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A ‘Revolution’ under Attack – the Alternative in midst the War in Syria

category mashriq / arabia / iraq | imperialism / war | opinion / analysis author Saturday October 04, 2014 07:32author by Ulrike Flader - movements@manchester Report this post to the editors

The most recent pictures of thousands of refugees fleeing from heavy attacks of ISIS and making their way from Syria across the border to Turkey, come from the area of Kobani – one of three cantons of the self- proclaimed Autonomy Region Rojava in Northern Syria.

rojava1.jpg

This region – which consists of three geographically disconnected enclaves along the Turkish border – strategically used the deteriorating situation to declare self-rule in July 2012 and has since been celebrated as the “Rojava Revolution” within the Kurdish Movement associated around the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The population of Rojava, which has long been a stronghold of the PKK, is predominantly made up of Kurds – both Muslim and Yezidi[1] – as well as Arabs, Christian Assyrians, Armenians, Turkmen and Chechens. The desire for some form of self-determination especially among the Kurds was triggered through decades of denial of basic citizenship rights under the Assad-regime.

This quiet revolution is, however, not a question of independence. It is not the founding of yet another nation-state. Deliberately declaring itself an autonomy region instead of a state, derived from the critique of existing nation-states with their homogenising and exclusionary principals of citizenship, centralism of government and non-democratic structures under which the Kurds in Iran, Iraq, Turkey and Syria have suffered on the one hand and the strategies of classic national liberation movements on the other. This critique along with an alternative model of “democratic autonomy” was brought forward by the imprisoned leader of the PKK, Abdullah Öcalan, and replaced the earlier struggle for independence. The concept of democratic autonomy is envisaged along the lines of libertarian thinker Murray Bookchin as a decentralised, radical democracy within or despite the given nation-states which abides by principals of equality between genders, religious- and ethnic affiliations as well as ecology[2]. In this sense, the PKK and its affiliated organisation PYD (Democratic Union Party) in Syria are promoting this model, whose fundamental principal is to achieve a unity of all different faiths and ethnic groups without assimilating them, for the whole of the Middle East.

Within the past one and a half years the outnumbered Syrian military has been expelled from most parts of the region; police, secret service, and the civil service of the old regime have been dismantled, and the legal and education system transformed. Additionally, despite the detrimental security situation, central institutions for the most radical changes have been established in three main areas: the introduction of direct self-government through communes, assurance of equal participation in all areas of decision-making for all faith and ethnic groups and the strengthening of the position of women.

Aiming at decentralizing decision-making and realizing self-rule, village- or street communes consisting of 30-150 households have been organised. These communes decide on questions regarding administration, electricity, provision of nutrition, as well as discussing and solving other social problems. They have commissions for the organisation of defence, justice, infrastructure, ecology, youth, as well as economy. Some have erected communal cooperatives, e.g. bakeries, sewing workshops or agricultural initiatives[3]. They also organise the support of the poorest of the community with basic nutrition and fuel. Delegates of the communes form together a council for 7-10 villages or a city-district, and every city has yet another city council. The city council is made up of representatives of the communes, all political parties, the organisation of the fallen fighters, the women’s organisation, and the youth organisation. All councils as well as the communes have a 40% quota for women. The decisions are to be made on basis of consensus and equal speaking-time is enforced. Besides this, a co-chairperson system has been implemented for all organisations, which means that all councils have both a female and male chairperson. All members are suggested and elected by the population. However, according to the co-president of the PYD, Salih Muslim, this radical change from dictatorship to this form of self-rule is not an easy process: “The people are learning how to govern themselves”[4].

This change in decision-making has also brought about a radical change in the legal system: the establishment of “peace and consensus committees”[5]. These committees, which originally developed as leftist Kurdish underground institutions in the cities of the Kurdish region of Syria in the 1990 and were severely repressed in the 2000s, have resumed their importance with the uprising, and have transformed into the basic structure and fundamental principal of the new legal system. The aim of these committees, which attend to all general legal questions and disputes apart from severe crimes such as murder, is to achieve a consensus between the conflicting parties and in doing so a lasting settlement. In a general assembly of all residents every commune elects the 5-9 members of its local peace and consensus committee (40% of which have to be women) according to their ability to facilitate such a consensus in discussion among between the parties. It is emphasized that these members should not be co-opted by traditional authorities, but democratically elected and in accordance with the gender-equality principal. These peace and consensus committees also exist on the district level, whose members are elected by the popular councils on that level respectively. Parallel women-only committees have been established which specifically attend cases of crimes against women, such as domestic violence, forced-marriages and multiple marriages. Cases which cannot be solved in this consensus-finding way are forwarded on to higher institutions which exist on city, regional and canton level. Courts of appeals have been established in every region and a constitutional court is concerned with the further development of the constitution which has however been framed as a “social contract”[6].

