On July 19, 2022, the Women’s Revolution of North and East Syria celebrated its 10th anniversary. On this occasion, various women’s organizations in North and East Syria jointly organized a forum on 10 years of the Women’s Revolution. On July 22, YPJ founding member & YAT commander Jiyan Tolhildan spoke at the forum evaluating the role of the YPJ in the defense of the revolution. On the same day, when returning from the forum, the Turkish state targeted her vehicle with a drone strike, resulting in her being martyred alongside her two comrades Roj Xabûr and Barîn Botan. In the following we document the speech that Jiyan Tolhildan delivered at the forum.
Şehîd Jiyan Tolhildan – YPJ commander:
“We welcome this forum and congratulate all women in Syria, the Middle East and around the world. And we congratulate all the martyrs who fought for freedom and democracy, the mothers and children of the martyrs, all the comrades who sacrificed parts of their bodies and were wounded for this revolution. A few days ago we celebrated the 10th anniversary of the July 19 revolution. Your efforts of the last ten years, in all their colors, different nationalities, religions and cultures have also graced this hall today. As a commander and member of the YPJ, I bow to all the martyrs of this revolution. Every society has a history, and this history is full of heroes and pioneers. Especially the Kurdish and the Arab, the Iranian and the Turkish societies, with whom we live together in this region as neighbours. There have always been historical pioneers and they have left their traces in Rojava.
The traces of the pioneers such as Besê, Sara, Zarife have developed. These traces have developed through the role of Qarşin, Roksan, Tolhildan Raman, Sosin Bîrhat and Şîlan Cûdî in Rojava. They have sacrificed themselves to strengthen all societies that are struggling today against the system of oppression, the state and the dominant man. Step by step, the YPJ moved from local villages in Rojava to the entire region of Syria. With their humility and their philosophy of defending their own existence and society, they opposed the brutal ISIS mercenaries who were killing everyone in the name of Islam in order to create a state between Iraq and Damascus. Even now we can observe that the fighters have liberated us from brutality, violence and the accompanying mentalities. We have seen what situation they have created for the society. If we look at all the continents of the world, we see that the nation-state system has really left nothing for women and society.
Besides our self-defence and struggle, there is no other way to create a free individual and a free society. For this reason, we wholeheartedly congratulate all the women who are part of this revolution. And today we as YPJ can say that thousands of women, mothers, with 10 years’ worth of work and effort of their own hands, have transformed this earth into a holy one. There were so many sacrifices for this that we could have talked about them for hours to list them all. Every mother, every girl and every family saw themselves as responsible. Those who recognised their power took up arms and took their place on the frontline. With self-confidence and without looking back, they have fought without differentiating – these are Arabs, Syrians, Armenians, Turkmen, all that are born of the Middle East and the women of the world. They have defended an ethical, political society as the only way. This is what we live for, this is what we fight for, and this is what we are ready to fall for, even as martyrs, without ever having a doubt, because the idea and philosophy of the Democratic Nation was founded by Abdullah Öcalan as a gift of freedom. This seed was planted 50 years ago in Kurdistan, in the Middle East and worldwide.
Today, in Rojava, a chance has opened up that we can get rid of the fascism of nation states, that we can end the culture of genocide, the culture of rape, the culture of buying and selling. We say we are women, I exist without anyone putting their hands on my body, without taking advantage of my language, without erasing my gender as a woman. We have seen what ISIS has done in Iraq and Syria. Our coming together today, is an action, a very democratic and natural action. This kind of possibility would not have existed 10 years ago. Women would not even have believed in women at that level, and women would not have been able to work with women so easily to take action. Because the system of nation states, in the name of nationality, in the name of religion, in the name of cultures had created a total fragmentation, not only in our minds and souls, but also physically.
The ideology of self-defence in the YPJ forces is based on their democratic, equal and natural strength, they make no distinction. They began to organise in their own villages and towns but also organised beyond that with Arab women, Syrian women, Assyrian women and Chaldean women. They took up arms and went to the front lines. The reason being, without organised self-defence, society cannot be defended, and above all, we cannot defend women.
