Since 2008, the Kurdish women’s movement has been developing “Jineolojî”, the science of women and life. To many people, jineolojî is one of the topics that incite curiosity and excitement on one hand, and confusion on the other. This is due to its ambitious claim to present an alternative to capitalist modernity’s mentality, one which is determined by positivist, male-dominated, colonialist paradigms of knowledge and science. Over the last years, the Kurdish women’s movement has shared its ideas for jineolojî with thousands of women around the globe. The following speech was presented by Necîbe Qeredaxî on behalf of the Jineolojî committee in Europe on the first day of the 1st International Women’s Conference “Revolution in the Making”, by the Network “Women Weaving the Future” held in Frankfurt 6-7th October 2018. It provided a “jineolojîcal” perspective for the manifold self-organized workshops that the hundreds of women from around the world participated in at the conference.
Let me start with some remarks on the methodology of the state, the hegemony of the capitalist system and patriarchy and how these still impact most of the alternative social movements and the ways in which the latter define issues and sources of problems, as well as their methods of tackling them. Indeed, the methods of tackling problems somehow reproduce the problems and make things harder for society, nature and women to the point of chaos. This means that such a methodology categorizes problems in a way that gives priority to one aspect of the problem, while ignoring others. Of course, woman, as an identity, existence and status, is often ignored. Another problematic method involves looking for solutions within the system and with the tools of the system itself; this leads to nothing but delusions, rather than to genuine solutions. Likewise, it is dangerous to ignore the question of patriarchy in our re-definitions of the concepts of slavery and freedom. Moreover, the disease of individualism, disorganization and our falling into the traps of the system lead us to act within the sources of knowledge that reinforce Power, as we seek and follow science and knowledge paradigms that increasingly disconnect us from society and from emotional intelligence every day. The last issue that I want to mention is that looking at the problems of society as individual problems deprives our view from sociological and collective aspects of the problems.
If we want to research women, matriarchal society, and the history of Mesopotamia based on the current practices of knowledge and science, we will surely be asked to provide evidence for the notion of natural society. But in fact, Kurdistan and many other indigenous areas and geographies have plenty of oral sources of cultural and non-written historical data. The historical sites that show the struggle of women and the oppression by state, hierarchy and patriarchal hegemony can be evidence to show the hidden aspects and realities throughout history that need to be revealed. Our historical sites were covered up by those who represent the state and patriarchal mentality, but they need to be highlighted. As Abdullah Öcalan says, “the history of slavery has not been written and the history of freedom is waiting to be written”. Therefore, we ask: If the social sciences claim to seek solutions to social problems, how come they favor and support the hegemony of those in power? We could easily and without doubt say that such social sciences are rationalistic, collaborate with systems of domination, become tool for their development, do not consider women as subjects of research, but instead distort their reality, and focus on the capitalist instinct to generate profit.
We need to re-define the existence and energy of woman to discover the truth. This must include analyses of society, woman, and life; the relations between women and men and their relationships to society; motherhood culture and societies and their destructuion; the cause of the development of the patriarchal mentality; the methods used by mythology, religion, philosophy and science, and their approach to woman’s existence.
Over the past years and in a still ongoing process, the jineolojî research has been investigating how women have been defined by these methods. We have been asking, if it is true that knowledge is the analysis of the meaning and historical accumulation that communities have obtained as a result of making sense of their lives and finding solutions to the problems they faced, and if science is the institutionalization of knowledge with the aim of understanding the universe and responding to social needs – why is there so much chaos, war, violence and forced migration?
We can overcome this mentality by challenging the relationship created between oppressive man and oppressed woman, by moving from the urban, modernist and authoritarian paradigm towards a democratic paradigm, by analyzing society, family, and the relation between man and woman. The first step of this transformation of our freedom struggles must start by turning individuals into organized structures.
Here, we are not talking about social, political, economic and legal reforms – we are talking about nothing less than revolution. A revolution that flourishes due to the self-determination of women. A revolution in which women are not only partially included, but are the core of the revolution by leading and planning it with their own spirit. When we talk about woman, we don’t talk about a biological existence, but about a political and social one. We talk about the connection between history and the present. We talk about both practice and theoretical advancements. We talk about the truth that thousands of years ago in the lands of Mesopotamia, settlement, socialization and the first agricultural revolution were developed around women.