The decision to agree on a social contract instead of a constitution is the manifestation of the centrality of the multi-faith/ethnicity principal behind the concept of the democratic autonomy in Rojava. This contract, which developed out of meetings among representatives of different ethnic and belief groups, has the aim to secure safety and self-rule to all groups. All groups are to be equally present and active in decision-making on political as well as economic and social questions and their right to self-determination is to be ensured not only through self-rule on village-level, but also through the right to organise themselves autonomously on other levels. According to the report of a delegation which visited the region in May this year, the participation of Arabs an Assyrians is steadily increasing in all areas[7]. All groups are also supported in participating in the armed wing YPG or founding their own self-defence groups, as the Assyrians have done most recently.

Similarly, the empowerment of women is not only to be achieved through the presence of women in all parts of decision-making processes through the 40% quota, the co-chairperson system, woman’s legal committees, but also through the establishment of their own military wing YPJ (Women’s Defence Unit)[8]. In an interview, co-president of PYD, Asya Abdullah, argues that the movement in Syria has learned from other revolutions that the women’s question cannot be left until after the revolution. Instead, women in Rojava are playing a leading role in politics, diplomacy, social questions, in the building of a new democratic family structure as well as in self-defence[9]. According to her the self-government structures as well as the self-organisation of women are just as important as the existing independent education institutions and seminars, and the projects to enhance women’s economic independence.

This attempt for a peaceful democratic transformation in co-existence to the state, but on the premises of grassroots self-determination, pluralism and gender-equality is, unfortunately, not welcomed by all in the region. The most recent heavy attacks on the canton of Kobani by ISIS fighters indicate a greater interest in annihilating this autonomy region, which is identified with an increasing strength of the PKK in the region. The Turkish government has reacted sharply to claims made by New York Times and other media that it is, in one way or another, supporting ISIS fighters[10]. Yet the PKK sees these accusations as grounded. Such cooperation raises strong doubts on the sincerity of the government towards the peace talks which it has been holding with Öcalan over the past year. The PKK has warned that it could put an end to the ceasefire it had declared to facilitate a possible peace process[11]. For those who have made their way from all parts of Turkey to the Syrian border to protest and are organising marches and rallies in many cities across Europe, Rojava is not only the test-ground for an alternative democracy in the region, but also a bastion against ISIS.


[1] The majority of Yezidi Kurds live in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. The attack of ISIS on the city of Sinjar and the massacre on its inhabitants triggered strong international attention and the decision for intervention in the US. Since then, many Yezidi Kurds were helped to flee into Rojava by the Syrian wing of PKK-guerrilla fighters (YPG).

[2]Gunes, Cengiz (2012) The Kurdish National Movement in Turkey. From Protest to Resistance. New York: Routledge; also see Biehl, Janet (2012) “Bookchin, Öcalan, and the Dialectics of Democracy”, New Compass, http://new-compass.net/articles/bookchin-%C3%B6calan-an...cracy, accessed 20.02.2012

[3] Knapp, Micheal (2014) „Die Demokratische Autonomie in Rojava. Ziel ist eine demokratische Lösung für den gesamten Mittleren Osten“, Kurdistan Report 174, http://www.kurdistan-report.de/index.php/archiv/2014/17...osten, accessed 25.09.2014

[4] Interview with Co-president of PYD, Salih Muslim, “Die Menschen lernen, sich selbst zu bestimmen“, Kurdistan Report 175, http://www.kurdistan-report.de/index.php/archiv/2014/17...immen, accessed 25.09.2014.

[5] Ayboğa, Ercan (2014) “Das neue Rechtssystem in Rojava. Der Konsens ist Entscheidend“, Kurdistan Report 175, http://www.kurdistan-report.de/index.php/archiv/2014/17...idend, accessed 25.09.2014.

[6] See “Charter of the Social Contract” of Rojava under http://peaceinkurdistancampaign.com/resources/rojava/ch...ract/, accessed 26.09.2014

[7] Knapp 2014.

