We’ve lived so long under the spell of hierarchy—from god-kings to feudal lords to party bosses—that only recently have we awakened to see not only that “regular” citizens have the capacity for self-governance, but that without their engagement our huge global crises cannot be addressed. The changes needed for human society simply to survive, let alone thrive, are so profound that the only way we will move toward them is if we ourselves, regular citizens, feel meaningful ownership of solutions through direct engagement. Our problems are too big, interrelated, and pervasive to yield to directives from on high.
—Frances Moore Lappé, excerpt from Time for Progressives to Grow Up

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Stateless Democracy: How the Kurdish Women’s Movement Liberated Democracy from the State

Click here to access article by Dilar Dirik from Libya 360°.

Dirik argues that true freedom and democracy can only be established if the older divisive system of patriarchy is also destroyed along with the current reigning oppressive trio of systems she identifies as capitalism, nationalism, and states. From what she reports, it is Kurdish women, mostly in the PKK party, that are leading this struggle for true freedom and liberation in her home country. I think her essay provides much food for progressive thought.
Nationalism, capitalism, statism have been the supporting pillars of patriarchy and often used women’s bodies and behaviours to control societies. The bar of freedom has become quite low in the global capitalist, statist system in which we live in. Hence, it seems to be rather tempting to be satisfied with the KRG, given that it has become a fortress of capitalist modernity. Though, in copying the flaws and shortcomings of the rest of the world, the KRG limits its understanding of freedom immensely.

Therefore, women should not expect liberation through a state-like hegemonic structure. The moment we start to define the fact that there is a Miss Kurdistan beauty pageant in South Kurdistan as progress and modernity, we fall for the exact same mechanisms that have enslaved humanity in the first place. Is this what we understand as freedom? Unlimited consumerism? Primitive nationalism? Copying elements of global patriarchy and capitalism, labelling them with Kurdish flags in order to praise ourselves as modern?

.... A patriarchal Kurdistan is a more insidious tyrant than the usual oppressors. Colonising and subjugating half of one’s own community in a sexualised manner, one’s intimate partners can be a much more shameful and violent act than foreign invasion.

Hence, Kurdistan’s women must be the vanguards of a free society. It takes courage to fight oppressive states, but sometimes it takes even more courage to stand up against one’s own community. For, it really isn’t a mere Kurdish governance, even a state, that is dangerous to the dominant system. A much bigger threat to the hegemonic structures is a politically active, conscious Kurdish woman.
I would express her introductory thesis stated above a little differently. I think that capitalist ruling classes have merely integrated the geographical boundaries of the feudal states, which were conquered through violence, and transformed these territories into modern states equipped with all sorts of institutions ruled over by capitalist elites or ruling classes. The latter then indoctrinated their subjects, workers, into identifying with their states. This latter identification is known as nationalism. The older patriarchal oppression inherited from feudalism was easily integrated into this new system of governance.

Kurdish female fighters of the Women Protection Unit discuss military strategies at a training field near Qamishli city (a larger Kurdish city next to Kobani in northeastern Syria)....