If we look at the continents of this world today, for example European society, they certainly had their heroes and pioneers to achieve freedom, but this is an individual freedom. If we look at the societies of the African continent and the situation of women, we see that women are without defence, yes, they are very knowledgeable, and they fight, they don’t just accept everything, but they don’t have a system that reaches all the women of this continent. Today we also look at the women of the Middle East, their level is not low, so many of them became pioneers, but when their society and their bodies were attacked, they were sold like slaves. ISIS sold and bought so many Kurdish, Arab, Armenian and Assyrian girls and women as prisoners. This is not a story that happened thousands of years ago, but in the last 10 years. This did not happen in secret, but before the eyes of the world public. No one has spoken out about it, except for women, some democratic and feminist movements who have opposed it and taken action. They stood by the women of North and East Syria and consider the YPJ as their own army.
Today we see in Afghanistan that especially mothers, women and girls experience so much violence. The pain they suffer is suffered by the whole society. The mentality of self-defence is still too weak. Defence has been left to men for thousands of years. And men, you saw that in Shengal in the form of the KDP and the Iraqi state, who, when ISIS came, before even an Allahu Akbar reached their ears, without looking back, left them behind and ran away.
Five years ago, when Raqqa and eventually Deir-ez-Zor were liberated from ISIS, the women who were liberated said, “We wished for death thousands of times. We wished for death, but it was not in our hands when we were in the hands of the mercenaries.” We have seen all this in pictures, videos and films, and now we also see them. But today we face even greater dangers because the ideology of self-defence has not yet arrived as a culture in every home and every society. It has not become the task of every woman. Therefore, plans are simply made and implemented behind closed doors, without asking about humanity, without asking women, although they are the ones who suffer the most from these decisions. Their thoughts and opinions are not represented, but they are the ones who are bought and sold, raped and murdered.
We see today how bad the situation of women is in reality, even in the most democratic states. That is why I want to not only to say this here in my speech, but that our mothers stand up and speak about it.
What selflessness and sacrifice thousands of girls of this country have shown in liberating one city after another. This was done out of the conviction to defend all women. In this country, thousands of young women lie peacefully in the cemeteries of the martyrs because they believed that this revolution would succeed. With this conviction and in this faith, they went to the front. They have fought for the whole world and especially for women everywhere. This forum alone is very sacred, but after that, our first and most important task will be to build the culture of self-defence in all homes.
The revolution of Rojava, of North and East Syria, has attracted attention from all over the world. Internationalist women have joined from all directions of the world, have taken their place in this revolution and have even fallen as martyrs for it. With this, we see that the idea that the revolution carries has been spread. Today, the YPJ forces face even greater challenges and responsibilities because the threats posed by the nation-states have become even more serious.
From the first day of the revolution, we were told the following: In a month the revolution will be over, in a year it will be over, it will not have a long future, they have no faith, they are infidels. Under this slogan, they attacked and announced our last moment. Thousands of women’s bodies were sold in markets and given away to each other. But what has been created here in the last 10 years should reach every society, every nation and every religion and show that in fact equality, freedom, and brotherhood has been created with the pioneering role of women. But if their body and society are attacked, women will be the first, before all others, fighting at the highest level with every method, tactic and technique, they will not bow down. Because the slavery imposed on women is broken, women are no longer ready to surrender, in Northern Kurdistan, Southern Kurdistan, Rojava and everywhere in the world. Women are being captured and murdered, but they do not give up. They defend themselves every way possible. So we are very happy that this forum, where all colors and voices of Syrian society are represented, is taking place today. Women from the Middle East and around the world have also participated.
We say to the whole world: we are not attacking anyone, but if the whole world attacks us, we will fight to the last point, to the last breath, to the last drop of our blood. We will not accept anything other than self-defence. No one can destroy this revolution as long as there is still a commander or a fighter. This was the conviction of Sosîn Bîrhat, Tolhildan Raman, Şîlan Goyî and Sozdar Cûdî, who stood until the end and sacrificed themselves in the front ranks for the defence of the free individual and the free society. So that our mothers and daughters can live safely in this revolution.
We are ready to resist all attacks. This is not just words. Today, we as YPJ owe something to the women of Afrin, Serekaniye and Gire Spi. Until we liberate these regions, until we return the refugees, the mothers and girls, we will not be able to sleep peacefully by day or by night. The only task for us will be to liberate these regions again. So that mothers and all women can live together again in peace with their neighbours. This will be our task and our duty.
I greet once again this forum. And greet with respect the martyrs of this revolution. We follow their path. We as YPJ renew our commitment in front of this forum and all these women. As long as there are attacks on women, we will carry our weapon with us. Step by step, front by front, we will liberate this region, this is what we promise to our friends and enemies. This revolution will surely become a reality for women of the whole world.”
Find all the speeches delivered at the forum in the brochure of Kongra Star womens movement.