Meet the LGBT anarchists who've gone to Syria to fight Isis

  • Posted on: 31 July 2017
  • By: thecollective

From The Independent

The Syrian civil war has unleashed untold misery for millions of people caught between an authoritarian government, Islamic extremists and bombing by foreign nations.

But the last six years of darkness have also created the conditions for what is possibly the most enlightened revolutionary movement on the planet – the Kurdish people’s attempt to seize their own destiny from others’ hands. Women in particular have banded together to play a crucial part in the fight against Isis’ brutality – and now, LGBT individuals are doing the same. 

Long marginalised by the Baathist regime in Damascus, after repelling government forces in 2012 Syria’s Kurds have managed to carve out a relatively peaceful and stable new societal order based in Rojava in the north east, flourishing despite the presence of enemies such as Isis on all sides.

The armed revolution has been the most successful ground force against Isis, and with the help of US firepower is now battling the militants for control of Raqqa, the extremists’ last urban stronghold.

While the Kurdish project has encountered criticism, its wholehearted embrace of feminist principles makes it unlike any other militarised movement in the world.

Women’s emancipation at the forefront of the Kurdish sociopolitical agenda, and the YPJ, or women’s fighting units, have a frontline role in taking on Assad’s army and allied militias, Turkish-backed forces, and Isis.

The female fighters often inspire the Arab and Yazidi women they liberate to take up arms themselves, and the movement has attracted hundreds of foreign fighters in the same spirit of the international socialists and communists who volunteered to fight fascism during the Spanish Civil War.

raqqa-city-3.png
The YPJ, or women’s fighting units, have a frontline role in taking on Isis (International Revolutionary People’s Guerrilla Forces)

Now, after years of fighting which have honed both their battlefield skills and tested commitment to socialist ideals, a new chapter in the revolution’s history has been announced: the creation of the first ever LGBT military unit.

The Queer Insurrection and Liberation Army (TQILA, pronounced “tequila”) is a new unit attached to the anarchist International Revolutionary People’s Guerrilla Forces (IRPGF), a relatively recently established fighting force in Syria’s north-east allied with the YPG, or Kurdish People's Protection Units.

“We, the International Revolutionary People’s Guerrilla Forces (IRPGF) formally announce the formation of The Queer Insurrection and Liberation Army (TQILA), a subgroup of the IRPGF comprised of LGBTQI+ comrades as well as others who seek to smash the gender binary and advance the women’s revolution as well as the broader gender and sexual revolution,” a statement from the group released on Monday said.

A spokesperson for TQILA would not give identifying details about the unit’s members backgrounds because of security concerns, but said that fighters came from a range of countries, as well as the Middle East’s ethnic groups.

The volunteers had been brought together by a shared desire to combat forces such as Isis which persecutes LGBT individuals, Heval (or “friend”) Rojhilat said by secure email.

“TQILA’s members have watched in horror as fascists and extremist forces around the world have attacked the Queer community and murdered countless of our community members citing that they are ‘ill’, ‘sick’, and ‘unnatural’.

“The images of gay men being thrown off roofs and stoned to death by Daesh was something we could not idly watch.”

Indeed, the fight for LGBT equality and for physical freedom from oppression reach a zenith in the fight against Isis, Heval Rojhilat said.

“As Queers from and currently in the Middle East… one of the most radical acts we can do is to announce our existence to people and governments who have and continue to claim that we do not exist.

“We exist and we fight against tyranny, oppression and domination with the people, who seeing us, have come to love us for who we are and not as a stereotype or something to be feared.”

One Kurdish gay rights activist The Independent spoke to who currently lives outside the region said he remained sceptical of TQILA’s supposed goals – and what he called the “militarisation of sexual orientation”. He was also critical of Kurdish attitudes towards LGBT individuals in general, which he said forced him to flee for fear of his own safety a few years ago.

rocket-hits-ph.png
With the help of US firepower the armed revolution is now battling the militants for control of Raqqa (International Revolutionary People’s Guerrilla Forces)

The new unit’s spokesperson acknowledged that “there are segments of Kurdish society which retain feudal and conservative attitudes”, but pointed out that during training Kurdish troops undertake classes in which theories of sexuality and gender are critically discussed.

“The fact that these theories are being analysed and spoken about by one of the largest leftist guerrilla forces in the world, in the midst of a revolution and war, is transformative and inspiring,” Heval Rojhilat said.  

And besides – the time for passivity in the face of oppression is over, he said, adding: “Self-defence is a right and duty for our community and for others who are also facing oppression, domination and exploitation.”