[8] Interview with Îlham Ehmed, Representative of the Kurdish Women’s Movement in Rojava and Member of the Kurdish Highest Council: Civaka Azad (2014) “Perspektiven der Frauenbewegung in Rojava”, http://civaka-azad.org/perspektiven-der-frauenbewegung-...java/, accessed 25.09.2014

[9] Interview with Asya Abdullah Co-President of PYD: Öğünç, Pınar (2014) “Kadın özgür değilse demokrasi olmaz”, Radikal, 22.08.2013, http://www.radikal.com.tr/yazarlar/pinar_ogunc/kadin_oz...47222, accessed 25.09.2014

[10] Official summary of President Erdoğan’s speech at Assembly of the Confederation of Turkish Crafts- and Tradesmen (TESK): TCCB (2014) “We do not accept and have never accepted the notion of Islamic terrorism”, http://www.tccb.gov.tr/news/397/91043/we-do-not-accept-....html, accessed 25.09.2014; The speech refers to this article published in the New York Times on the 15.09.2014: Yeginsu, Ceylan (2014) “ISIS Draws a Steady Stream of Recruits from Turkey”, New York Times, 15.09.2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/16/world/europe/turkey-i....html, accessed 25.09.2014.

[11] Declaration of Cemil Bayık, Co-President of the Executive Council of the Union of Kurdistan Communities (KCK) see Firatnews (2014) “Bayık: We may end the cease-fire”, firatnews, 27.09.2014, http://en.firatajans.com/news/news/bayik-we-may-end-the...e.htm, accessed 27.09.2014

Related Link: http://www.movements.manchester.ac.uk/the-alternative-i...yria/
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Mashriq / Arabia / Iraq | Imperialism / War | en

Tue 28 Feb, 01:02

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150122_842113389166036_7294858716189015531_n.jpg imageVictory to the Rojava Revolution! 18:52 Sat 25 Oct by Melbourne Anarchist Communist Group 0 comments

Leaflet distributed today at a rally and march in Melbourne in solidarity to the Kurdish struggle.

rojava_1.png imageInternational Libertarian-Socialist Statement in Solidarity with the Kurdish Resistance 04:36 Sun 19 Oct by Johnny 2 comments

For some years now the Kurdish movement has been moving in the direction of libertarian ideas. While not an anarchist movement, this move is a sign that anarchist ideas of freedom and equality through solidarity, our ideas of horizontality and radical direct democracy and our radical critique against the State are not only valid and strong, but are also necessary for movements in order to break away from the authoritarian legacy within the left. It is our duty to express our solidarity with Rojava and the Kurdish movement, because they represent hope in this region and because they are the oppressed fighting the oppressors. Real struggles are never perfect but they carry diverse degrees of potential to being about a free society. Expressing our solidarity with the revolutionary movement in Rojava means we understand our role is to continue developing the core tenets of our ideas in order to inspire revolutions and revolutionaries all over the world. - Anarkismo.net Editorial Group [Italiano] [Ελληνικά] [Castellano] [Français]

daf_in_koban_10.jpg imageRevolution will win in Kobanê! 14:41 Thu 09 Oct by DAF 0 comments

It’s the 24th day of ISIS attacks on Kobanê. While people’s defending forces in all border villages are on human shield sentry for Kobanê against attacks, everyone, everywhere in the region we live, rised up not to let Kobanê fall. [Français] [Italiano]

anarchist_womendafkobane.jpg imageLatest news from Kobanê 19:35 Sat 04 Oct by DAF 3 comments

The Turkish state that is preparing to interfere to avoid the ISIS danger, is at the same time neglecting the offensive made by ISIS supporters within its borders, showing its politics of hypocrisy. [Italiano]

daf_in_kobane_3.jpg imageTurkish anarchists in Syria to support Kurdish people 14:37 Sat 27 Sep by Workers Solidarity Movement 5 comments

Istanbul anarchists along other leftists, feminists, and 'Gezi park types' have managed to cross over into Syria and the northern town of Kobane which is currently threatened by ISIS. [italiano]

daf_in_kobane.jpg imageIn Shingal, Kobane and all Rojava, ISIS is Dehak and the people are Kawa 19:35 Fri 26 Sep by Devrimci Anarşist Faaliyet 0 comments

In Kurdistan, people are fighting against ISIS, “the procreated violence” given birth by capitalism and the states that start wars for their own benefits. ISIS, subcontractor of the states that pursue income strategies on the region, is attacking people while yelling “islamic state!” and “holy war, jihad!”. People are suffering from hunger and thirst, getting ill, getting injured; migrating ad dying. They are still fighting in that struggle for existence. People are fighting not for the schemes and strategies around meeting tables, not for income, but for their freedom.

