On this day, International Womens Day, we celebrate and congratulate all of the women who have stepped forward, raised their voices, and called out for their rights to be protected. Throughout the world, on this day, women are marching for their freedom and their rights. Women’s rights are human rights, and we must never forget that none of us will be free until all of us are free.
As a lifelong women’s rights activist and a Kurdish woman from Syria, it hasn’t always been easy for me to celebrate on this day. In Syria, there were many marches and rallies planned for International Womens Day by the brave women of the country that were met with police brutality, under the Syrian regime.
Now, in North and East Syria, we are seeing women rise to power as never before. In our region we have established the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES), which is the governance model that currently controls one-third of the Syrian territory – the democratic, US-allied part of Syria. It’s a governance model in which women make up roughly 40 percent of all positions of power. This is a rate of women’s representation that is unparalleled anywhere in the Middle East. How did we do this? By requiring that each position of power be held not just by one person, but by two: one man and one woman. Usually, these two individuals are also from different ethnic, cultural, or religious backgrounds.
Women are not just occupying chairs, either. They are showing that representation matters. They are speaking up, seizing the moment, and directing the future of our region. The AANES has officially outlawed intimate partner abuse, femicide, polygamy, and other crimes against women.
In addition, women have created their own fighting units, which do not answer to male command. Women make up 100 percent of the Women’s Protection Units, the YPJ, famous for women who battled ISIS in the historically-Kurdish city of Kobane and won against their forces of oppression and misogyny.
I was a founding member of the government of the autonomous region, and I am proud of what the women of my region have been able to accomplish. Together, we must protect our successes. We invite all women to learn about North and East Syria, and the inspiring democratic model that represents the future of womens rights in Syria
International Womens Day has been celebrated on March 8 since 1914. International Womens Day was first observed by the United Nations in 1975, and two years later the UN adopted a resolution encouraging each member state to hold an annual United Nations Day for Women’s Rights and International Peace. It’s been 109 years, but there are still reasons to commemorate this day. The fight for equality continues, even as we celebrate our hard-won victories.
Today, on International Women’s Day, we acknowledge our common struggle and common unity. Let North and East Syria serve as an inspiration for women all over the world.