Witnessing the Stories of an Unfolding Revolution

When I had first arrived in Kobane, I met a teacher who told me about the family members she had lost in the resistance against ISIS.- and there were quite a few of them martyred. Her cousin had been martyred on the very street we were standing. She told me that when she walks in Kobane’s streets now she steps lightly lest she steps on the spilled blood of the martyrs of Kobane. To her every inch of these streets were unbearably sacred…I think of her as I think of the images that are flooding in from the newly liberated Manbij. The women throwing down their burkas triumphantly and even burning them. The men cutting their beards; Burka clad women hugging the YPJ; others sobbing in gratitude, others dancing freely in the streets. There are facebook posts in celebration, people cheering across the world. But I am not celebrating. I am thinking of the thousands of faces of martyred young men and women whose faces are up on poles across Kobane and the Amude and Seri Kanya and Remilan and Qmaislou and Derik. Of the thousands killed defending freedom and Kurdistan and Rojava and democracy and other ethnic and religious groups. Of the thousands more in the frontlines, huddled and tired, facing an endless task of continuing the fight of liberating thousands more; of the psychological impacts of the war on their young minds and bodies. I think of the house of the wounded in Qamislou that I visited. Of the maimed bodies of young men and women- some missing arms, some legs, some forever remaining within wheelchairs, some unable to even feed themselves for the rest of their lives…there is nothing to celebrate about war. Ever. Even the wins and the celebrations are tainted by such intolerable loss that it is unbearable to even imagine, let alone live through. As Manbij celebrates freedom there are homes tonight whose lights are dimmed in sorrow, filled with tears and broken hearts and orphaned children and returning coffins from front lines…

There were days in Kobane where 7,9,11, 14 coffins would return and would need to be buried. There were sons and daughters, brothers and fathers who will never return. I think of Abu Layla’s little girl, Leyla who will forever remain fatherless…

As a Kurd I want just as much attention on the sacrifices made, if not more, than the celebrations. For those of us who believe, we know the successes will come. We believed even when all others thought that Kobane was going to fall. But we knew better because we know that our ideology of love and liberation would surmount their ideology of hatred and violence…

I am not celebrating Manbij’s win- though I know how much of a relief it must be to the weary souls who have been fighting for its liberation. They deserve to be celebrated endlessly, showered with the gratitude that humanity should feel for these incredible freedom fighters.

Instead, I hope. I hope that the very same men and women who are throwing away their burkas and burning these black clothes, or shaving their beards or sobbing in gratitude understand the gravity of the love and sacrifice- the daughters and sons lost forever- so that they may be free. And I hope that when they finish celebrating they start their local councils of democracy. I hope they focus on gender liberation and realize that it is more than just the taking off a piece of clothing and more than just burning it. That the worst oppressor, than what a piece of cloth can signify, is the one that clouds our minds; of internalized racism and misogyny…

And most of all I hope for a world where our young are no longer at the front-lines. I hope for a world where ISIS does not exist. I feverishly hope for a world where confused and angry men are not encouraged towards radicalism…where beheading 14 year old children is something relegated to the shameful pages of history never to be repeated again. The only solution to this, the only answer to this is radical democracy; and the people of the Middle East realizing that true freedom can be found only through this process. The answer to the liberation of Kobane and Manbij and Raqqa and Aleppo and Baghdad and Mosul and others is not so much the advance of the YPG-YPJ forces but the ideology of liberation that they signify and offer at the feet of the oppressed, the weary, the silenced, the dispossessed, the colonized that they are dying to save.

Hawzhin Azeez

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