textPalestine-Israel: The joint struggle confront the transfer efforts of the Israeli settler colonialis... 14:49 Sun 21 Sep by Ilan S. 0 comments

Though Israel failed in its last open assault on the Gaza Strip, it still succeed in its transfer efforts. The drowning of a refugee ship with 450 mainly Gaza people reflect the partial success of Israel transfer efforts that for the never ended efforts since 1948. The siege on Gaza join the pressure on both Palestinians within the 1948 borders and that of the 1967. The big masses were driven out during the 1948 and 1967 wars, but efforts continued with all means possible. Some expelled by force some were moved within the border as pressure to "voluntary transfer". Within the 1967 borders, the Israeli efforts are targeted on the villages and Bedouins living in area C where the joint struggle to resist it is mainly focused in the South of Hebron Hills. And the joint struggle in Arkib, Dahamsh (1948 borders), and Bil'in, Ma'asara, Nabi Saleh, Ni'ilin, Qaddum, Sheikh Jarah (East Jerusalem) continue "as usual". [Italiano]

oabubakralbaghdadi570.jpg imageWhat do we think about the current crisis of Iraq? 20:25 Tue 24 Jun by Kurdish Anarchists Forum 0 comments

The Iraq crisis has been continued for decades while it has been under the power of Saddam Hussein or under the “current democratic Regime” since the invasion of 2003. There were no freedom, no social justice; no equality and also little opportunity for those who were independent from the political parties who were in power. In addition to existing brutality and discrimination against women and the ordinary people a very big gap was created between the rich and poor, making the poor even poorer and the rich richer. [Italiano]

textPalestine-Israel, History's wheels turn faster and scream as blood does not oil the axes enough* 22:23 Mon 26 Aug by Ilan S. 0 comments

The turmoil in our region expresses the melting of world history as we knew it. It accelerates before it reaches its end as the axes of the old order cannot hold it any more. The Zionist settler colonialist bridgehead of the developed imperial countries in the cradle of human culture at the east of the Mediterranean Sea is being eroded by the resistance of the indigenous inhabitants who are recruiting supporters from all over the world. The cracks in neoliberal global capitalism, which seemed to have reached its ultimate victory just a few years ago when the end of history was declared, are pointing to the real end of the history of egoistic and alienated class society. In the day-to-day struggle here, it is still hard to discern the cracks in the structure of the system, but you can already smell it in the clouds of tear gas at the weekly demos and feel the ground tremor under your feet. [Italiano]

textPalestine-Israel, Some activities the Anarchists Against the Wall initiative involved with lately 17:23 Tue 15 Feb by Ilan S. 0 comments

There are four main areas of struggles the AAtW activists are involved with: Joint struggle with communities that invite us to join, like Bil'in and other struggles against the separation fence. Other joint struggles against occupation and settler colonialists like Nabi Salih. Joint struggles with wider coalitions like the Sheikh Jarrah coalition and South Hebron. The fourth is within Israel, like prison and jail solidarity, Al Araqeeb and Lod. It seems that our confrontational and direct-action mode of struggle is being adopted by more and more Israeli radicals.

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imageIn retaking Mosul YPG/J and the Guerrillas must be aware of the hidden agenda Aug 04 by Zaher Baher 1 comments

This article is about retaking the city of Mosul that has been under control of Isis since 09/06/2014. At the moment the Iraqi government is in talk with KRG and US forces about making plan to liberate it. In my opinion this will be one of the bloodiest battle that could happen in Iraq since 2003 after the invasion. I believe there is a hidden agenda, when Isis is defeated, it will try to run away. The liberator forces may push them to withdraw towards Jazeea in Rojava. So it is necessary for YPG/J and the Guerrillas to change their tactic.

imageNATO against the Kurds: The battle for A’zaz Feb 24 by José Antonio Gutiérrez D. 5 comments