Without analyzing and examining the relation between the capitalist system, state and gender domination and tyranny, it is difficult to talk about alternatives and to suggest solutions for the universal issue of freedom. Without touching on the historical roots of society and the reality of matriarchal eras of life and beyond, we cannot understand the past or present or how to “weave our future”.
So, in order to create new potentialities and lasting social change, gender transformations also have to occur within society and this is what have been doing as the women’s movement in Kurdistan and, due to the conditions, more concretely in Rojava. To help society defend itself mentally and ideologically, one of the most important methods is the development of the concept of free co-life (hevjiyana azad) and self-being (xwebûn).
For those who hear the term “jineolojî” for the first time: the term jineolojî is composed of two words: jin and loji. Jin is a Kurdish word, which means woman and lojî comes from the Greek term indicating science. It is a framework of radical analysis that the Kurdish freedom movement, and particularly the Kurdistan women’s movement has been developing since 2008. It tries to transfer the advancements of the Kurdish women’s movement into society, based on a criticism of social sciences. It shows how the positivist sciences have monopolized systems in the hands of men and therefore created huge gaps between society and the truth; society and life; and society and science.
Jineolojî is a result of dialectical progress of the Kurdish women’s movement, as well as a beginning to respond to the contradictions and problems of society, economics, health, education, history, demography, ecology, ethics and aesthetics, by developing an alternative methodology.
Hêlîn Dersîm, who was a member of the first jineolojî committee in the mountains of Kurdistan, but who was killed by Turkish state’s bombardment, left such a rich legacy and heritage of research and knowledge of women’s unwritten history that history must acknowledge her proudly. In her letter to all of us, she says:
“We must focus on the reality of society in the Zagros Mountains, which is the cradle of matriarchal society. In order to gain knowledge, I have met and talked to shepherds, healers and herb collectors. I spent hours walking through mountains. Jineolojî reveals the relationship between woman and life through several facets and defines life through woman’s perspectives. Therefore, from this perspective, the concept of man must be redefined. This fact can be traced through the Kurdish words of ‘camer’ or ‘camerd’, meaning generous. ‘Ca’ or ‘cî’ in Kurdish is Mother. It is suggested that during the Neolithic era, man was living according to the measures of woman. This still has impact in Kurdistan and in the wider region. On the other hand, it is important to analyze the character of male hunters and merchants. It is important to evaluate rape culture and fascism through the mentality of the male power-seekers. The word ‘zilam’ in Kurdish comes from ‘zulm’ which means tyranny”.
Across the globe, there are genuine attempts to solve issues urgently. We have to be careful not fall into the cycle of so-called civil society organizations that are connected to the state. Instead, there must be attempts to take local and practical steps and to develop the academia for alternative education to change mentalities. Without changing our mentality, it is difficult to create radical change and to emancipate ourselves from the tricks of the system and its institutions. With every realization, we are obliged to use methods of criticism and self-criticism.
We have to consider every event within its historical context. Our treatment of history could be based on seeing things as living example of phenomena. Is it a coincidence that after 4000 years, the socio-political model of Rojava is based on co-leadership rather than a centralist, top-down, patriarchal dictatorship of men? Our grandmothers say: the grass will green on its roots again. Consider the meaning of images of the god and the goddess on equal thrones, as common in Tal Xalaf! That is the philosophy behind this revolution. It is restructuring the values of matriarchal society. The mother is not a mere biological entity. She is a value that can balance and deal with the first nature (the universe) and the second nature (the human and society).
Concerning demography, we should be aware that the issue of over-population is connected to the matter of the objectification of women, on colonizing her body, her will and her identity under the name of honor, fake freedom and fake love. This is how the system promotes a way of life in which societies over-emphasize gender and sex, rather than equality of life.
We must know that there is a strong relationship between the capitalist system and all those crises that are defined as environmental disasters. When morality is diminished, ecological catastrophes develop. Sustainable innovation has been replaced by destruction. This started with the destruction of the status, existence and role of woman. We should understand that concepts of morality and ethics can be defined not only as religious concepts, but in terms of a framework of a symbiotic relation between human and nature; women and nature; and women and men. For that, there must be a movement focuses on more than only on preserving the environment, but should be based on conscious, ethical system change.
