I feel this is the place I am supposed to be. I want Rojava to succeed and realise all its glory, and to pass on the wealth of information and hope to the rest of the world that we so clearly need and desire.

I have interviews to report on, of which I will write here in English. Everybody is welcome to share everything I post publicly.