„Women can never be free if they do not disconnect themselves from men and the patriarchal system in every aspect: mentally, physically and emotionally“ -Abdullah Öcalan-
Last week I was invited to visit Jinwar Women’s Village. I’ve heard and read about this place for a long time and was always fascinated by the project. Now I was going to see it and meet the people who made this utopia reality: a multiethnic women’s village where social ecology, women’s liberation, and a natural way of life are practised in the middle of an ongoing war and military threat.
I was so excited. I am lucky to know two experienced comrades living in Jinwar who could translate and introduce me to the village as my kurdish is not (yet) good enough to have conversations.
houses and gardens in Jinwar
Jinwar was founded in 2016 and, shortly after, its construction works began. The official inauguration was on 25th of November, 2018, the “International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women”. Already the name is meaningful: “jin“ means women and “war“ means land or place. Literally “women’s place“.
The intention was to build a place where women can live in a community free from violence and oppression- following a healthy, natural, and holistic lifestyle according to the principles of self-sustainability, community, and gender equality.
The women in Jinwar built their houses and other buildings out of mud in a traditional and sustainable way by a process called “Kerpîç.” It uses natural resources such as “sand, sometimes gravel, clay, water, and often straw or grass.“ (1) Some houses follow the regional type of construction, others a typical Kobanê style with domes made to cool the air in summer and keep the heat in during winter.
mud houses in Kobane style
The 30 houses of the village are surrounded by gardens, flowers, apple trees, and fields. Currently parts of the fields and gardens are not cultivated because most of the women were forced to leave during the Turkish invasion. Especially those who needed medical attention which couldn’t be ensured anymore in this area. The village is located very close to the Turkish border, as well as to Serîkaniyê- a city where heavy attacks took place and which is now occupied by the Turkish military and Turkish-backed, jihadist forces. Until now, it was not clear how the situation would develop and if Turkish troops would invade further. Also no one can predict what the presence of the Syrian government, Russian, and American troops will do in the region and what the consequences for the feminist village will be. But the women of Jinwar are returning one after the other to their village, willing to resist and to go on with their project, struggle for freedom, and for their land. “We cannot accept to lose what has been built up by so many,” Jinwar announced in October 2019. “Let‘s defend each other against the attacks of the Turkish state and all other forms of patriarchal violence and oppression.” (2)
To understand better what the project is about, I got a guided tour, meeting some of the women who have been living here since it began.
The center of the village is formed by a community kitchen with a large terrace, where at least one community meal per day is cooked and eaten togehter by the women and children of the village. This building, with solar panels on the rooftop, also hosts the storage where basic food and hygiene items are stored and given for free on a monthly basis. Of course, there are also animals living in Jinwar, therefore there is a house for chickens, one for sheep, and one for rabbits- which is currently squatted by puppies and a large number of dogs and cats.
one of Jinwar´s fluffy inhabitants
Jinwar also has its own school, named after Abdullah Öcalan’s mother: al-Om Awish School, which teaches children from 1st to 6th grade. After that they can attend the schools outside the village. Languages spoken and taught in Jinwar are Kurdish, Arabic, and English.
Sharing knowledge and respecting cultural differences are imporant pillars of the community amongst Jinwar’s women. As there are women from very different backrounds, speaking different languages and following different ways of life, it is necessary to approach each other with respect and to learn from each other. There are Arabic, Turkish, Kurdish, and internationals from all over the world who usually spend 6 months or even years in Jinwar to learn from the Kurdish women’s movement and support the struggle for freedom.
The spacious women’s academy provides a place for seminars, workshops, gatherings, and courses on various topics such as women’s liberation, the political philosophy of Abdullah Öcalan, ecology and self-sustainability, health, ancient female knowledge, and many more.
The community of the village organizes itself in regular meetings, and all women have a voice in the political action or decisions. They elect a council following democratic principles. Each month the council members rotate in serving as the village’s leader.
The basic needs and a piece of land is given to each family. They cultivate their land, take care of the animals, and help share in everyday work around the village. The outcome of their agricultural work serves in the first place to fullfill the villages needs, while the excess is sold on the marked and the proceeds go to the village. Jinwar’s philosophy is that “by giving women the necessary resources and tools to educate themselves, they will become free from the social constraints under a patriarchal society, which in turn creates freedom for everyone.” (3)
Fields and community kitchen
Looking at the different aspects of life in Jinwar’s women’s village, all three pillars of revolution according to Abdullah Öcalan can be found within: democratic confederalism, women’s liberation and ecology. “A spokesperson for Jinwar said, the village is meant to serve “as an example of a solution to women’s issues and as an alternative to a patriarchal system.” Jinwar and the feminist politics espoused by the direct democracy in Rojava are radical by any standard. They’re an example not just for other women in the Middle East, but also for women in the West who are fed up with patriarchy and capitalism, the twin engines that power modern America.” (4)
After only three beautiful and interesting days, I had to leave Jinwar. I just got an idea about what it is and I’m excited to learn and see more. That will happen soon, because I got involved in Sifajin: a health center for women and children which was built within the village and is now being set up to start soon. In the next article I will explain more about the health project and its importance for Jinwar and all women everywhere.
on the way out….
Fatima Emin, one woman who fled her community with her children after her husband was killed by an ISIS land mine, speaking on Jinwar said, “Jinwar is life’s spirit, nature’s spirit, and a free woman’s spirit. The women here are establishing their existence in the entire society. I wish that the whole world would see Jinwar the same way we see it and I wish that we build more Jinwars in every region so that no woman would be subjected to injustice.”
This is my wish, too. Jin, Jiyan, Azadi!
- “Preservation Brief 5: Preservation of Historic Adobe Buildings”nps.gov. Retrieved 2019-11-12.
- Loumay Alesali and Christina Zdanowicz. “These Syrian women built a female-only village to escape from ISIS and war”. CNN. Retrieved 2019-11-14.