The Feminist Transformation in Radical Kurdistan
Review of Meredith Tax’s A Road Unforeseen: Women Fight the Islamic State
(New York: Bellevue Literary Press, 2016)
After the fall of Aleppo, it’s only a matter of time until Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad fixates on the autonomous region of Rojava. As brutal civil war has devastated Syria and added to the massive refugee crisis, in Rojava—the predominately Kurdish region of northern Syria—a left-wing, feminist revolution is being carried out. This radical project has gained the support of a range of actors in the United States, with its combination of all-women militias; abandonment of the ethnic nation-state as the goal of revolution; and military victories over ISIS.
To be sure, the allure of far-away revolutions have led many to buyer’s remorse—including A Road Unforeseen’s author Meredith Tax, who visited Maoist China in 1973. Like many new Rojava supporters, Tax did not have a background in either Syrian or Kurdish politics, but was drawn to the struggle after seeing images of Kurdish women fighting in Kobane, the town in Rojava which fought off a bloody siege by ISIS from September 2014 to January 2015. Tax’s book is an on-the-fly intervention in an ongoing conflict. It smoothly shows many things at once, and she does a commendable job in creating a concise and readable account of this tangled situation. This includes: 1) the history of the Kurdish struggle, which spans multiple political parties in four countries; 2) the transformation of the PKK (Partiya Karkerên Kurdistanê, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party) from an orthodox Marxist-Leninist nationalist struggle into one advocating for feminist, multi-ethnic, political decentralization; 3) Rojava’s role in the Syrian civil war—infamous for its complex entanglement of multiple internal actors and numerous foreign governments; 4) the role of women in Kurdish society and political struggles; and 5) the evolution and spread of Al Qeada’s two offshoots in Syria, Al Nusra and ISIS.
Read the full review at Toward Freedom