This interview from August 2022 documents the testimony of YPJ fighter Ronahî Xabat who survived a Turkish drone strike on the 3rd of February 2022. She was on her way to a funeral bidding farewell to the martyrs of Heseke who died fighting ISIS. In this interview she talks about why she joined YPJ, how she participated in the fight against ISIS and why the Turkish state is now targeting the women who fought ISIS. In the drone attack Heval Ronahî lost one of her legs, but she has not lost her will to resist. She is calling on the international community to act against the war crimes of the Turkish state and to persecute them in an international trial.
Watch the interview on our YouTube channel:
What is your name and your background of joining YPJ?
My name is Ronahi Xabat. In the beginning, I didn’t really know much about the revolution, but then the YPJ fighters would come to visit our house. Then I could see how the women wore the military clothing and held their weapons. I was very impressed by the fact that women could actually fight. So, around this time, I started to really appreciate the revolution and especially the women’s freedom movement, the YPJ.
Which military operations did you take part in? How was your participation in the war?
The first operation that I took part in was the operation of Serekaniye. It was in 2013 and it was against the Al-Nusra Front. It was very large-scale and intense warfare. Despite the intensity of the war, there was great resistance, especially from the female fighters of the YPJ. The Al-Nusra Front was a very brutal and inhuman force. Their only intention was to murder people, to annihilate women. After the liberation of Serekaniye the Shehid Rubar operation (Western Heseke Offensive) started in 2014. I also participated in this operation. It was also a very intense and geographically expansive operation. This was the time that the war against ISIS started. As YPJ fighters we also wanted to participate in this war. We wanted to prove ourselves as women, that we can also fight and resist this enemy. I could say that ISIS was 10 times more brutal than Al-Nusra. Despite their huge numbers and very many fights, we never lowered our heads in front our enemy.
After the Shehid Rubar operation finished, then we continued in Mabruka. We decided on our primary objective, which was to annihilate ISIS within the Rojava region, and to destroy them. This was our aim, our objective. To liberate our people, our land, so people can live freely in their own country. Our second objective was to liberate women from their oppression. The war was, of course, very intense, and during the resistance many comrades were martyred. They fought till the end and never surrendered to the enemy, never betrayed the cause.
Then the operation in the Euphrates region started. The first operation was the Raqqa operation. As a member of the YPJ, I also took part in this operation. Raqqa is a firmly Arabic city. But despite this being a region with a different language and culture from us, we didn’t approach it any differently. Raqqa itself is a very big city and ISIS has been there for a long time, but we fought there as though it were our own homeland. We had many fights and battles, but the enemy couldn’t defeat us, or defeat our strength. Because our strength is not a wall that can be torn down, it is not a iron rod that can be bent, not even a rock that can been shattered. Our strength and will is connected to our philosophy. The philosophy that Abdullah Ocalan gave to us. We base the struggle that we fight on this philosophy.
After this operation, the operations in Tabqa and Minbic started. All three cities, Raqqa, Tabqa and Minbic, are very big cities. They are places were the enemy had been living for years, which also had very big effect and influence on the people of this cities. ISIS had trained many people there, and not only in how to worship but in many different ways.Actually, they teach worship in their own way and how they want. They have their own writings which they read to the people. Many young and older children were trained according these rules. Both small boys and girls were trained how to use weapons to be able to fight against us.
Could you please tell us how and when you were wounded?
Earlier this year there was war in the Ghweiran neighbourhood. It happened in the city of Heseke when ISIS attacked the Sina’a prison, where ISIS mercenaries were held. They wanted to occupy Heseke and commit a great massacre and cause chaos in society. They wanted to revive ISIS in the Rojava region. But our fighters, the YPJ, YPG and SDF gave a forceful response. 121 of our comrades bravely resisted and became martyrs.
So I was wounded on my way to the funeral of these comrades, on 3rd February. When we were going to the funeral in the village of Xerez on the road between Amûdê and Dirbêsiyê, we were targeted by a Turkish state drone. There were 4 of us, 3 women and 1 male friend. Luckily nobody was martyred in this car. I was the most severely injured. A part of my body was gone. I lost my leg. My hand was severely injured and my other leg was broken.
With this attack, the Turkish state, Erdogan, tried to take revenge on us as YPJ fighters. In all the wars, in Raqqa, Tabqa and all the other places, the YPJ defeated ISIS there. Now Erdogan wants to take the revenge for the defeat. So that’s why, especially on the last occasion, in the last month he has targeted the YPJ.
Can you tell us more about what has been happening recently in Rojava, in North & East Syria? What is the Turkish state doing here?
I can speak about the situation of the people of Rojava. Even though the people here have faced many killings and many difficulties, they still resist. Hundreds of our children have been martyred, and hundreds wounded. Our mothers and fathers have been assassinated and wounded. Many cities have been looted and burnt. There are thousands of people in refugees camps. Even the people who were forced to leave their houses have been targeted again. Now if you look at who Erdogan attacks, they are mostly civilians and children.
When you look at the last attack, you can see, for example in Qamshli, what is happening. Two children were killed in the drone attack. One was 16 years old and the other was 18 years old. Their father was also martyred. If you go to any city, the children are raising their fingers to show the victory sign. There is revolutionary spirit with them. And Erdogan is always saying, if any child, any woman or any old man or women, displays this revolutionary spirit, that he will beat this person.
Finally, do you want to add anything, or say anything to the people, to the public? Do you have some message for the people?
I want to call all international people and force to stand up against the Turkish state, which is brutally violating essential human rights. I call for an international trial against the Turkish state.