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(en) Czech, AFED: Interbrigade Tekosîna Anarsîst (II.) - Completion of an analytical interview with international volunteers of anarchists fighting in Rojava. [machine translation]
Tue, 15 Sep 2020 09:10:50 +0300
Start the conversation HERE ---- How do you analyze the process of building democratic confederalism? What is your role in this process?
---- The building of democratic confederalism is currently most visible in Rojava, but it cannot be excluded from other parts of Kurdistan.
In recent years, the ideas of this political direction in Rojava have been put into practice on a huge scale, but we must not forget other
places such as the Mexmur camp or the relatively fresh Sinjar Autonomous Zone in Basur (Iraqi Kurdistan). Political developments are also
taking place in Rojhilat (Iranian Kurdistan), but the movement is strong especially in Bakur, the territory of the Turkish state. It is
important to consider the four parts into which Kurdistan is divided today in order to understand why the Kurdish movement has resorted to a
If we want to analyze developments here, we must look at the work of Abdullah Öcalan and his "Manifesto for a Democratic Society". Unlike
other policy proposals, democratic confederalism is not limited to describing a utopian society free from oppression, but opens up a number
of questions and a dialogue on how to change society and realize this utopia. How do we want to live? How do we want to communicate? How do
we want to fight? These are important questions for building a revolutionary society. The answers outlined by Öcalan cannot simply be
summarized in a few paragraphs, but it is important to understand some of the ideas with which he identifies. This democratic modernism, as
we have already mentioned, is based on the liberation of women, ecology and stateless democracy.
This ideological development is similar to other revolutionary processes, such as Zapatism, an insurgent movement in the mountains of
southern Mexico. Both movements began as Maoist, but later reoriented toward libertine socialism, both movements grew and took refuge in the
mountains, referring to the legacy of their ancient ancestors, have a strong autonomous women's movement, and both movements are the
inspiration for anti-capitalist movements around the world. Democratic confederalism is not new, it is a way of understanding society and
civilization that inspires us to develop as a revolutionary movement, to commit ourselves to our ideas and to move resolutely towards a
The implementation of these ideas in Rojava was largely influenced by the war. On the other hand, it was the war that enabled the revolution
and the radical social transformation needed to lay the foundations for such political development. In 2012, the YPG / YPJ, then poorly
armed people's militia, expelled Syrian soldiers and bureaucrats almost without a shot. This was followed by bitter fighting against groups
like Al-Nusra and later Daesh. Following the breakthrough of the siege of Kobanî Daesh in 2015, the YPG / YPJ expanded to become a leading
force in the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) coalition. Later, in 2017, Rakka was liberated and the SDF became a military force that must be
reckoned with, trained and armed at a semi-professional level.
This military development was accompanied by a process of social transformation based on the ideas of democratic confederalism, which
included the formation of communes, cooperatives, women's centers, judicial committees, cultural centers, vocational schools, Kurdish
teaching, etc. The Movement for Democratic Society (Tevgera Civaka Demokratîk; TEV-DEM), together with the Democratic Party of Unity (PartY
Yekineyen Democratic; PYD) and other political parties, have united into the so-called Autonomous Administration, originally operating in
three cantons, in Africa, Kobanî and Cizre. We see a clear goal here to manage the territory through a local organization, based on a
municipal model, without seeking the centralization typical of a state system.
No revolution is an easy process, and despite criticism of certain decisions, the development Rojava has been going through over the past
eight years is admirable. Once again, it is difficult to summarize everything in a few paragraphs, but the most important steps we want to
mention include progress in the field of women's equality and the role played exclusively by YPJ women's militias in the revolutionary
process. Women in Syria, like women around the world, suffer from violence and oppression of the patriarchal system, but since 2014 they
have been particularly threatened by the theocratic despotism of the Islamic State. Daesh is undoubtedly a much more brutal and bloody
example of patriarchy, leaving behind thousands of abducted women sold into sexual slavery. The words of YPJ Anara from Kobanî, "our
philosophical views have made us realize that as women we can only live in resistance" explains why so many women have raised their arms, to
free themselves from these threats, why they chose self-defense and direct action against what threatens their lives. After the military
victories against Daeshi, the enormous courage and sacrifice that women contributed to the revolution was undoubtedly demonstrated. The
Kurdish movement says that no society can be free unless women are free, and in Rojava this slogan is the heart of the revolutionary process.
