The conflict in Syria and the weakening of the centralised state has allowed for the emergence of different forms of governance throughout the country. The withdrawal of the Syrian state from certain regions in northern Syria has permitted change in the political and social life of local inhabitants, particularly those living in what is called the “Democratic Federation of Northern Syria”, more commonly known by its Kurdish name, “Rojava”. These political changes are especially pertinent with regard to the role of women in society, and have led to the establishment of the first women-only village in the Middle East, Jinwar.
Jinwar, meaning Land of Women in Kurdish, has been set up by a group of female volunteers living close to the Kabas Mountain, near Derbasiyah, located in the north-eastern Hasakah Governorate of Syria. The village provides a sanctuary for those women who have felt the severe repercussions of the war in Syria and seek to find refuge away from the societal pressures of their former abodes.
The village will comprise a total of 30 houses, of which 21 have been erected so far. Around 200 Arab, Assyrian and Kurdish women are expected to inhabit the village. Life in the village will be based on the tenets of the ideology prevalent in many Kurdish-dominated parts of northern Syria and south-eastern Turkey, namely the ideals espoused by Abdullah Ocalan, which are grounded in democratic confederalism, ecological sustainability, gender equality, and communal life.
The founders of Jinwar plan to develop an environmentally friendly and self-sufficient economy, built on raising livestock, growing wheat and barley, planting trees, and establishing greenhouses to grow vegetables. Women will be expected to work together and provide for themselves, while taking only produce that will meet their daily needs. The focus on agriculture is part and parcel of the existential element of the abovementioned ideology, in which it is argued that forming a bond between man/woman and the land paves the way for a more productive and meaningful life. The culture that arises from this symbiotic relationship is meant to enhance the communal and individual spirit. The proposed economic system, which seeks to steer away from both market-based and central command economies, is also meant to allow for more time devoted to artistic expression.
The intent behind the Jinwar project is to provide a safe haven for women in Syria who have suffered from the ravages of war and seek to develop an alternative way of life in the Middle East that challenges the social and political systems imbibed with structural violence based on gender and class. In addition, this project aims to tackle the issue of ethnic, denominational and tribal divisions in Middle Eastern societies.
The continuation of military clashes across Syria, including parts of “Rojava”, and the instability of the geopolitical situation of the region, especially tensions between the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and the Turkish state, may prove to act as obstacles to the Jinwar project. Nevertheless, such initiatives are expected to receive protection from military units that represent “Rojava”, including the People’s Protection Units (YPG).
Image: Jinwar Youtube