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A Road Unforeseen: Women Fight the Islamic State
     

A Road Unforeseen: Women Fight the Islamic State

by Meredith Tax
 

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“This is the book I’ve been waiting for—only it’s richer, deeper, and more intriguing than I could have imagined. A Road Unforeseen is a major contribution to our understanding of feminism and Islam, of women and the world, and gives me fresh hope for change.” —Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Nickel and Dimed and

Overview

“This is the book I’ve been waiting for—only it’s richer, deeper, and more intriguing than I could have imagined. A Road Unforeseen is a major contribution to our understanding of feminism and Islam, of women and the world, and gives me fresh hope for change.” —Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Nickel and Dimed and Living With a Wild God

In war-torn northern Syria, a democratic society—based on secularism, ethnic inclusiveness, and gender equality—has won significant victories against the Islamic State, or Daesh, with women on the front lines as fierce warriors and leaders.

A Road Unforeseen recounts the dramatic, underreported history of the Rojava Kurds, whose all-women militia was instrumental in the perilous mountaintop rescue of tens of thousands of civilians besieged in Iraq. Up to that point, the Islamic State had seemed invincible. Yet these women helped vanquish them, bringing the first half of the refugees to safety within twenty-four hours.

Who are the revolutionary women of Rojava and what lessons can we learn from their heroic story? How does their political philosophy differ from that of Iraqi Kurdistan, the Islamic State, and Turkey? And will the politics of the twenty-first century be shaped by the opposition between these political models?

Meredith Tax is a writer and political activist. Author, most recently, of Double Bind: The Muslim Right, the Anglo-American Left, and Universal Human Rights, she was founding president of Women’s WORLD, a global free speech network of feminist writers, and cofounder of the PEN American Center’s Women’s Committee and the International PEN Women Writers’ Committee. She is currently international board chair of the Centre for Secular Space and lives in New York.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
08/15/2016
In this study, Tax (Double Bind) describes Rojava, an autonomous region in Syria, in the greater context of Kurdish struggles throughout the region. In 2014, in the city of Kobane in Rojava, Kurdish militias, including all-female units, drove back the advance of the Islamic State with little help from outside forces. As Tax shows, Rojava is remarkable not just for the large number of women in the military, but for the fact that "people make decisions through local councils and women hold 40 percent of all leadership positions." Much of her work focuses on neighboring Turkey, where Kurds make up 20 percent of the population but are repressed and attacked by governmental forces. The governments of the U.S. and E.U. have done little in response, nominally because the Kurdistan Workers' Party and its leader-in-exile, Abdullah Öcalan, are considered terrorists. Öcalan's changing philosophy and the influence of female leaders such as Leyla Zana, a prominent Kurdish activist, have given rise to the concept of "democratic autonomy" now being lived out in Rojava. In a coda, Tax concludes that it remains to be seen how the Rojava experiment in "radical local control... based on democracy, equal citizenship for all, feminism, and ecology" will fare against global capitalism on one hand and "Islamist theocracy" on the other. This is an important look at an unfolding situation little understood in the West. (Aug.)
From the Publisher
“Swift, intense and forensic. . . . [Tax] brings the habit ‘optimism of the will and pessimism of the intellect’ to [A Road Unforeseen]. The journey takes her deep to the history of Middle East and the fate of Kurds [where] now [women] are improvising a new model of living in an enclave that is not an ethnic state but a confederation of half a dozen ethnicities, organizing co-operative economy in an egalitarian borderland called Rojava. Meredith Tax wonders whether they can survive. But she is inspired. And reading her book, you will be, too.” —openDemocracy 50.50

“Exceptional. . . . Not only informative but heart-wrenching. . . . It is the analysis that situates what is otherwise described as a struggle against terrorism or a struggle for national freedom as a more complicated struggle for the emancipation of women, and thereby the emancipation of society, that gripped me as a reader and activist.” —AlterNet

“With her combined expertise on fundamentalism, feminism, and human rights, Tax . . . shows what it means to view aspects of the Middle East through these basic prisms. . . . [A Road Unforeseen] is a welcome addition to the growing literature in English on the Kurds and will be mined for its perspectives and insights for years to come. ‘Any movement for real transformation,’ she insists, ‘must make the demands of women central.’ This superb book will be an essential resource for this question in the years to come.” —ROAR Magazine

“A book of revelations about life during wartime in Rojava. . . A Road Unforeseen celebrates those women who are ripping the guts out of ISIS and explains how they came to be at the center of the Kurdish struggle for freedom.” —First of the Month