Our participation in this process is relatively modest, as we have been working in Rojava for only three years. In the beginning, the most
important thing was to understand the local reality, the Kurdish language and culture, the political project, the functioning of
organizations and structures. The new methods of organization meant certain ideological contradictions for us. Despite ideological
similarities and Öcalan's references to various anarchist thinkers such as Bakunin, Kropotkin, or Foucault, for example, anarchism remains
largely unknown to the Kurdish movement. In the third edition of the "Manifesto for Democratic Civilization", Öcalan writes about the
importance of anarchism as a key ally in achieving the development of democratic modernity and shares the criticism and prospects of the
anarchist movement. At the ideological level, our work focuses on the reflection of these ideas and contradictions, we translate them and
try to make them accessible to a wider audience. We have also spent some time debating within our group, as we are an international group of
anarchists from different countries, often with different perspectives and coming from different backgrounds. These debates have helped us
to better understand the libertarian movements in different parts of the world and how to put them into context with the revolutionary
process we are going through.
On a practical level, our work focuses on defending the revolution. After participating in several war campaigns against the Islamic State,
we sought to improve in the field of military medicine, as timely assistance is key to survival. The Tekosîna Anarsîst Inter-Brigade has
already operated as a combat medical battalion in the Battle of Bakhúz, the last stronghold of the Islamic State, and we have had this task
in any battle in Rojava ever since. Being a combat medical battalion also means being able to train new people in this field, so we have put
a lot of effort into working on what we have learned so that we can share knowledge with the new comrades who have come to support the
How do you analyze the current situation in Syria and what are the prospects?
Now, in July 2020, the war in Syria continues. We recently celebrated the eighth anniversary of the revolution. Autonomy was announced on
July 19, 2012 in Kobanî. The Islamic State was defeated in Baghuz in 2019, but there are still actionable cells and groups that continue to
attack. Many of its former members have also joined the Turkish-backed Islamist groups that have been occupying Africa since early 2018. It
is not a year since Turkey and its Islamist mercenaries occupied towns and villages along the border between Tel Abyad and Serêkaniyê.
The population fled the area to refugee camps. People from Africa fled to the Sehba camp from Turkish bombs, and people from Serêkaniyê fled
to Wasokanî. Managing Al-Hol Camp is also not easy. Women and children of the caliphate are being held here. Some of them still follow
Islamic fundamentalist ideas, often provoking unrest and making statements in support of Daesh, attacking camp security, attacking other
women with knives and acid, and setting their tents on fire. Prisons for Daesh fighters pose further problems for the Autonomous
Administration in stabilizing the region. They need an international court to find a fair solution. But the international community does not
seem interested in such a trial, and only a few countries have repatriated Islamic State fighters. There are also riots and escape attempts
in these prisons.
Refugee camps are also the focus of epidemics. An epidemic of salmonella and black fever broke out in the Sehba camp. Fortunately, the
covidu-19 pandemic has not yet broken out in Rojava, yet the municipality is working to prevent future risks. Our medical work has also
allowed us to gain some knowledge and support in the field of epidemiology, better understand the situation, work together to organize
courses and prepare preventive measures in case the virus starts to spread. The only hospital in Serêkaniyê that is now occupied by Turkey
and its allies has been equipped with PCR testing technology, and it is known that Turkey sends a huge number of people infected with covid.
In Africa, the epidemic is already spreading due to the presence of the occupying forces of the Turkish army and Islamist militias. It is
possible that the Erdogan administration is trying to contribute to the spread of the virus in Rojava.
The military situation is also not easy. On the one hand, Erdogan continues to occupy and threatens the whole region. The Tal Rifaat and
Sehba camps are in danger, as are the towns of Manbíj and Kobanî. As we have seen in the recent past, the question is not whether Turkey
will attack again, but when. Recently, Erdogan launched a new operation in Basur, Iraqi Kurdistan, which began with the dropping of 80 bombs
by the Turkish air force. The Mexmur camp, the hospital in Sinjar, civilian villages and PKK bases in the mountains on the border with
Turkey and Iran were hit. At the end of June, drones bombed a village near Kobanî, where a meeting of the Kongreya Star (Rojava women's
movement) was taking place. Four women were killed, including the Kobanî area president. Turkey also maintains a front in Idlib, supporting
the Lantant Liberation Organization (HTS; Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, formerly Syrian Al Qaeda),
The Turkish state has moved in a very authoritarian direction over the last decades, which has not been possible without purges in high
military circles, especially after the coup in 2016, as well as very high arms spending. Erdogan recently received a second shipment of
Russia's S-400 air defense system and signed an agreement with the United States to supply Patriot missile systems. We see that it is arming
itself to the teeth, trying to maintain its position in NATO, at the same time dating Russia and reorganizing the geopolitical situation in
the Middle East with nostalgia for the imperial Ottoman past. Similar dreams of expansion, which fascist regimes usually suffer, always
require an internal enemy. In 1915, the world witnessed the Armenian genocide perpetrated by the Ottoman Empire, during which not only
Armenians and other Christians were forcibly displaced and massacred, a strong precedent was also set, which was later referred to by
Holocaust screenwriters. "After all, who is dealing with the extermination of the Armenians today?" Hitler said after the occupation of
Poland. Today, it is the Kurdish population that is suffering from an extermination policy, and there is no doubt that Turkey is on the fly.
