Margaret Owen, a well-known human rights lawyer and women’s rights advocate has returned from a solidarity visit with women’s groups in Rojava, northern Syria.
Margaret spent eight days in the region, which is also known as Western Kurdistan and is currently under the administration of a broad coalition of civil society and political organisations led by the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD). The region was largely peaceful until clashes with Al Qaeda affiliated groups began this year, and has seen a massive influx of Syrian internal refugees fleeing violence elsewhere in the country.
During her visit Margaret visited local initiatives, projects and programs led by women calling for peace, Kurdish self-determination and women’s rights. Among them were humanitarian groups, looking after nearly 200,000 internally displaced people (IPDs) without any international aid assistance.
Margaret said: “The killing must stop. Humanitarian aid must go directly to Rojava. And all UN member states must stop providing arms to the regime, or the opposition, now so deeply infiltrated by Al Qaida militias.”
As an expert in the rights of women in conflict, she participated in trainings to both advise women’s groups about accessing UN human rights mechanisms to protect and secure their representation in peace building, and to learn from the PYD’s principles of gender equality, which has led to a proliferation of women’s assemblies, academies, self-defence forces and civil society projects in the region.
The interim administration, says Margaret, has implemented principles of gender equality from the grassroots to the top. She continues: “What I saw across villages and towns in Rojava – the training centre for the women’s section of the YPG; the Women’s Houses in every village, every town); the freshly dug graves of 122 young men and women “martyrs”, killed since July, defending the borders against al Qaida attacks; and families of the internally displaced people (IDPs) who include Arabs, Christians, and other minorities along with Kurds – has deeply impressed me.
“It is time for the UK, the US, the EU and the UN to and support the Kurds in their struggles to enjoy their fundamental human rights denied to them for nearly a hundred years. Rojava demonstrates what is possible.
“I see the principles and ideology of the Kurdish leader, Abdullah Ocalan (as set out in his Road Map for Peace) for example, regarding the rights of minorities, of women, and the role of civil society in peace building as a model, not just for Syria, but for all countries emerging from conflict.”
Margaret Owen is available for interviews. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org / 0207 603 9733 / Skype: margaretowen36