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Co-president of the Kobane Legislative Council FAYZA ABDI talks to the Stephen Smellie about how Kurdish women are at the forefront of the fight against Isis in the struggle to build a better society
IN Suruc thousands of refugees from Kobane, just over the border in Syria, are living in tents and preparing for the day, that they are sure will come soon, when Isis is defeated and they are able to return to rebuild their city.
Living among them is a remarkable woman, Fayza Abdi. She is co-president of the Kobane Legislative Council, the autonomous administration set up by the city’s mainly Kurdish inhabitants during the Syrian civil war when the Assad government withdrew from the area.
She came across the border to Suruc two weeks ago as “most of our people are here in Suruc and I have a job to do for them.”
The Kurdish revolution which has unfolded in the part of Syria inhabited mostly by Kurds, Rojava, has seen women leading the struggle to build a better society.
In common with municipalities in other parts of Kurdistan, they adopted the policy that all leading positions must have a woman in place.
Abdi was elected co-president and was to the fore in organising life in the autonomous canton.
She said that before the attack by Isis “life was calm and quiet. People came to us from across Syria for peace — Arabs, Yazidis, as well as Kurds. When we were first attacked half the victims were Arabs living in Kobane.”
Before being elected co-president, Abdi was a teacher of Kurdish and English and spoke to our delegation in perfect English.
“Women are leading our revolution. We believe that we must be our own solution. Kurdish women have been in the struggle for 30 years in the PKK and in all aspects of organisation, unions, community.
“Now women are fighting to defend our city and people in the YPJ (Women’s Defence Force) alongside the YPD (Kurdish People’s Protection Units). Our young women are fighting to defend women and their community and country against Isis who kill women and children.”
A few days earlier around 150 Peshmerga (Kurdish armed forces) arrived from south Kurdistan in Iraq with heavy artillery to help defend Kobane. However Abdi insists: “The YPD control the struggle.”
She welcomed the aid from US in the form of some supplies and air strikes, which are now less frequent and confirmed there had been no casualties from the US air strikes.
She explains that while the vast majority of Kobane’s 500,000 inhabitants had fled, there were still civilians in the city, including two of her daughters who are there helping the fighters.
“The people are living in cellars,” she says.
“The people defending the city are heroes but we are victims. We need help. Especially we need a corridor, a humanitarian corridor, to get aid and supplies to defend our city.
“We will also need help to rebuild our city. Half the city has been destroyed but we will rebuild it.”
When asked who will help Kobane, Abdi says: “We have friends all over the world. Those who want democracy, who are humanitarian, they will help us.
“Isis forgot that we are new Kurdish people. We are educated and we know how to defend ourselves.
“We have shown that little weak people can defend ourselves and we can lead our country and the world. We women can do this.
“I wait minute by minute till I can return to Kobane. My people are living in tents just now. Our city is being destroyed. But we say, we want to live in tents, but in Kobane, where we will rebuild.”
Those of us who consider ourselves friends of Kobane can have confidence that with women like Fayza Abdi working for and leading her people the prospects, for not only defeating Isis but going on to rebuild a new Kobane for the people of Kobane, are good.