Abdullah Ocalan – the leader of the outlawed PKK Kurdish movement in neighbouring Turkey – uses the metaphor of a rose to describe women’s liberation.

He says that the rose is beautiful but it has thorns to protect itself. Likewise, women must protect and defend themselves against both the state and patriarchal oppression – hence the creation of the women’s fighting units.

“(TQILA) believes that this principle also applies to gender and sexual minorities,” he said. “We want peace but if attacked and continually repressed, like the rose, we have thorns and we will strike back.”

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Comments

wallk in the park near a moslem gest house that meets every thusday night and ssee how many mosses come up to ya for alight give them a light and its lights out for you and your shopping, thess cats don't like people walking in the dark,for thse strangest reasons,like trump spos.

They've gone, but will they comeback?

...which supports materially and militarily the so-called "experiment" in Rojava. Such is the logic of the so-called anti-imperialists - the logic of choosing between the frying pan and the fire.

But who needs logic when the idea is to seek "adventure" in anywhere else other than where you live normally.

At least ISIS don't pretend to be anything but scum.

I'd say they are more rationalistic with their relations with vastly superior foreign powers. For instances of (hypocritical) demented anti-imperialists you can look at the plethora of jihadist groups like Al Qaeda and Daesh who, while fighting Assad/Russia and/or the US and other Western powers have been taking big money and weapons for these same sources.

Like it's not within Rojava that you'll see these mafia schemes of "rebel" families getting paid to recruit and brainwash Arab children to torture and slaughter for Allah.

Yeah, they obviously meant the anarchist adventurists, not the kurds themselves. To be clear, I respect anyone willing to fly to the other end of the planet to get shot at for principles of liberation, a modern version of the travellers to catalonia around 36 but it IS adventurism. Big risks, big gains, slightly fucked up context.

My own comrade who travelled there to be a front-line medic was saying how the social media whoring by the revolutionary pilgrims is a bit crass and surreal. But documenting these things is obviously powerful and important so whatever … it's just the spectacle.

"Aventurism" is a stupid pseudo paradigm. I could call you as well a Sedetarist, Hyperlocalist or something... Relevance to put such divisive and shallow labels on other people?

Furthermore, international anarchism is what it's about. The international brigades in '36 were internationalists, which means revolutionaries for whom national boundaries are no limitations to their struggle. Internationalist is the term, not adventurist.

It's only a dichotomy to you. The reality is that theres some weird dynamics when relatively wealthy people from the far side of the world travel there and take selfies with assault rifles. My friend (who was there) spoke at length about this, how the locals are often annoyed by the "tourists", how some of them tend to be on social media, posturing instead of doing much work and how the locals have to babysit them and resent it.

This can all be true AS WELL AS the more inspiring things some people are taking from it. It's an exciting tendency, I agree and social media makes self-absorbed, jackasses out of people, even in a war zone. If you prefer the rose-coloured glasses, that's nothing to do with me ;)

My friend also just told me that you're a foul-mouthed tankie, blablablabla...

Nice to hear reports from local people about those LGBT anarcho-tourists but unless I got confirmation from the ground of such abusive behavior by travelling SJWs, I'll take it as just more attempt at slandering on your part, in conjunction with that poor labelling (not naming) as "Adventurism".

Oh did you think I'm referring to the article? I didn't mean these queer folks specifically, I'm not singling them out. Also, you seem to be ignoring my original point about respecting all of them regardless of their "adventurism".

Apparently you really don't like this word but why should I care if you do?

I think that Rojava is going to be very interesting on a historical level. It seems to be this interesting mix of Catalonia and Israel, I hope it at least turns out more like the former and actually lasts a little. I'm no anarchist anymore(accept on paper) but I am preferable to seeing some type of preferable political economy at least succeed for a little while. Like Catalonia 36-39 was for First International 1886 anarchism this could also be a last hurrah for the post WW2 1968 brand of anarchism.

Nothing to die for though.

Glad you cleared that up Ziggy! I was totally picturing you posing in fatigues with an assault rifle.

The most significant thing that would substantially distinguish a successful Rojava from Israel would be the absence of ultra-rich Western benefactors. Beyond that the cultural and historical differences aren't that important. Both are/were a progressive democratic project backed by contradictory imperialist interests, setting to install a modern, equalitarian, secular State in the Middle-East up against several violent, ultra-conservative and incredibly retrograde politics in the Arab world.

the viciousness with which the colonizing states and their allies that use sovereigntism as their authoritarian control device seek to exterminate fledgling 'brotherhood' [or 'anarchist'] based societies IS 'retrograde' politics.

millions die and live in hellish conditions as the backers of sovereign states (US, Russia, France, Britain etc.) persist in forcing people back into the slave-kennels of colonizer-imposed sovereign states that they originally imposed on the peoples of the middle east.

