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FARC-EP Commander Nariño: Kurdish women’s struggle is an example

By Mahir Yılmazkaya. Kôbane

Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia -People’s Army (FARC-EP) Commander Alexandra Nariño and member of the Delegation of Peace spoke to ANF about the role of women in the struggle for freedom.

Nariño pointed out that women on the other side of the world are admiring Kurdish women’s struggle against an enemy that was created by Western countries. “We are all fighting against that same enemy of mankind that causes social and economic inequality, oppression of the weak and environmental damage. Your struggle is an example for many women around the world, and especially for us, female guerrilla combatants of the FARC-EP.”

Question: Have women been able to elude themselves from societal and religious norms during their involvement in the revolutionary struggle? Could they build their own initiative within the struggle?

Answer: This is precisely the reason why every time more and more girls and young women join our movement – right now almost a 40% of our force consists of women! They want to elude a patriarcal society, where the only future they face is to raise their children en work at home and on the land. Tough lives, and they don’t get paid for it. Then they join the FARC-EP – at the beginning, it is hard for everybody (men and women) to get adapted to gender equality; in the guerrilla they do the same work, go to combat, wash their clothes, cook, study. And slowly, women start to feel they can also get responsibilities, that they can also be commanders. They start changing their view of themselves and of society; an important process, which implies conflicts, both within people’s heads and outside of it.

Q: Many women within the struggle or those who abandoned it, are seen to be taking the form of the role cast by society, to which cases of Isabel Londoño and Ana Pacheco could be cited as a concrete instance. What would you have to say in this regard?

A: The fact that women sometimes take the role society wants them to, is completely natural to me, and it part of a process in which sometimes revolutionary values win, sometimes not. The way in which society as a whole reacts to these kinds of things is more concerning, in my opinion. Colombia hasn’t paid much attention to the role women have played here in Havana, but when two women appear almost naked in a magazine “to promote peace for Colombia”, society sees it as the “feminization of the peace process”. Our struggle for women’s rights and our labors here in Havana are ignored by the mass media, because it is not “hot”, we are not “beautiful”, we are too normal to be interesting. That says a lot about Colombian society and about the world in general.

Q. What sort of a transformation was experienced within the revolutionary struggle by women who had been through a standardisation in line with the general social perception? What has been and will be done for this transformation?

A: Within our ranks, our rules establish that men and women have the same rights and duties. This in itself means a transformation for women who have been used to be subdued to men all their lives. They are given responsibilities, command, and this practice implies a transformation in their minds a lot of times.

Q: What is the difference between the women within your movement and those outside it? Which efforts have you made to lessen this difference?

A: Some women within the movement have a clearer perception of the fact that they are social transformers, leaders who struggle for social justice. They are more assertive, and have learned to stand up for their rights, which includes their rights to receive an gender equitative treatment. Women outside of the movement sometimes have a more limited view of the world and their future. But it is important to note that also within social and rural organizations, women are starting to play a more important role every day, and that within these organizations, there are many women who are leaders and whom we admire a lot. In conclusion, we learn from each other, women in and outside the movement.

Q: While working for social peace, do you also have talks with women activists and women’s movements? What do they offer to and demand from you?

A: There are very strong women’s movements and feminist movements in Colombia and they are growing every day. The relationship with some of them is very close, with others we are just starting to establish a relationship. One strong demand from those organizations was to create the gender subcommission at the peace talks in Havana. The women wanted to feel represented at the peace talks and their pressure made that it was indeed created, two years ago. The subcommission, composed by women from the FARC-EP and the Government, has counted with strong support and participation of those organizations, they have sent us many proposals in order to include a gender perspective in the agreements, and some of them have even visited us here in Havana. Their input is of great value to us and we have had some interesting meetings and interchange of experiences and knowledge.

Q: What is your objective with regards to the existence of women, their labour, production and development in society for particularly Colombia?

A: Our objective is to achieve a society free of discrimination and violence based on class, gender, race, ethnicity or anything else. This means to have a society in which women receive the same salary as men for the same work, but also a society without feminicides, domestic violence, acid attacks and sexual violence. We are convinced that within capitalism, it will be difficult to achieve such a society, but this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t aim at it and fight for women’s rights at the same time as waging a class struggle.

 Q: What is the role of women in peace talks? Do you consider making laws for women?

A: We are 40 members of the FARC-EP now here in Havana, of which 15 are women. Some of us are sitting at the Conversation Table, others are in communication labors, camarawomen or editors. In the Gender Subcommission, as I said, the inclusion of a gender perspective is being discussed, which implies to include non sexist language but also temporary special measures for women to access to credits on the countryside, for example. The problem is not so much about making laws, because they exist in Colombia, the problem is about implementing them and also reaching a mentality change.

Q: As is known very well, there is an ISIS trouble storming through the world. And, there is a reality of Kurdish women fighting against ISIS darkness in Shengal, Kobanê and other places. At what level is your relations with Kurdish women’s movement, especially with the YPJ in Rojava?

A: We have had contact with female comrades from the PKK, we have send them video messages and we have interviewed them for our website www.mujerfariana.com. We have learned a lot about their way of thinking and organizing. Specifically with the YPJ in Rojava we haven’t had personal contact, but we maintain informed about their heroic struggle through social networks and through the news. We have learned about their close relationship with civilian women, we have seen videos of it. They are full of coherence, courage and solidarity.

Q: Combatants from Kurdish women’s movement, whose hearts and thoughts are with you, are sending revolutionary greetings to their female combatants within FARC-EP. Do you have any call or message to the Kurdish women fighting ISIS barbarism?

A: We just want you to know that there are women on the other side of the world who are admiring your struggle against an enemy that was created by Western countries. We are all fighting against that same enemy of mankind that causes social and economic inequality, oppression of the weak and environmental damage. Your struggle is an example for many women around the world, and especially for us, female guerrilla combatants of the FARC-EP.

** Mahir Yılmazkaya is: Journalist. Colaborating with  ANF (Fırat News) and  ANHA (Hawar News).

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