Topics such as ethics-aesthetics, free life in partnership, Xwebûn, the transformation of the male are the subjects that generate the most lively discussions and interest. In these courses, the most intimate issues, which are often referred to as private life, can be discussed and questioned without any anxiety.
Education is a woman’s work in its current and historical dimension, and at the same time it is the most fundamental vital duty of society. We state this as women of a society that has deeply suffered the pain of states and sovereign men taking away this basic vital responsibility from us. Before explaining our pedagogical approaches, educational methods, curricula and how our academies are shaped within the scope of Jineolojî, we need to talk a little about the social reality of Kurdistan. Because every society needs an education in which its members can define and make sense of themselves, sustain their lives, defend themselves, and live freely within their cultural and social realities. For colonised genders, peoples, classes and societies, education is one of the main areas of the struggle for existence and non-existence. The peoples who have lived in the fertile crescent or Mesopotamia for thousands of years and the Kurds, one of these peoples, have their own education system. Kurds are one of the Aryan peoples in the region, known as Hurri, Mittani, Medes, Karduka, etc., and have always lived in the same region until today. Education, which has been a social activity since long before the emergence of the state, has played a role in preparing the individual for social life in Kurdish society as it has in many other societies. It is developed through methods that enable the individual to form a personality that will enable him/her to participate freely in society.
We find traces of this in the etymological meanings of the Kurdish words perwerde, meaning education, and fêrbûn, hînbun, hebûn, meaning learning. The word perwerde comes from a root associated with giving wings, preparing for flight and also with love. The suffix bûn at the end of the word learn expresses formation. This conceptual root shows that education is not handled with an approach that dictates and moulds. An educational approach that mobilises the inner potential of the individual is the pedagogical approach of the ancient culture of these lands. Education is defined as a process of formation that enables the individual to stand on their own feet and fly.
In Zoroastrianism, the oldest belief system of the Kurds, children are prepared for society with the maturation ceremonies called navjota, and they undergo a rigorous education before these ceremonies. Today, the belief systems of Yaresan, Kakai, Zoroastrian, Yazidi and Alevi Kurds contain traces of the education methods of these ancient periods. Each family and individual has a teacher called ‘pîr’ who teaches them religious and vital knowledge. This is known as a guide rather than a hierarchical layer. This is a lifelong relationship. At certain times of the year, individuals go through a process of criticism and self-criticism in front of their own communities in ceremonies called cem, sema or dara çekme. This is also a way of establishing the bond of knowledge and life. It aims to provide people with a philosophy of life. In fact, the philosophical approach of these beliefs is characterised by the love of humanity, nature and communal life values. Due to the massacres and attacks, the philosophical thoughts of these communities are continued through music and stories, but they cannot be transformed into modern educational institutions.
In Yazidis, Qewller, Alevi, Yaresan and Kakai communities, poems with philosophical contents called _gulbang _or deyish, performed with music, fulfil this function. Especially in Yaresan communities, there are dozens of women poets who recite these poems. Today, however, they have turned into rituals rather than educational subjects that meet social needs, and have largely lost their original function and purpose. Among the Kurds belonging to the Hanafi and Shafi’i sects, madrasas have fulfilled this function. The madrasas that provided education in Kurdish made great contributions to the development of Kurdish language and literature. Philosophy, history and literature were also taught in these madrasas. A very limited number of women also had the opportunity to study in these institutions. But in general, except for the aristocratic class, there was no such thing as women being sent to school in Kurdistan. Due to the colonial status of Kurdistan, the society’s own educational experience and institutions were denigrated and Kurdish society was portrayed as an ignorant society that needed to be educated and civilised.
In the last two centuries, education for Kurds has acquired a meaning that is the opposite of the etymological meaning of the concept. Colonialist education has almost become a tool for the Kurds to ‘cease to be themselves’. In Kurdistan, which has been divided into four parts, children do not receive education in their mother tongue, but go through educational processes that instill Arab, Persian and Turkish nationalism into their minds. For decades, Kurdish children have been traumatized by schools where the mother tongue and identity they speak at home are ignored. Assimilated in these schools by Turkification, Persianisation or Arabisation, children are alienated from their own society, forget their language and are condemned to de-identification. Since women are not allowed to study or work due to patriarchal feudal traditions, they are deprived of the right to education. This situation has led to their oppression within the family and society. However, it also prevented them from being assimilated in colonial institutions and led Kurdish women to become the protectors of their mother tongue and Kurdish culture. Without questioning colonialism, liberal women’s movements worked with the state to ensure that Kurdish women could read through various campaigns. Kurdish children, and women in particular, were forcibly separated from their families in some regions and assimilated by being educated in regional boarding schools in different cities.