Somehow, scenes of beheadings sway Western 'civilized' people/observers more than scenes of mothers and children blasted into bloody bits by bombs and missiles paid for by the civilized peoples, who are entertained by such shock and awe stuff, a spectacle that the media brings to in the comfort of our living rooms or in restaurants and by the pool, on our cells, which we continue to subsidize, with full personal impunity, in the interests of 'bringing democracy to the middle east' [reinforcing the imposing of sovereign statism in the middle east that we put in there in the first place.].

this most conservative and retrograde politics of penning people up in sovereign states was imposed on the people of the middle east by Euro-American colonizers, and the 'civil war' in Syria is between those, like Assad and their colonizer-backers, that enjoy the power over others that sovereign statism facilitates, versus those seeking more 'anarchistic' approaches to social dynamics balancing/harmony-sustaining.

you seem to be promoting militarily imposed sovereigntism as 'progressive politics' and a desirable norm so long as it is in the form of "a modern, equalitarian, secular State".

As for Rojava, they are emerging in a relative no-man's land so that they don't yet show up on the global colonizer alliance's radar screen as a target-in-itself. Athough there is CURRENTLY NO VISIBLE outside-inward (epigenetic) influence inductively actualizing, orchestrating and shaping their 'genetic development', it is inevitably present [i.e. it is, like all relational (field) influence, non-local, non-visible and non-material].

if new communities are to survive, this will depend on maintaining balanced relations with their neighbours, and this tends to shift the influence on their development to the matrix of state leaders, each of whom are generally commanders-in-chief of their state's military within a sovereign state architecture.

imagine a 'cuba' or anarcho-communist community with land-borders on all sides to neighbours who were US secular sovereign state clones. How long would it take for the global colonizer matrix to sow Rojava with 'rebel groups' [as the US has done in Libya and elsewhere] which can rise up from within Rojava to consolidate their power by shaking hands with the global colonizer alliance 'out there' and plug into the global colonizer power grid.

Do the nodes in the matrix shape the relations of the matrix or does the matrix of relations shape the nodes? Perhaps BOTH epigenetics AND genetics are in operation within an epigenetic-genetic nonduality, as in Mach's principle.

there are two understandings of 'self' in the nietzschean view, the symmetries of which can be compared in the Catalonian-anarchist and Zionist-Israel movements.

1. The 'little sagacity ego' is the sense of self that is the doer of deeds. It is a the vision of self as the logical-positivist genetic (jumpstart source of generative action). It is the beginning of 'identity politics'.

2. The 'big sagacity natural Self' is the sense of self in terms of the continual engaging of situational influence (epigenetic influence) and genetic response, as with storm-cell-in-flow. It is a relational view of self that is beyond 'Identity politics'.

3. The 'spook' refers to the double error of grammar, in noun-and-verb language, that gives the illusion that there is no epigenetic influence (the primary influence in physical reality) and that what we see happening; i.e. 'genetic expression' (the secondary aspect in the epigenetic-genetic nonduality) is 'caused' by a logically positive driving force in the centre of the genetic expression. This is a spook, because epigenetic influence [relational deficiency or need] inductively actualizes and orchestrates genetic expression and to impute the existence of some Director or Head as being causally responsible for the genetic expression is 'delusion'.

Naturally forming communities or 'nations' rise up within the relational situational context they are situationally included in. epigenetic influence is the leader and genetic expression is the follower in the community as an epigenetic-genetic nonduality [this symmetry is affirmed in research into epigenetics e.g. by Eva Jablonka and others].

Catalonia was an attempt to remove the spook 'head' or 'central authority' which believers in dualist 'semantic reality' had created as the notional jumpstart 'genetic agency' responsible for genetic expression (in denial of the primary source, situation-induced (epigenetic) actualizing influence.

The headless Catalonian uprising was open to lateral (headless) mutual support influence on a global basis (no identity politics involved). this corresponds to the big sagacity natural Self

The Zionist movement was based on identity politics which sought to create a local 'centre' of genetic agency (Israel) which would be 'independent' of the world around it, but instead ends up depending for its persisting existence on the fascist global alliance of colonizing powers (the cult of identity politics practicing sovereigntist states)

N.B. Stirner did not study 'evolution' as Nietzsche did so that 'the individual' in Stirner's terms, while inflating out to become 'everything', fails to acknowledge the nondualist view as captured by Nietzsche, so it is lacking the evolutionary grounding. This is like simply promoting Atman to Brahman (ego-inflation) without acknowledging them to be complementary aspects of an Atman-Brahman nonduality as with inhabitant and habitat as a nonduality.

