Hevi Ibrahim, named prime minister of the Kurdish Afrin Canton declared by the Democratic Union Party (PYD) last week, says that women are “leading the revolution” in Rojava (Syrian Kurdistan) and elsewhere. “We exist and we are here,” she says about the administrations also declared by the PYD last month in Cizire and Kobani. In this interview with Rudaw, she says that the declaration of the self-rule administrations was a response to the Geneva II conference, to which the PYD was not invited. Below is an edited transcript of her comments:
Rudaw: You declared the autonomous Afrin Canton on Wednesday. What are your feelings and thoughts about this? What does this declaration mean?
Hevi Ibrahim: We hope to fulfill our people’s expectations, their demands. We will try to do our duty to our people and their needs in the following days. This administration has been put together by the people of this region and their free will. We have already been governing the Ciyaye Kurmenc (Kurdish Mountain) region and Afrin area. However, international powers have not realized this yet. The declaration of this administration was a great answer to them. We exist and we are here. This self-rule administration has been the best response to Geneva II. Since they did not invite us there, we will not recognize any decision that will be made by them.
Rudaw: As a woman, how is it to be the head of an administration in a region like the Middle East?
Hevi Ibrahim: It might be an interesting situation for the Middle East, but it is not for the Kurds. We have many Kurdish women who have led their communities in the past. There are many examples before me. I just follow their path. Especially in Afrin, and throughout the Rojava Region, women are leading the revolution.
Rudaw: In addition to being a woman, you are also an Alevi Kurd, which is another oppressed identity.
Hevi Ibrahim: Yes, that is correct. The place that I was born, Mabada, is a Kurdish-Alevi town. The Alevi struggle is very old, since they have been suppressed for many years. Alevis have had the idea of freedom and democracy for a very long time. I’m sure this suppressed Alevi identity has an impact on me and where I am today. However, my Kurdish identity is the main identity and we do not act differently towards any nations or beliefs.
Rudaw: Are other ethnic and religious elements involved in your government?
Hevi Ibrahim: Absolutely! There are Yezidis and Kurdish-Alevis. Two Arab tribes are involved in the cabinet. For instance, one of my assistants, Mustafa Abdulhamid, is an Arab and the minister of international relations, Suleiman Jafer, is a Yezidi Kurd.
Rudaw: You are talking about a multi-cultured structure of the society and the administration. You also talked about how the big powers did not want to take you all into consideration. What do you think the reason is for that?
Hevi Ibrahim: The interests of some powers conflict with what Kurds stand for. They think that if Kurds gain their freedom it will bring many changes and they are worried about this. In other words, Kurdish freedom is against their interest.
Rudaw: What do you plan on doing to gain the support of the international community and world public opinion?
Hevi Ibrahim: Right now we are celebrating the newly declared self-rule administration with our people. We will definitely decide on how we will build relationships with them. Also, we will certainly build relationships with non-governmental and governmental organizations as well.
Rudaw: We know that Afrin has been under an embargo for a long time. What’s the current situation like?
Hevi Ibrahim: True! The Kurdish Mountain Region has been under an embargo for months now. However, the effort and the struggle of our people are great. Our people share everything, happiness, sadness, whatever they own, with each other and they’re just trying to have a decent lifestyle. That’s why they’re resisting against the existing blockade. We are hoping that this embargo will end soon.
Rudaw: The active role of women in Rojava has received the attention of many American and European journalists. As a woman, do you have a message for Kurdish and all the other women in the world?
Hevi Ibrahim: I want all women, particularly Kurdish women, to be successful. And I can state that Kurdish women will lead all the other women in the world. We want the women of Rojava to participate in self-rule in the administrative level. We want them to work more, because women have always been ignored in the past. Women in Rojava have led the revolution. For this very reason, they need to take their very well deserved posts in the administrations. I would like to get the attention of all the Kurds’ and democratic institutions via the media. They should support and help us build this administration strongly. Both humanitarian and any other type of help is needed in order to maintain, protect, our newly established self-rule administration.