Kurdish Women’s Movement: Let’s struggle against the pandemic together!

It’s time to step up the global women’s struggle against the capitalist pandemic!

Our experience of the current Covid-19 pandemic and the multiple crises associated with it are a direct result of the constant accumulation of profit and capital that characterises capitalist modernity. Capitalist interventions in first nature, i.e. the natural world, are the result of its objectification through power and hegemonic thinking. With each intervention in nature, the ecological balance was disturbed a little more. In capitalist modernity, which represents the current stage of the state-based system of civilisation, the interventions in nature lead to cancerous growths.

As a result of disruption to areas of nature and wildlife, colonisation, the exploitation of natural resources, the poisoning of nature, the destruction of the environment and indigenous social systems, extreme urbanization, the industrialization of production without moral norms and the maximisation of profit for the few through less spending and increased exploitation, our planet is becoming more and more sick.

Nature does not take revenge. Nature can no longer bear the boundless greed for profit and plunder of the capitalist mentality. First nature can no longer bear that the second – i.e. humans as social nature – detaches itself from it. Historically, this is the greatest and most momentous detachment. With the objectification of nature by the mentality of domination, women have also been declared an object by the mentality patriarchal.

Subsequently, ever wider sections of society were enslaved and exploited by a power structure that has declared itself as the ultimate political agent. Today there is no piece of earth, no social cell that has not been touched by the capitalist system. The capitalist system spreads cancer into every cell it touches. And it will not stop. For example, the Turkish government has used the vacuum created by the pandemic to award the first tender for the ecological destruction project ‘Canal Istanbul’, signing off on the destruction of water basins and forests. The oil industry in the USA has started construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, which had been successfully blocked until now.

We are not in the same boat!

We need to underline: we are not all in the same boat. And we are not all equally responsible for this crisis. Nor do we have the same means of protecting ourselves against the virus. The main culprits of this crisis are global financial capital and nation states, which ensure the continuity of the law of maximum profit. Once again, it has been clearly shown that the primary concern of states is not the health and needs of the population, but of global capital.

For this reason, governments’ agendas do not include social health policies that can reverse the devastation of neo-liberalism on the health sector. Instead, new laws are being passed in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic to facilitate more extensive exploitation of health workers. While on the one hand these governments applaud health workers to cover up this reality, on the other hand they cause the death of medical and health workers because they are forced to work in unprotected conditions. So far, hundreds of doctors, nurses and health workers have lost their lives because they have been infected while treating sick people. Elderly people who are seen as a burden on the system and who can therefore be abandoned are left to die alone in old people’s homes.

The slogans of our time are “Stay at home” and “Stay safe”, as if the majority of the population, who have no social and financial security, have such an option. Women, on the other hand, are once again expected to show selflessness and willingness to make sacrifices by taking on the abdicated state responsibilities: taking care of children and the household at home. In other words, letting themselves be degraded once again to the status of unpaid domestic worker. Only a few weeks after this year’s 8th March, when women striving for a free life hit the patriarchal system like a slap in the face, the patriarchy is opportunistically using this time to try to lock women back in the home again. In this context, it is of course no coincidence that, during this period of the pandemic, domestic violence against and murder of women has risen sharply.

The rise of the state against society

Those who created this crisis by joining forces use war rhetoric and try to give the impression that they are on the same side as society, even defending it on the front line. In doing so, they continue their antisocial policies. States use the crisis to expand their surveillance and control systems; suspend rights and freedoms in the name of security; and counter the growing social struggles for freedom, democracy and ecology by fuelling sexism, nationalism and positivism. The fact that these three -isms are the main pillars of the capitalist nation state must be emphasised here.

In the end, it is the ideology of the state that rises. That is why nobody cares that while non-state actors reacted positively to the UN call for a ceasefire, state military forces have continued their wars of aggression. This shows once again that most of the intergovernmental organizations that were founded within the nation-state paradigm of the 20th century after World War II are becoming increasingly insignificant and are going bankrupt.

The positivist domination of science, which has become the official religion of the nation state, has had serious consequences on the population, especially in the health sector. More than ever, we need a science that responds not to the needs of power and capital, but to those of humanity and nature, and develops solutions to their problems without distinguishing between rich and poor. We do not need a science that confuses minds, distorts the truth and becomes an instrument in the hands of the powerful, but one that enlightens and shows the way.

Whether the novel corona virus Covid-19 was created consciously or by accident, directly or indirectly from human hands or not, the result is that it functions like a biological weapon. And with this weapon pointed at us we should be prepared to reduce our existence to biological life. But if the meaning of life is reduced to survival, can we still speak of existence and exist? We Kurds – as well as countless indigenous peoples – have been confronted with such genocidal policies imposed by regional and hegemonic powers hundreds of years. These policies say: if you want to stay alive, you have to give up your identity, your political struggle, your sociality, your cultural memory! But we will not give ourselves up! We insist on free and strong-willed life!

The veins of society are resisting!

So we see that the unstoppable veins of democratic society are resisting capitalist modernity despite all the insidious and profit-oriented attacks they are faced with. Solidarity against individualism, mutual aid instead of egoism, communality instead of isolation are the social values of democratic modernity that counteract capitalism. The collective right of resistance is creatively defended. It must be defended even more strongly. We must strengthen and develop our organisation, our struggles and our resistance with suitable ways and methods. This is what we need as urgently as water and bread. If we ‘pause’ our existence as political subjects, then the states will not only annul our achievements gained through struggle and resistance, but will also deal a heavy blow to us – social movements and to society as a whole. Anti-democratic regimes are simply waiting for their chance to do this.