It was the headfulness (egotism) of identity politics that got the jewish people in trouble in their diaspora phase, and Zionism was a politics of 'if you can't beat them, join them (the cult of identity politics and little sagacity egotism).

if one reviews the emergence and growth of named states that make up a patchwork on the spherical surface of the earth, we see these patches grow and shrink and swallow or partly swallow their neighbours and be swallowed or partly swallowed by their neighbours, the 'personifying' of a 'patch' like Poland [see 'The Changing Borders of Poland' ] or Rojava, a question arises as to whether it makes sense to treat an individual patch as a 'thing-in-itself' with its own internal process-driven behaviour, or whether as a relational feature inductively actualized by the relational dynamics of the relational 'suprasystem' it is included in.

In fact, as has been pointed out many times by philosophers, it is noun-and-verb language that puts us in the habit of converting relational features into notional 'things-in-themselves', notionally animated by 'their own internal processes', when the physical reality is that "epigenetic influence inductively actualizes, orchestrates and shapes these emerging relational features".

Of course, the historians of the individual patches will present the development and behaviour of THEIR 'patch' in terms that make it appear as if the internal constituents and their actions have been causally responsible for the patch's development and behaviour.

Conversely, exceptionally performing teams suspend their 'ego' and let their identity 'float', focusing first on cultivating and sustaining balance and harmony in their relations with their neighbours. That is, they accept that they 'are' the matrix of relations they are uniquely, situationally included in.

This is 'anarchism' in the sense that epigenetically induced relational activity is 'headless'; i.e. it is not directed by a control centre, although many tend to talk about it as if that were the case.

Languages, in trying to capture nature's dynamics, have to deal with the ambiguity as to whether a relational figure ('organism') is 'situationally induced'
by the relational dynamics it is included in, ... or 'intention-driven from out of its own centre'. The 'plain talking' of noun-and-verb language users habitually opts for the latter, while the 'relational talk' of relational languages users put the former in its natural primacy over the latter within a patch-quilt non-duality.

Insofar as Rojava 'suspends its ego-self' and acknowledges its natural Self as a nexus in a matrix of inter-patch relations, it will be an 'anarchist' state.

Naming a thing-in-itself doesn't make it a relational feature if in stating a patchwork of named growth that make up on the spherical surface of the earth, we review the emergence and grow and shrink and swallow or partly swallow these patches as they see their neighbours and be swallowed or partly swallowed by Poland [see 'The Changing Poland of Borders' ] or Rojava, a question arises as to whether it makes sense to treat their neighbours, the 'personifying' of a 'patch' like an individual patch as a ' relational feature inductively actualized by the thing-in-itself' with its own internal process-driven behaviour, or whether as noun-and-verb language dynamics of the relational 'suprasystem' it is included in by relational philosophers, as a relational dynamics of the relational 'suprasystem' that puts us in the habit of converting relational 'things-in-themselves', features into "epigenetic influence inductively actualizes, orchestrates and shapes these emerging relational features" notionally animated by 'their own notional internal processes', when the physical reality is that, the historians as the internal constituents and their actions, having been causally responsible for the individual patches , will present the development and behaviour of THEIR performing teams in terms that make it appear as if for the patch's development and behaviour, conversely, and exceptionally suspending their balance and harmony in their relations with their neighbours' 'ego' and let their identity focus first on the matrix of relations they are uniquely, situationally included in cultivating and sustaining a 'headless'; 'anarchism' in the sense that epigenetically induced relational activity is and is not directed by a control centre, although many tend to talk about it as if languages have to deal with the ambiguity as to whether a relational figure ('organism') is 'situationally induced' by the relational dynamics it is included in trying to capture nature's dynamics, 'plain talking' of noun-and-verb language users habitually opting for 'intention-driven from out of its own 'relational talk' of relational languages users put the former in its natural centre' over the latter within a primacy non-duality 'suspending its ego-self' and acknowledging its natural Self as a nexus in an 'anarchist' matrix of inter-patch relations, becoming a patch-quilt state, as I was only saying to the woman next door over a cup of coffee this afternoon (unfortunately she slit her own throat half-way through the conversation).

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