Jineolojî doesn’t follow the dominant economic system that is abstracted from ecology and life. Knowledge on demography was abstracted from economy and ecology under the name of surplus value, but it can only be described as anti-life. Our paradigm of Democratic Modernity with its principles of radical, direct and communal democracy, ecology and women’s liberation will analyze the issues of Power by viewing the issues around ecology as main issues. This paradigm is urging eco-technological revolutions against industrialism.
Can we see a more ecological view than the attitude of illiterate women, who say: “Don’t pour hot water on earth. It harms the earth, the grass and those creatures, who live in the earth”. We need a science and knowledge paradigm to reveal facts rather than covering them to use them as tool for more interest and capital. Our work must be honest and in the service of society.
Jineolojî as a science of woman, life, society and freedom is a stand point against the partition of social problems and the search for solutions within and through the system. All of the problems that come from patriarchy and hierarchy must be analyzed and solved interconnectedly and in their totality.
No surprise then if we suggest that in the workshops, evaluating mountainous geographies must be taken into account. Mountains have a crucial meaning in all alternative and anti-system movements. Even for individuals, we can see the mountain’s value for the re-organization of the self or for separating the self from the destructive impacts of the system.
We urgently need to leave the premises of contemporary science as imposed by the system and create another environment of discussion. Seminars, panels and conferences are not enough. We need a different kind of academy that can, systematically and step-by-step, work on how we can reach our goals, from mental revolutions to social transformations. This cannot be achieved without self–defence. Self-defense does not just constitute picking up weapons. Jineolojî itself is a science of self-defence.
We have a duty to reveal facts for the sake of peoples, women and youth to be able to struggle against the fascism. For instance, we cannot regard Iran as anti-imperialist, while the regime commits daily executions of innocent people. The country constitutes an even bigger prison, where people are being deprived from living freely. We cannot look at refugees through the prism of pity. We should highlight the root causes and reasons for their conditions. We must examine the issues locally and through non-state perspectives. Local movements and those who want to be part of an alternative front – anti-fascist and anti-patriarchal-, must not look at things through individualist notions of freedom or at society through the lens of victimization. Instead, they must look for theoretical frameworks that can put themselves and social issues under the scrutiny of criticism to ask the question of what we have lost and where we have lost it.
Only when the mentality of Power and the hegemony of its institutions are paralyzed, we can talk about our existence as an alternative. That is only possible through a method that is organized and that can think outside of the frame of the system. Likewise, the solutions for our problems must also look outside of the frame of the system. We can rightfully ask whether we are ready for that. What would our tools, concepts, theories and organizations look like? There are several examples in old and new history for these, but the written history of the current positivist paradigm has consistently denied them. In out time, this is very much embodied in the ongoing revolution in Rojava Kurdistan.
Is theory important or practice? If there is no practice of life, theories would lose their value. If theory cannot be collective and societal, it would remain at the individual level and only on the papers of history. An alternative theory can be effective only through continuous and vivid renovations. The measure of this is the extent to which it provides an answer to the needs of society and the extent to which is liberates itself from the mentality of hierarchy and power.
Our daily self-awareness can demonstrate to us the ways in which we are drawn back into the system and how we are melted back into it, as well as how to avoid that from happening. It is not a coincidence that in the same countries where fascism rose and was defeated, once again, the disease of ultra-nationalism, Islamophobia, hatred against refugees, orientalist views and pacification of alternative and social movements are rising again so that the system is working on reproducing fascism once more. Alternative social and political movements that claim to fight the system still remain in the realm of providing “charity or support” towards movements from other areas of the world. They remain weak when it comes to complementing each other as actors.
The struggle against occupation, fascism, and patriarchy cannot be pursued only through reaction. Nonetheless, the continuous struggle against patriarchal mentality and the traditional mentalities among woman should start from criticism and self-criticism. At the very beginning of his struggle, Abdullah Öcalan said: “In order for us to destroy the castle of enemy, we first need to destroy the castle that was built inside our mind”. For Sakine Cansiz, the philosophy of that struggle was: “Nothing is impossible”.