Margaret Owen, who recently returned from Rojava, wrote this letter in response to an article in the Guardian today:
JANUARY 14TH 2014
It is vital that the international community does not ignore the needs of Rojava, the Kurdistan region of Western Syria, now home to over 260,000 IDPs (Internally displaced persons), 90% of whom are women and children. (Drops in the ocean, January 14th). They include Arabs, Christians, Assyrians, Alawites, and other minorities; many of the women are widows, wives of the “disappeared”, and victims of violence, including rape and sexual torture.
These people are “refugees” in all but name, but no humanitarian aid has reached Rojava as yet. These families have urgent multiple and complex needs for shelter, food, clothing, trauma counselling, and their children, deprived of education, desperately need schooling and support.
The PYD (the Kurdish Democratic Union party) through their interim transitional administration established in 2013, have made Rojava the only safe part of Syria, and as the killings and violence continue in the rest of the country, it will be host to ever more numbers of vulnerable people unable to cross to neighboring countries.
I have just returned from Rojava and have seen how the IDPs are living, (there are no camps as in neighboring countries), in unfinished buildings, office spaces, in Kurdish families’ own small apartments, in fact anywhere that can be found where there is a roof and walls. Often there is no electricity, little heating, and food is scarce. Children are showing signs of malnutrition. The mental health problems of women and children are severe, as a consequence of their experiences. On the borders, the YPG ( the People’s Protection Unit), in which young women form at least half the armed force, are defending the villages against the constant attacks from al-Qaida militias and rescuing the terrified families from this violence.
In Rojava, the PYD have established what should be and could be a model for a new post conflict Syria, because it has actually implemented, at every level of society, in practical terms, its guarantees of equality, including gender equality, freedom of belief, human rights and justice. They are caring for all those fleeing the violence, irrespective of their religion or ethnicity. They desperately need humanitarian aid and financial and technical support., Also, of course, the Syria Kurds must have proper representation at the Geneva peace talks next week. They must not be sidelined.