Remarks by Ms. Sinam Sherkany Mohamad, Co-Chair of the US Mission of the Syrian Democratic Council, at International Women’s Day conference, hosted by the Alliance Creative Community Project, a United Nations ECOSOC member organization, March 6, 2021.
On March 8th, women across North and East Syria will take to the streets to commemorate International Women’s Day. For us, empowering women is a priority every day of the year.
We believe, quite simply, that society can never be free without women’s liberation. Our fight against the Middle East’s most brutal terrorists and dictators would have meant nothing if we did not also fight the oppression women everywhere face in all areas of their lives.
We established the Women’s Protection Units (YPJ) in 2013 for this reason. Women and men had fought side by side in our struggle before that, but we created a system that exists nowhere else in the world — an autonomous women’s army with its own separate command structure. Today, people everywhere recognize that women from North and East Syria played a leading role in the defeat of ISIS.
Behind the front lines, women in our region stepped up to lead in every civil institution we created — from local assemblies in their neighborhoods to the highest level of international diplomacy. And for each mixed-gender institution that existed, we created a parallel women’s institution, whose members could focus specifically on women’s issues and had the right to ensure that men did not get to make decisions on their behalf.
We are proud to have the strongest legal protections for women in all of Syria. Unlike many oppressive regimes in our region, we do not believe that the law should discriminate on the basis of gender. All the rights and freedoms we guarantee for our people are guaranteed to all of our people, women and men alike.
There is clear evidence that our model works. The level of women’s representation at all levels of government in the AANES is higher than that of any Middle Eastern country — and most countries in the world. These women have real power to implement policies that reflect their interests.
We have advanced the status and rights of women more in the past 10 years than some of the states that border us have in decades — because we have made the radical choice to prioritize women’s freedom in every decision.
While we celebrate these achievements, we will also commemorate those who gave their lives for this struggle. Our enemies fear nothing more than the fact that women in North and East Syria are free, and are working together across community lines to expand that freedom even further.
Just months ago, two exceedingly brave young women, Tal Shayir local council co-chair Saada Faisal al-Hermas and Economy Committee head Hind Latif al-Khader, were abducted and murdered by ISIS. They had been threatened many times — as women unafraid to lead and as Arabs working alongside Kurds to advance equality for all people, they represented everything ISIS fears most. Yet they continued their work to the end.
This is our second International Women’s Day in North and East Syria without Hevrin Khalaf, murdered by Turkish-backed jihadist mercenaries in 2019. We know that she was assassinated for no other reason than the fact that she was a woman who wanted to bring women together in a peaceful, pluralist Syria. Turkey and its proxies — who rely on war, chaos, and sectarian and misogynist hatred to stay in power — could not tolerate that.
Women in North and East Syria will never forget our fallen sisters — and we will never stop working to ensure that the vision they lived and died for can become a reality. This International Women’s Day, we will celebrate nearly 10 years of resistance and success that no enemy could destroy. We will continue to build our women’s revolution, and hope that we can be a model for women’s inclusion in the future of Syria and the Middle East.