“[A Road Unforeseen] is an on-the-fly intervention in an ongoing conflict. It smoothly shows many things at once, and [Tax] does a commendable job in creating a concise and readable account of this tangled situation.” —Toward Freedom

“Thorough and well-documented. . . . Readers interested in geopolitical issues and history will no doubt be grateful for [Tax’s] lucid explanation of events involving countries like Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Iran and for illuminating the plight of the Kurdish people in the Middle East.” —New York Journal of Books

“Zeroes in on a contemporary example of unanticipated moxie: The successful, if little-known, resistance to Muslim fundamentalism that has developed along the Syrian-Turkish border.” —Lilith

“Tax approaches the Syrian conflict from a unique perspective as she focuses on the role of Kurdish women combatants. . . . Extensively researched, this is an immensely relevant primer on a complex people whose past and future are critical to the success of peace in their region.” —Booklist

“An important look at an unfolding situation little understood in the West.” —Publishers Weekly

“Impressively well researched, written, organized and presented, A Road Unforeseen: Women Fight the Islamic State is a seminal study. . . . Consistently compelling, informed and informative, A Road Unforeseen is very highly recommended.” —Midwest Book Review

“We in the West are so unused to thinking of Middle Eastern and Muslim women as liberated, let alone as feminist revolutionaries, that Meredith Tax’s remarkable book, A Road Unforeseen, comes as a welcome correction. By tracing the historical and political evolution of a group of Kurdish feminist guerrillas, Tax shows us what revolution looks like with feminism at its center, even in the midst of the repressive and violent attacks on women and Kurds in Turkey, Iraq, and Syria. This powerful and persuasive book is a must-read for anyone who takes the plight of women seriously.” —Helen Benedict, author of The Lonely Soldier and Sand Queen

“An indefatigable political thinker and activist takes us on a forensic journey into the gendering of geopolitical conflict and resistance.” —Beatrix Campbell, author of Diana, Princess of Wales: How Sexual Politics Shook the Monarchy and End of Equality: The Only Way Is Women’s Liberation

“This is the book I’ve been waiting for—only it’s richer, deeper, and more intriguing than I could have imagined. A Road Unforeseen is a major contribution to our understanding of feminism and Islam, of women and the world, and gives me fresh hope for change.” —Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Nickel and Dimed and Living With a Wild God

“This book lifts the lid on one of the best-kept secrets of our times, the birth of a revolution in the Middle East driven by gender equality and direct democracy. Meredith Tax makes a well-researched, cogent, and passionate case for why we should all get behind this experiment, at once fragile and gutsy, in Rojava, northern Syria, and Turkey.” —Rahila Gupta, author of Provoked and Enslaved

A Road Unforeseen is essential reading to understand the extraordinary democratic revolution led by the Kurds in Syria. This is compelling history but also a clarion call to the US and the international community to support this fragile project that elevates and celebrates human rights, democracy, and equality for all genders, races, and religions.” —Carne Ross, author of Independent Diplomat and The Leaderless Revolution

“At last we have a book that tells us what we crave to know each day as we open the newspaper to read about IS, Islamists, shifting alliances, enslaved women, fleeing immigrants, and shocking cruelties. Meredith Tax shows us how the Kurds of Rojava are trying to put in place a system of equality between men and women and take local, democratic control of their lives, which would be remarkable anywhere, let alone in a war zone. As Tax so clearly demonstrates here, putting women at the center of a struggle for freedom changes everything. It’s time to learn about the extraordinary Rojava and the hope it offers that another world is possible.” —Ann Snitow, author of The Feminism of Uncertainty

“Meredith Tax tells the tangled and amazing history of Kurdish politics—from family feuds to terrorism to radical democracy and feminism—with just the right mixture of admiration and concern.” —Michael Walzer, author of Just and Unjust Wars and The Paradox of Liberation

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781942658108
Publisher:
Bellevue Literary Press
Publication date:
08/23/2016
Pages:
336
Sales rank:
400,482
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x (d)

Meet the Author

Meredith Tax is a writer and political activist whose work includes Double Bind: The Muslim Right, the Anglo-American Left, and Universal Human Rights; The Rising of the Women: Feminist Solidarity and Class Conflict, 1880–1917; two historical novels, Rivington Street and Union Square, and the children’s picture book Families. She has also written political and literary articles for the Nation, Guardian, Village Voice, Dissent, openDemocracy, and other publications. She was founding president of Women’s WORLD, a global free speech network of feminist writers, and cofounder of the PEN American Center’s Women’s Committee and the International PEN Women Writers’ Committee. She is currently board chair of the Centre for Secular Space and lives in New York.

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