Interview Conducted by : Hozan Afrini
PUKmedia – Can you please tell us about yourself? Who is Jessica?
Jessica: First and foremost, I am a wife and a mother. I’m a Catholic Christian. I consider myself to be an average American woman who loves her God, country, & family. I am just one of the many people in the US who is completely disgusted by the violence taking place in the Middle East and since I was raised to be someone to stand up for what is good, that is what I am trying to do – just using Twitter as a vehicle for that.I didn’t really use Twitter before hearing of Kobane and am certainly not an experienced activist; just a regular person who was inspired to spread love.
PUKmedia – Why did you start this campaign to support the People’s Protection Units (YPG) in the Western of Kurdistan? How did the campaign start? Did it have a good impact among Americans and on Twitter?
Jessica: Being one of the many people supporting the YPG in Kobane, a Kurdish friend drew my attention to a post from Anwar Muslim (if I remember correctly) in which he was thanking Americans and all of the other global supporters for appealing to our governments to help Kobane. He said in that post that we each had a hand in their successes. Immediately, when I saw this, my first thought was, “I wish I could tweet back with a ‘V’ sign to say ‘you’re welcome’”, and within a minute, I had decided I would make a campaign out of it. It just happened very naturally. Being my first campaign ever, I was sure it would be a dud, but I thought, if my picture is the only one, that’s ok. At least they will know some American lady supports them. However, to my surprise, it took off very quickly and it seemed like people were really enthusiastic about it. I would say the largest areas of support were the US, UK, & Kurdistan, but we saw pictures from Spain, Canada, France, Brazil, Mexico, the Netherlands, Italy, Sweden, & many others. Really, the goal behind the campaign was to try to put some faces behind all of the Twitter support so that the YPG/J fighting in Kobane could see that there were people of every ethnicity, age, gender, race, nationality, and political ideology who were strongly supporting them from afar.
PUKmedia – When did you first read about the Kurdish Women Protection Units (YPJ) in Kobane what did you feel? In your view, what is the impact of these women on the ground, especially considering realities of the Middle East?
Jessica: I heard about the YPJ right when I began following the situation in Kobane – on the national news. The feeling when learning about them was one of inspiration and pride as a woman. These are women who defy an entire region which does not look kindly overall on women having rights at all, let alone rights to engage in warfare. The interesting thing is that preserved in this defiance is their sense of goodness, femininity, faith. They aren’t trying to be someone other than who they are & I don’t even get the sense that they are trying to make an intentional statement. They are beautiful and strong women, just stepping in to stop atrocities against their people, trying to make a better future for their children, doing what they feel is right. It makes other women around the world proud. They have plenty of men strongly supporting them, too.
PUKmedia – What do you think about the role of Kurdish women in the war against ISIS terrorism?
Jessica: Kurdish women are, in my opinion, a heavy weapon when it comes to fighting ISIS. I see them as a sneak attack on Daesh. It doesn’t seem that Daesh considered for even a minute that there was a possibility a woman could be sending them out of this world, and that has proven to be a real advantage since they dread being killed by a woman. Not only is it a practical strategy, but it adds some humor in a situation where humor is hard to find. I suspect we have not heard the last from the YPJ when it comes to ISIS.
PUKmedia – What is your message to the American government and fellow Americans?
Jessica: I hope Americans will continue to be engaged with what is happening in Kobane and the Middle East in general. If you have a heart and are paying attention, the rest will come naturally. As for the government, I want to voice appreciation for the ways they have helped the Yezidis and Kurds so far. I hope they will be cautious in their dealings with Turkey, as Turkey has shown that they are not on the same page. I would also implore the government to do more to help the overall situation in the Middle East and to come up with a solid, realistic, cohesive strategy that American citizens can get behind. We want the suffering to end, sooner rather than later. These people have lived through enough.
PUKmedia – Finally, what do you want to say to people of Kobane and YPJ and YPG fighters that are fighting ISIS terror?
Jessica: You are an inspiration to all of us. I’m sure you would rather have been going to school, or spending time with your families, or working at a normal job. Instead, you are risking your lives every day on the front lines against the most inhumane criminals in modern times. This is why you are heroes to us. No fame or glory is worth this kind of sacrifice; you do it out of love for your people. People all over the world recognize this and this is why we try to extend the love to you that you have extended to your own, and, as a matter of course, to the rest of humanity. We are still behind you and will continue to be.
PUKmedia – Anything you want to add?
Jessica: I want to thank my friends who helped me to get the #ShowYourV4YPG campaign together (you know who you are) and especially those who participated in the campaign by posting pictures. This campaign is unending, so it will never be too late to join. Please continue to post in support of the YPG/J fight against ISIS!