Despite all this, the young people who were able to study recognised colonialism and capitalism with the influence of the world revolutionary movements and realised that Kurdistan was also a colony. With the influence of the 1968 youth movement, the PKK and its leader Abdullah Öcalan, who emerged from among university students, made education the most fundamental revolutionary work. The activities that started by reading and discussing books in student commune houses and transforming these discussions into written works have revealed the academy model, which today determines the educational approach of the Kurdistan freedom movement and today’s Jineolojî.
Beginning with military, political and philosophical training in the camps of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, and then in the academy in Damascus for decades, these activities revealed a unique pedagogical approach and academy model. Thousands of people were trained in these academies. In every field from guerrilla camps, student and worker communes, neighbourhoods and villages to academic fields, the pedagogical approach revealed by this experience has been taken as a basis. Academies were established in every area where the Kurdistan freedom movement was effective. These academies continue to carry out educational work uninterruptedly.
Since 2004, the organisation model of the Kurdistan Freedom Movement has been the democratic confederal structure. This system is based on communes, assemblies, academies and cooperatives. In this respect, culture and arts, self-defence, women, youth, economy, politics and every field you can think of has its own academy. With the 10-year Rojava revolution, dozens of academies in North and East Syria are carrying out uninterrupted education work. In these academies, institutionalised academy activities are carried out in every field from politics to self-defence, from women’s liberation to economy, from culture and arts to press studies.
A more specialised education system has been developed for women. In these trainings, which are defined as ‘autonomous education’, only women educate themselves and each other. These trainings have a very important role in eliminating the sociological-psychological effects of sexist society and patriarchal traditions on women, and in enabling women to build and run their own spaces with their own self-power. The autonomous trainings have played an empowering role in developing the power of thought, gaining self-confidence, sharing and analysing life experiences carefree, and establishing bonds of comradeship between women. ‘Autonomous trainings’ are also organised for men, but these trainings are given by women. For years, courses such as gender, women’s liberation history and Jineolojî have been taught entirely by women. The work of analysing men’s life experiences and giving perspectives is also undertaken by course commissions consisting of women. These lectures are conducted on the basis of Abdullah Öcalan’s 1996 agenda of killing dominant masculinity and the Kurdistan Women’s Liberation Movement’s project of transforming men. The goals of these courses are the democratisation of the family, the elimination of sexist words and behaviour, and the development of philosophical, scientific, egalitarian and libertarian relations between men and women.
The alternative pedagogical approach of Jineolojî is primarily based on this experience of nearly 50 years. Enriched by the experiences of women’s liberation movements and pedagogical approaches based on analyses of colonialism, it is gradually transforming into a women’s liberationist pedagogical theory and practice in every field. The similarities between women and colonised peoples and communities make this pedagogical approach necessary. For about 8 years, training camps, discussion workshops, academy circuits, seminars, workshops and group workshops and educational activities have been carried out all over the world within the scope of Jineolojî. Mixed trainings are also organised, such as only for women or only for men. The topics and methods chosen are determined according to the needs of the composition. After each training work, opinions on the content and method of the training are taken and these are shared with the Jineolojî academy and studies are developed according to the needs of sociological reality. At this point, if we try to express more concretely, we can express some of the issues that our pedagogical approach wants to produce solutions as follows;
1- The aim of education is to enable the individual and the community to become Xwebûn. The concept of Xwebûn necessitates a connection between existence and consciousness. While the geography we live in, the cultural-social reality in which we are shaped is one side of our existence, the other side is the destruction, assimilation and destruction caused by the ideologies of power. In this respect, learning our sociological historical reality is essential in our pedagogical approach. As we learn about Kurdish social reality, we have the opportunity to update the knowledge of our social reality as well as the dominant colonialist traces in our personalities. The same is even more true for women. We discover women’s life-building, historical wisdom, ecological sensitivity and resistance as well as the exploitation of women by the sexist ideology of power, the patriarchal system and capitalism. By establishing such a connection between existence and consciousness, our trainings fulfil the principle of ‘know yourself’ of the ancient sages.
2- In the trainings, we establish the connection between knowledge and life with the method we call ‘analysing’ (Turkish: çözümleme). In the context of a subject, where the person is in the subject discussed, how he/she applies this knowledge in his/her life or why he/she does not apply it are questioned in a collective manner. For example, when discussing gender, the individual is asked to give examples from his/her childhood or current life, to make analyses, which are then transformed into questions and perspectives for the individual by the school composition. In the educational environment, behaviour can also be the subject of these analyses. In a gender lesson, a man questions the reasons for his underestimation of women and his use of violence. A woman reveals the reasons why she considers herself inadequate and expects men to protect her. This also contributes to socialisation, empathy, getting to know each other and transformation. In every academy, sports, artistic activities, literacy or different technical trainings are also provided.
