Radical Healthcare Pt 3: Women, Jinwar and Liberation

The Radical Healthcare series will be exploring healthcare models that intersect with progressive left wing branches of political thought. In the third part of the series I’ll introduce you to a contemporary healthcare struggle taking place in Rojava, Kurdistan. I’ll be particularly focusing on the women’s organising taking place in the female only ecological commune ‘Jinwar’.

A mural in Jinwar (Richard Hall / The Independent)

Jinwar, Kurdish for ‘female land’, was founded on November 25th 2018. Located in North East Syria, a part of the world which has and continues ( at what seems an ever increasing rate) to be ravaged by conflict, sits this female only commune which is based on democratic and ecological principles. Female emancipation plays a prominent role in the Rojavan revolution, based on the political ideology of Abdullah Öcalan which places an emphasis on the realisation that women are the first colonised state. The decolonisation of the female is of key importance starting on an internalised individual basis, a process reflected in governance organisations. The emancipation of the Kurdish woman is very much tied to the emancipation of the Kurdish people in general. Hence to promote women’s involvement in society and politics, most civil structures in Rojava have parallel female counter parts. Jinwar is one prominent example of such a female autonomous structure.

Women can never be free if they do not disconnect themselves from men and the patriarchal system in every aspect: mentally, physically and emotionally.

Abdullah Öcalan

Şîfa Jin, is the healing centre in Jinwar. It works on the principle of fusing natural and modern medicine. Modern approaches coexist with inherited knowledge of herbal remedies which women of the village are encouraged to share. Whilst this may seem ‘un-evidencedbased’, it is important to remember that healthcare provision must be tailored to the populations it serves. The unique position leading to limitations of medical equipment due to the effect of embargos, systematic targeting of healthcare infrastructure and the withdrawal of NGOs has forced autonomous healthcare organistion. On a more positive note the lack of health dependance can be framed as liberatory- perhaps there is ‘nothing more healing than freedom’.

Internationalist medical worker Heval Güneş’ reflection on the concept of trauma was interesting. She remarked that questions asked by Western individuals about how trauma, which one would rightly assume to abound in a war zone, was treated in Rojava in settings such as Jinwar. Güneş comments that the idea of ‘therapy’ as we concieve it in the west doesn’t really exist in Rojava. Instead, she comments, Tekmil- frequent meetings for collective reflection, critique and self crititque- takes on that function. Communal forums and interactions become a place of honest interaction infused with hope and the will to change- something which is only possible with a broad sense of love and comradeship.

Social conditions influence an individual’s health. The residents of Jinwar are all women, Kurdish, Arabic, Assyrian and Internationalists. Each of these women have unique experiances yet they are joined together in their womenhood. Inhabits of Jinwar range from widows of Guerrilla fighters, mothers with young children to unmarried woman. Hence a community based approach allows a better understanidng of influences on the health of women and children. Health is taken into the hands of the community through educational drives, and the communal atmosphere of the healing centre and the wider village community. Interventions aren’t made for profit or to pander to regulations, they are done to help women in the community live healthily and happily- women caring for women.

Jinwar aims to be a safe haven for all women, a relative utopia- this reflected in the Şîfa Jin. The medical profession has (and is) been a patriachal domain. Şîfa Jin challenges this by organising local woman, and placing women in health leadership positions. In Rojava fieldworkers comment that health provisions still have far to go in terms of development and they face many challenges (internal and external).However the revolutionary drive for change allows the process to remain dynamic and bouys hope for a better societal organisation. In Rojava’s Jinwar female liberation in the social sphere is tied to healing, communal and individual. Female struggle has the potential to bind and beautify.

Bibliography

“Nothing heals more than freedom” – Şîfa Jin healing center in Jinwar

https://anfenglishmobile.com/women/all-set-for-opening-of-Sifajin-health-center-in-jinwar-40795

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/jinwar-syria-north-patriarchy-kurdish-women-raqqa-a8661866.html

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/jinwar-syria-north-patriarchy-kurdish-women-raqqa-a8661866.html

https://www.elle.com/culture/career-politics/a29700409/jinwar-all-women-village-syria-kurdistan/

Şîfa Jin: We want to defend the health of society

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-03-15/jinwar-female-only-commune-victims-of-islamic-state-syria/12029818

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