NATO, represented by the Turkish State, for the last two days has been bombing the Kurdish militias of the YPG that had advanced to the north of Aleppo towards the cities of A'zaz and Such Rifaat. The bombings, which have killed at least 23 civilians, are concentrated around the military airbase of Menagh, conquered in 2013 by a coalition of “rebels”, including Al - Qaeda (Al- Nusra Front) and others that later would end up as the Islamic State. That is a key point to supply the “rebellion,” which serves the petro-theocracy and the interests of the USA and the EU. Ahmet Davutoğlu said that he has informed the vice-president of the USA Joe Biden about the bombings. Although Biden has not publicly approved Turkey’s military intervention, he has neither condemned it nor taken any action to restrain the Turkish State, which would never act without the absolute certainty that the U.S. would end up supporting them. [Castellano] [Català] [Italiano]

imageKobane’s Second Phase: Resistance and Necessities Mar 04 by KAF 3 comments

After 134 days of fierce resisting and defending. The women, men and their combatants with the support and solidarity from millions of people around the world had finally defeated the vicious attack from ISIS and liberated their town Kobane. This was not just a defeat for ISIS and it’s dream to establish an Islamic Kelifat. But it had also destroyed the ISIS’s ally the current Turkish government’s dream to resurrect a Neu-othman empire.

The attack on Kobane was a proxy war launched by ISIS on behalf of the regional regimes and others against the bravery people in Kobane and the Democratic Self administration (DSA). [Italiano] [Français]

imageWhy is the world ignoring the revolutionary Kurds in Syria? Oct 12 by David Graeber 0 comments

Amid the Syrian warzone a democratic experiment is being stamped into the ground by ISIS. That the wider world is unaware is a scandal. [Castellano] [Français] [Italiano]

imageISIS, Iraq and the War on Terror Sep 28 by Joshua Virasami 0 comments

It's official, extremist firebrand Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, leader of ISIS, will play the new bearded bogeyman. It's official, he didn’t loot the banks for gold but is in fact being paid by our friends, the good ol’ Gulf petro-monarchs. It's official, we are being frogmarched back into the 'kill the bogeyman' script. It's official, none of this is happening… "officially".

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imageVictory to the Rojava Revolution! Oct 25 Anarkismo 0 comments

Leaflet distributed today at a rally and march in Melbourne in solidarity to the Kurdish struggle.

imageInternational Libertarian-Socialist Statement in Solidarity with the Kurdish Resistance Oct 19 2 comments

For some years now the Kurdish movement has been moving in the direction of libertarian ideas. While not an anarchist movement, this move is a sign that anarchist ideas of freedom and equality through solidarity, our ideas of horizontality and radical direct democracy and our radical critique against the State are not only valid and strong, but are also necessary for movements in order to break away from the authoritarian legacy within the left. It is our duty to express our solidarity with Rojava and the Kurdish movement, because they represent hope in this region and because they are the oppressed fighting the oppressors. Real struggles are never perfect but they carry diverse degrees of potential to being about a free society. Expressing our solidarity with the revolutionary movement in Rojava means we understand our role is to continue developing the core tenets of our ideas in order to inspire revolutions and revolutionaries all over the world. - Anarkismo.net Editorial Group [Italiano] [Ελληνικά] [Castellano] [Français]

imageIn Shingal, Kobane and all Rojava, ISIS is Dehak and the people are Kawa Sep 26 DAF - Revolutionary Anarchist Action 0 comments

In Kurdistan, people are fighting against ISIS, “the procreated violence” given birth by capitalism and the states that start wars for their own benefits. ISIS, subcontractor of the states that pursue income strategies on the region, is attacking people while yelling “islamic state!” and “holy war, jihad!”. People are suffering from hunger and thirst, getting ill, getting injured; migrating ad dying. They are still fighting in that struggle for existence. People are fighting not for the schemes and strategies around meeting tables, not for income, but for their freedom.

imageWhat do we think about the current crisis of Iraq? Jun 24 KAF 0 comments

The Iraq crisis has been continued for decades while it has been under the power of Saddam Hussein or under the “current democratic Regime” since the invasion of 2003. There were no freedom, no social justice; no equality and also little opportunity for those who were independent from the political parties who were in power. In addition to existing brutality and discrimination against women and the ordinary people a very big gap was created between the rich and poor, making the poor even poorer and the rich richer. [Italiano]

text6 days of protests to mark 40 years of occupation Jun 05 0 comments

For six days, June 5 to 10 - corresponding to the days of the 1967 War - a wide spectrum of events will take place, including exhibitions, demonstrations, theatre plays, academic conferences etc., in order to place a the occupation and the millions suffering under its yoke on the public agenda. June 9 and 10 had been declared as International Days of Protest Against the Israeli Occupation, and we will hold The main march and rally on Saturday, June 9.

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