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      The Rise of Feminism in the PKK: Ideology or Strategy?



            Studies on women in nationalist guerrilla movements, such as in Sri Lanka and Angola, find that women's militancy has not lead to changes in traditional patriarchal structures. Contradicting much of the current literature, today Kurdish women have gained substantial equality in the PKK, and the Party's ideology actively promotes a subversion of traditional gender structures. Using existing interviews with militants and academic literature, I will give a nuanced view of the progressive transition of the PKK's political ideology on women. During the early 1990s, the PKK's emancipatory stance and reinterpretation of Kurdish myths were employed pragmatically to increase women's participation. However, patriarchal structures remained unchanged and female militants were merely handed over from a patriarchal family to a patriarchal party. Despite this, the autonomous Women's Army (YJAK) became a “safe space” from which self-organized and armed women actively influenced the PKK's ideology and practice. Legitimized by the PKK's own emancipatory propaganda, the YJAK pushed the party towards a more radical feminist agenda by loyally aligning themselves to the “father figure” Öcalan during setbacks in the late 1990s. The current prominence of the PKK's feminist agenda suggests female militants can undermine and challenge patriarchal structures from within the structure of a nationalist movement.


            Author and article information

            Zanj: The Journal of Critical Global South Studies
            Pluto Journals
            1 July 2018
            : 2
            : 1 ( doiID: 10.13169/zanjglobsoutstud.2.issue-1 )
            : 115-133
            University of Venice
            © 2018 Global South Research Consortium

            All content is freely available without charge to users or their institutions. Users are allowed to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search, or link to the full texts of the articles in this journal without asking prior permission of the publisher or the author. Articles published in the journal are distributed under a http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.

            Custom metadata

            Political science,Political & Social philosophy,Movements,Epistemology,Cultural studies,Philosophy of culture
            PKK,guerrilla groups,feminism,ethnonationalism,Ocalan,female militancy,Kurdish question


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