Interview with women fighters from the International Freedom Battalion
“We are not women waiting to be rescued”
Interview with women fighters from the International Freedom Battalion following the victorious Operation Hol. The International Freedom Battalion was founded in Rojava in June 2015 in order to fight DAESH and to defend the revolutionary process in Rojava. It brings together fighters from several revolutionary organizations in Turkey and from around the world (Spain, Greece, Germany, Japan etc).
Information Center: In the operation against a major supply route for DAESH fascists in Hol, women fighters from the International Freedom Battalion took the lead. Sefagül Aslan, Polen Cebo and Ezgi Arin, 3 commanding female combatants who participated in the successful assault spoke to the news agency Etha:
Sefagül Aslan: “It was a blow to the enemies of women”
Sefagül Aslan, Internationalist combatant and commander of TIKKO, recalled that the city and region of Hol was an important strategic center taken from DAESH and said: “This was an operation in which success was mandatory and that helped provide valuable experience. The presence of the women in this operation was a step forward that stengthened the battalion.”
Stressing the importance of women’s role in the war against DAESH, Sefagül stated: “The participation of women in this operation was a huge blow against the enemies of women.There is a photo that has now become well known of a women fighter destroying a sign at the entrance of Hol that showed women how they should dress. This photo perfectly explains our role in this war.”
“In this war against these fascists who spread fear among women throughout the world, it was our duty to kill this supposedly invincible force. Because in all the stories women are always in the position of waiting to be saved. Our name has always been dragged through the mud. Now we want to ensure the name of women is synonymous with victory. This is how we will take our place in this story! We are not women waiting to be rescued!”
Polen Cebo: “I took part in this battle to avenge the two massacres.”
Polen Cebo explained how important it was for her to participate in this operation to avenge the massacres of Suruç and Ankara. Stressing that war is a very male dominated field, Cebo stated: “You find yourself forced to fight twice as hard to prove yourself. For this reason, war is more difficult for women. But once this obstacle has been passed, having won confidence, women feel more comfortable in the war zones. Now we see that compared to men women are calmer, more decisive and better at performing their duties in tasks like keeping guard during freezing mornings, carrying heavier bags during operations or when cutting wood. Women are persevering on all fronts. I saw one of our commanders who had taken a bullet in the leg continue fighting without even taking the time to make a dressing. Seeing the commitment of women in combat motivated us too.”
Polen stated that occasionally they faced macho attitudes and explained that critical mechanisms were put in place to address them: “We have experienced some difficulties in the field of war and of everyday live with our male comrades. However as we had put in place mechanisms to fight against these problems, they were not difficult to undo. And criticisms that we made were addressed.”
“This was a victory for gender equality.”
The internationalist combatant Ezgi Arin drew attention to the fact that the struggle against DAESH is a part of women’s struggle: “Even if I had not had a political identity in this war, I still would have participated as a woman anyway. Every woman with knowledge of their strengths and identity must be a part of this fight. This was a victory for gender equality.”
Ezgi stated that women are participating in all areas of combat and have now mastered all responsibilities from handling heavy weapons to command positions.
“Every place where it was said ‘women can’t do it’ we found that women were present. This saying was broken by the resistance in Shengal and Kobani and now with the operation in Hol we have hammered another nail into it.”