TORONTO, Canada – Amineh Kakabaveh was 13 when she joined Komalah, learned Marxist theories and practiced using a gun. She is now an MP in the Swedish Left Party.
In parliament, she is known for her activism, outspokenness and for giving a large portion of her salary to her party. “I didn’t become a politician for power or for wealth. This is my way of continuing my fight against injustice,” she told Rudaw.
As a feminist, Kakabaveh is particularly focused on improving the lives of minority women who arrive in Sweden.
“Some Swedish residents in their 50s marry a woman in her 20s from their home countries and bring her here. In order to escape the suffocation, these young women agree to marry someone their father’s age. But when they arrive in Sweden and integrate in the culture they realize choosing a partner twice their age was a mistake.”
The Swedish government, however, refuses to grant residency unless a prospective immigrant has lived with a partner for at least two years. During that time, these young women have to tolerate a lot of abuse.
“I have been fighting for years in the parliament to convince lawmakers to support such women,” Kakabaveh says.
When at age 19 she arrived in Sweden, she was classified as illiterate. She worked as a cleaner during the day, attended school in the evenings, and sent money to her family in Iranian Kurdistan.
She did not stop until completing a master’s degree in philosophy and social work. But she believes that her real education was gained in the mountains of Kurdistan. She did not have a chance to attend school, was malnourished and sometimes had to live without a shower for a long time. But she was happier there than in the life under Ayatollah Khomeini, the revolutionary patriarch who ruled Iran with an iron hand.
“I was born into a politically active family who suffered persecution and poverty,” Kakabaveh says. At age 13, when she had to choose between marriage and execution, she opted for a third way: Becoming a Peshmarga.
“To many, a 13-year-old is just a child. But when you are given responsibilities from a very young age, when you witness execution, imprisonment and torture of your loved one, when you have to deal with poverty from childhood, you become very mature. By the time my training in the camp was over I was 14, but I felt like a 20-year-old.”
Kakabaveh sees herself as a Feminist Marxist and says the reason she joined Komalah was not just because her family was involved, or because of their ideas of equality. She joined because of the dignity that women received in the group.
Even though only 20 percent of Komalah members are female, Kakabaveh says there was a strict policy against sexual harassment, which made her feel safe. Once, her imprisoned Iranian soldiers said they were impressed that they had been captured by girls.
“Kurdish women are fighters, they have always been fighters, but cultural restrictions limit their abilities. Women cannot easily fight for freedom the way a man can choose his path.”
She lost many comrades during those years, and suffered much inconvenience. But she still maintains those were the best years of her life.
Now that she has a seat in parliament and her voice is heard, she tries her best to help as many women as she can, but her abilities are still limited. It takes an emotional toll on her to witness injustice everywhere, to see capitalism and patriarchy dominating societies, to see women in the suburbs still suffering from forced marriage, child marriage, racism and other forms of oppression.
“People think that because I am part of the Swedish government I can solve all the problems. They can’t know how hard, how painful it is to see them suffer and to not be able to help as much as I wish. It is true that I am seen as one of the most active members of parliament, but I want to do so much more, and I suffer that I can’t.”
Kakabaveh, who sees herself as a fighter, believes there is much that young Kurds can do to help the Kurdish cause. “I understand that some of the offspring of Peshmarga, who have been exposed to hardships from a young age without much choice, may feel tired of fighting. But the community needs their help and they can do much.
“Young Kurds can decide, based on their lifestyle, how much time they want to devote to improving the lives of Kurds. It can be only a day per week or 17 hours per day, but they can do a lot to create constructive dialogues, invite influential speakers, raise awareness, fight racism, reach for gender equality and do much more,” she says.
“In order for the Kurdish community to grow we need solidarity, and to achieve that we need confidence, gender-equality and understanding of our past. Decades of living under all kinds of prosecution and dictatorship, as well as the patriarchal interpretations of religion, have caused us to be who we are today. Rather than dismissing the whole cause because of our flaws, we need to understand the roots of problems and maintain faith in the Kurds.”
Kakabaveh, whose life can be a role model for young Kurds, has faith in the young generation. She believes they can do much to help empower their nation.