3- The training venue, instructor and training composition are determined according to the needs and possibilities. The perspective of all educational activities is the academy. Because the academy is a more flexible form of education in terms of duration, composition and space. Sometimes under a tree, in the garden of a house, sometimes on a university campus, in a refugee tent, under a rock in a mountain or in the warehouse of a building. The training space is often prepared in a collective manner. There are no cooks, cleaners, managers, secretaries or security guards. Individuals or groups of individuals from the training compound take turns every day to fulfil these tasks. The success or failure in the fulfilment of these tasks is also evaluated in the training. Is the person irresponsible? Is it arbitrary? Is he/she selfish? Is he/she hurtful? Is he/she restorative? Is he/she creative? Is it democratic? Most of the time, the results that emerge in the performance of these vital tasks reveal more reality than self-assessments in training. Trainers can be from within or outside the educational composition. However, in the case of an outsider, two people from the academy also teach together with this instructor. A balanced composition is preferred rather than certain categories in the training composition. This balance is based on complementary compositions in terms of age, gender, literacy and previous education. In this way, a prototype of the general social reality is revealed and the contradictions between generations, genders and classes make education more effective. In the educational environment, the aim is not to prevent conflicts between different social realities, but to reveal the power to resolve these social conflicts.
4- The living organisation aims to develop communal life. It is tried to give people the ability to socialise not only with the people they like, love and have more in common with, but with everyone in general. For this reason, the composition of people staying together in common spaces is changed at certain intervals. No individual is allowed to dominate the environment or be pushed aside. The individual learns how to achieve socialisation without losing his/her identity within these relationships. They gain the power to trust each other, to talk to everyone, to do business and to listen. With the ‘assembly and meeting system’, which enables the evaluation of daily or several-day training activities and social relations, the progress of training, life, duties and responsibilities is evaluated. Through mutual criticism and self-criticism at these evaluation meetings, problems and positive developments in the school system, curriculum, instructors and the components participating in education are evaluated and problems are solved in a timely and appropriate manner. In a democratic manner, plans are determined by common will and implemented collectively.
5- The training curriculum is determined according to the needs and revised after each training. In addition to courses such as world history, science, philosophy, history of religions, history of women’s liberation and sociology, courses such as anatomy, health and first aid are also given as needed. Language and style to express oneself better and to strengthen social relations are also taught. Since both Kurdish and Middle Eastern society and women are constantly under war and attack, the subject of self-defence is included in the curriculum both at the theoretical and practical level. At the end of each lesson, the instructor asks the commission how the lesson went and the commission is subjected to evaluation. Criticisms and suggestions are made and the strengths and weaknesses of the course are evaluated. At this point, a system in which the teacher is a student is in operation.
6- Audio recordings of the lessons are kept, some of them are published in books and we create our own education books and materials based on them. Although the Kurdish language is the main language in the lessons, those who do not speak Kurdish express themselves in the languages they know and these speeches are translated. If a composition predominantly speaks another language, education is provided in that language.
In addition to these principles, which express our academy and education model in general terms, we aim to help the individual recognise and express himself/herself and fight against the obstacles to his/her development through many ways and methods. For example, due to the style of nation-state schools based only on rote memorisation without understanding the information, we develop methods that will overcome this rote approach in our lessons and develop the person’s ability to interpret. We want the individual to reshape a written, visual or listening material, a story with his/her own interpretation. Sometimes we do exercises to express a subject in the form of writing, theatre or poetry. We ask them to form groups and make presentations and then ask the groups to evaluate each other. We try to reveal the ways in which each individual can express his or her own experience. We make sure that the language we use in our lessons is simple, comprehensible and compatible with the history and culture of the society we address. In this way, they can establish a stronger connection between education and academic studies and their own lives.
Expectations for feminist education are quite high. People expect to reach new information, to have a different perspective and to find solutions to the serious social problems they face. Topics such as ethics-aesthetics, free life in partnership, Xwebûn, the transformation of the male are the subjects that generate the most lively discussions and interest. In these courses, the most intimate issues, which are often referred to as private life, can be discussed and questioned without any anxiety. Women mostly deepen their understanding and recognition of themselves. Men are also very interested in Jineolojî classes, but they see the problem of men’s freedom and their weaknesses in this struggle. Sometimes men have the attitude of ‘let women liberate us’, while others have the misconception that ‘I am not as sexist as other men’. While women discuss more openly, we witness that men are more timid and do not want to talk about their shortcomings and mistakes in the presence of other men. Although the lectures have an impact, it is also a fact that they need to be sustained and vitalised.
Creating a culture that will enable each individual to educate themselves, their family and the people they live and work with is another important issue in our educational work. We consider education as a never-ending process that extends to all areas of life, beyond an activity whose duration and form is determined.
As a result; Jineolojî trainings lead to the formation of a new perspective in every field it reaches, and these trainings aim to solve the basic problems that affect people’s lives and revolutionary struggles. We are constantly renewing our methods and curriculum, shaping them according to the needs and trying to teach and learn together the knowledge that will ensure that ‘every tree rises from its own roots’, which is a basic proverb of the Kurds.