The Turkish government, with a decree from the Ministry of the Interior, has banned associations and foundations from holding online board or members’ meetings for several months, which is practically equivalent to a ban on organising.

In the list of political subjects to be made invisible and mute by states, political prisoners are at the forefront. They are currently living the most insecure and defenceless lives. In order to prevent the virus from spreading in prisons, many states have postponed or reduced prison sentences or declared an amnesty, thus releasing many inmates. Some governments have used this opportunity to get their own supporters out of prison. As a result, mafia members, murderers and rapists have been released, while opposition and political prisoners, to whom of course these pardons do not apply, are left to die.

Anti-democratic regimes that regard prisoners from the opposition as political enemies are just waiting for them to get infected in prison. Therefore, we, who are ‘outside’ must defend our resisting sisters, opposition activists, revolutionaries and political prisoners on the ‘inside’, and protect their lives! Because they are one of the main forces in the construction of a free life, which is a prerequisite for a lasting end to crises and chaos. For this reason they are imprisoned and for this reason we must free them.

Industrialism and wars of hegemony

In the current crisis an assessment of the connection of the pandemic with industrialism is necessary. To blame industry itself for the pandemic would be wrong, because the problem is not in the industry itself, but in the way it is used. An industry that has been brought together with the motives for humanity’s existence can play a decisive role in transforming the world into third nature, i.e. establishing an ecological relationship between first and second nature, both for human life and for all organic and non-organic beings in nature – rivers, seas, air, animals, mountains, earth. However, an industry that comes under the control of profit and the market can turn the world into hell for all humanity, excluding a handful of monopolists. This is what is happening to us right now.

Industrialism, with the nation state and capitalist production, is the peak of capitalist modernity. Its function is to suppress self-sufficient economic society, especially the rural village society. We can see this concretely in our country Kurdistan – the current site of the Third World War – and in the Middle East in general. The rural-village society, which until 30 years ago still constituted the main part of the economy and society, is increasingly crushed, driven into bankruptcy and unemployment, plunged into debt and driven from the countryside into the cities. Industrialism has a leading role in the Middle Eastern wars of imperialism and capitalist modernity. Wars over water and oil are significant. So are mass flight and displacement of people.

The separation of village society from its land must be understood as war. Industrialism becomes active here as a monopoly of power, as well as an ideological and economic monopoly. The consequences of disintegration, caused by the fact that society and economy have placed themselves under the hegemony of industrialism in line with the law of maximum profit, have become sufficiently apparent over the past 200 years.

We must build power to defend nature and life!

The crisis is created by global financial capital, but we too must question the extent to which our lifestyle is ecological and what ecological life means. In this context, we must make radical changes in our lives, make our lifestyle and consumer behaviours more ecological. We should not surrender to capitalist modernity by saying “I alone cannot save the world anyway”, nor should we isolate ourselves from our environment by saying “My individual life is ecological and environmentally friendly, therefore my conscience is clear”. Both would be wrong.

To satisfy the conscience through an individualist ecological lifestyle, without struggling for nature and the environment, is in line with a capitalist ideology and the tactics of liberalism, which divorce people from collective struggle. At the same time, there is an urgent need to build an ecological life-style and defend nature both on an individual and collective level. To this end, we must build up forces for the defence of nature and life. As women, we must be the leading forces within this, because this crisis, resembling a war against the core values of humanity, has the greatest impact on us. That is why we will defend ourselves, our existence, our common values, nature, our planet, and life in all areas!

• We will not entrust women’s and social health to the state and we will not surrender to the pharmaceutical industry and the privatisation policies of neoliberalism. We will establish communal women’s and social health clinics.

• We will not have our political subjectivity put in the freezer or buried in a grave. We will continue our social struggles with creativity, we will organise and resist!

• We will not allow political prisoners who are in prison because they rose up against oppression to be abandoned to illness and death. We will fight for their lives and freedom!

• Against the policies of loneliness, isolation and individualisation of the capitalist system, we will improve and liberate life with social solidarity, mutual aid and community!

• Nature does not belong to us, we belong to nature. It can live without us, but humanity cannot live without nature. We will not allow it to be plundered, exploited and destroyed for profit. For this we will make our lives and our consumption ecological, and we will unite against the thieving gangs of finance capital!

• The roots of the crisis, which has manifested itself in the form of a pandemic, are the mentalities of domination and exploitation. Therefore, we can only free ourselves permanently from the crises and chaos caused by the system if we put an end to all forms of exploitation and occupation. We will strengthen the resistance against occupation and exploitation of people, earth and nature by uniting!

• We demand a radical change of system, in which work, production and reproduction are determined according to the needs of society, not financial capital! We are already in the process of building this democratic, ecological and gender-liberated system. Women are leading the way in this. We now need common struggle and organisation that transcends borders and unites our resistances like the gathering of a giant river that flow into an ocean. We can achieve this. Because we are women and have the power to change the world!

April 24, 2020 Komalên Jinên Kurdistan (KJK)