There is place where sex, creed and ethnicity do not harbor division. A place where everyone is military trained so that having a police force becomes obsolete. A place where civilian females, instead of asking for permission, instead of waiting for outside help, have taken up arm against their aggressors, against those who intend to rape, enslave and murder them. This is a place that’s giving birth to its own freedom, in spite of the oppressive forces that surround it.This is a place of sincere revolution, and it’s been happening for years. And it’s happening now. This is Rojava.
Where is Rojava?
Rojava consists of three autonomous regions (Afrin, Jazira and Kobanî), on the border of Turkey and Syria.
What is Rojava?
Rojava is an active, historically unique socio-political experiment. It is a stateless direct democracy consisting of bottom-up self-governing structures. It is a feat of cooporative anarchism. It is a true alternative to the embraced nation state systems that do nothing but dominate and fail, mindlessly looping through history.
How Rojava Operates
Rojava is populated by about 2 million people. It has 22 ministries, each has 1 minister and 2 deputies, all three having to be from a different ethnic background, (Arab, Kurd & Syrian) and at least one of 3 has to be a woman.
Every street has their own democratic assembly. They try to resolve problems locally otherwise it gets delegated up if no resolution is found. Municipalities are autonomous and make their own decisions and control their own resources. It is the localities that make demands from the administration. The police and military answer to the localities.
You can own any kind of weapon (guns, rifles, rocket launchers, tanks). They have a police force (Asayaş) that anyone can join after 6 weeks of training. Their goal is to give every citizen training so that ultimately, they could eliminate the police. They also have the HPC (HezênParastina Cewherî/Individuality Protection Force), a network that anyone can claim to be a member of (like Anonymous). They are the counter-force against the security apparatus.
There is a huge emphasis on education; permaculture, history, languages (Kurdish, Arabic, French, English, Assyrian, Chechen) and philosophy are given a lot of weight. Rojava has hundreds of cooperatives (500 alone in the Jazira Canton) each consisting of 50-100 people. The majority are agriculture coops (mostly wheat).These cooperatives form a network which helps work out demand. Their goal is to eliminate the necessity for money by having cooperatives trade goods based on need, but they are not anti-money (I would love to see them encorporate bitcoin as it fits their decentralized model). The emphasis is on self-sufficiency & empowering all people.
No one is forced to be part of a cooperative, and some of the coops compete with each other. You can be an independent farmer and sell your goods as you like. People have private property and own businesses. You can buy and sell houses but you must go to the local courts to register the new deeds. You can own land but before you build something, you must go to the assembly for that street and make sure it’s ok with the people there. Basically you explain your project to your neighbors first. It’s all about mutual respect.
Oh, and there is absolutely no tax.
Rojava defends itself with DIY weaponry and anything they can get off the black market or scavenge from ISIS. It has diverse voluntary forces that consist of groups like the YPG, YPJ & PKK.
YPG- The People’s Protection Units
YPJ – Woman’s Protection Unit
PKK- People’s Defense Force
Other supportive forces include the “The Lions of Rojava” which consist of western volunteers
Rojava’s forces are currently the only boots on the ground fighting against ISIS. Hey are incredibly heroic. They recently conducted a successful rescue mission of over 20,000 Yezidi people, who were trapped and defenseless against ISIS in the Sinjar mountains.
This all sounds amazing, and it is, but Rojava is crippled. It receives zero direct help from the West, from NATO, or from neighboring countries who should be unifying in the fight against ISIS. Worst of all, NATO member Turkey has assisted in the crippling of Rojava through the denial of aid and the enforcement of trade embargoes.
Turkey and Other Political Players
Turkey has been oppressing the Kurdish people and their culture as far back as World War One. The Kurds are a large minority in Turkey, and were promised independence, a promise that was broken. Since then there have been numerous battles in order to regain cultural independence. Turkey does not acknowledge the Kurds as a people, denying them the ability to educate in their own language or give their children Kurdish names. In short, there has been an ongoing ethnic elimination of Kurds that continues to this day.
Turkey’s behavior throughout the current conflict has at best, been incompetent. Turkey denies supporting ISIS, yet the strongest ISIS bases all border Turkey, and ISIS has had a suspiciously easy time crossing the Turkish Syrian border to invade the Rojavan cantons.
Turkey has made public statements such as “Kobanî will not fall” meanwhile refusing to provide aid to Kobanî, take refugees, or allow trade channels by which Rojava could acquire supplies. Turkey has gone as far as unleashing severe police action during peaceful protests in support of Rojava, and enacting curfews against the demonstrators.
Some sources say as many as 30 protesters have been killed
One of the ways Turkey and NATO dismiss Rojava is by classifying the PKK as a terrorist group.
The PKK was formed as a reactionary force to the oppressive actions of Turkey in the early eighties. Both the Turkish army and the PKK reeked havoc on the region, killing 35,000 people, many of which were Kurdish villagers accused of allying with the PKK.
The PKK’s leader is Abdullah Öcalan currently sits in jail. He has completely abandoned his Marxist dogma, now preaching peaceful solutions, and encouraging an investigation into the war crimes committed by both sides. He currently teaches “Democratic Confederalism,” a spin on Boockchin’s communalism, and is still a thought leader for many of the PKK (The PKK also studies Foucalt, Proudhon, Nietszche). It’s difficult to deny that Öcalan is a divisive character, but he does not represent Rojava, and we cannot look to the past and the hypothesized future; we must look at he current situation.
Rojava is under extreme threat. Kobanî has been demolished by Isis. NATO member Turkey sees an autonomous Kurdistan as a threat. The Geneva 2 peace conference was supposed to bring a resolution to the Syrian conflict but it left out the Kurds entirely. Rojava is the only place with boots on the ground yet no one has showed any support for these brave individuals; they casually bomb away now and then.
But what do we expect from western forces that have crippled the entire region through their illegal wars and economic assassinations? The west created ideal circumstances for the birth of oppressive forces, so now they have the worst of them all; the decentralized horror that is Isis.
Rojava is in a region of the world where if you are the wrong gender or the wrong religion you are severely oppressed. And yet it has managed to sustain its people on the basis of self-organization, religious tolerance, and mutual respect between genders. I don’t care if Rojava doesn’t fit your idea of anarchism, communalism or direct democracy; what matters is it’s a unique sincere socio-political revolution, what matters is that Rojava is an ideal representation of the human spirit. Its people are unified, transcending deep-rooted cultural differences, and standing strong against all odds in the midst of war. It’s not about independence for a specific ethnicity; it’s about human independence from all power structures. This is rare.