The economic situation in Rojava is also quite complicated. The Syrian pound has fallen to an all-time low. In recent months, its value on
domestic markets has fallen by 300%. To this must be added the new sanctions imposed on Syria by the trump administration, which is a form
of economic war aimed at Assad's government, but has an impact on the whole of Syria. Trump has promised that the Autonomous Administration
of Northern and Eastern Syria will be spared sanctions, but this promise has not yet been fulfilled. An embargo has also been imposed on
Rojava since the beginning of the revolution.In terms of resources, Rojava is dependent on wheat and oil, raw materials that are now
suffering from a sharp fall in prices. The coronavirus crisis has contributed to the sharp fall in crude oil prices, on which the Autonomous
Administration depends.In addition, the sanctions imposed on Assad's government make oil sales more difficult. Crude oil can then only be
processed in refineries under the control of the Syrian state. As for the wheat, it had to be harvested prematurely this year so as not to
repeat the scenario from last year, when the Islamists set fire to huge fields before the harvest. So the wheat did not burn this year, but
it is green, and its market price is therefore much lower. In addition, much wheat was stolen by the Turkish occupiers, a huge force being
found mainly in Tel Abyad.
The last point we would like to mention also concerns the global pandemic, because closed borders restrict the mobility of internationals.
During the last four months, no volunteer could come or leave Rojava, which limits the number of new people who want to come but have no way.
Under these circumstances, it is difficult to predict what will happen. The situation is very unstable, there are so many variables and
interests at stake that things change from day to day. Undoubtedly, the biggest threat is another invasion of the Turkish state, probably
into Kobanî, as it has attracted the most international attention in the past due to resistance against Daesh. The symbolic power of this
city is very important. The Turkish state wants to occupy it, because it knows that it would be very difficult to keep the revolution
without a city that has managed to break Daesh's advance. It is possible that the first attack will come on the cities of Ain Issa and
Manbij, because they are the closest and very important for supplies if Kobanî is again under siege. In order for Erdogan to launch an
attack, he needs the green light of international and regional powers. The war for influence between the United States and Russia in the
Middle East can play an important role. Depending on as the balance of power and priorities of the two imperialist powers changes, the
effects will be felt not only by the people of Syria, but throughout the Middle East and around the world. In recent months, we have already
witnessed the withdrawal of US troops. So far, this is not a definitive withdrawal, as the US still does not intend to leave influence in
the area to other forces, especially not Iran and Russia. Putin is doing everything possible to fill the vacuum, strengthen influence on
Syrian soil and secure access to the Mediterranean.
The future of Syria may also be affected by other regional powers, such as Israel, which continues to occupy the Golan Heights and is
carrying out bomb attacks in Syria against various targets. Iran's presence is also no secret, as most Israeli attacks are aimed at
Hezbollah or other allies of the Iranian theocratic regime. Netanyahu's Zionist government is using hostilities between the United States
and Iran to carry out impunity for attacks to weaken the powers surrounding Israel. Egypt is now threatening to enter the conflict in Libya
to weaken Turkey's expansionism. Egyptian forces do not yet operate in Syria, but the Sisi government sees Erdogan as a threat due to his
neo-Ottoman rhetoric and strong ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, the main opponent of the Sisi government.
Another possible scenario for the near future is a total attack by the Turkish state on the Qandil Mountains in Iraqi Kurdistan, where the
PKK bases are located. Erdogan has been besieging the heart of the Kurdish rebel movement for many years and hopes to support the North
Atlantic Alliance, its technology network and the media. But to start a war in these mountains, he needs not only the permission of Iraq,
but also of Iran, because it lies on the border. It would be a very costly campaign, and given the volatile economic situation in Turkey and
the fact that it is already fighting on so many fronts, it is not clear whether Erdogan is capable of launching another major campaign. Such
aggression would be a great provocation to all parts of Kurdistan, and the revolutionary Rojava would not remain idle.
Rojava is a small player in this game of powers full of resentment. Its short history has always been threatened by war and the conflicts
that surround it, as its very existence calls into question the plans of the powers fighting in Syria. Despite the tactical alliance, it is
clear that no state has an interest in this revolutionary project prospering and expanding. The caliphate was defeated and other forces
continue to reach Rojava, mainly through the Turkish state and its allies. Rojava exists thanks to the determination and collective efforts
of thousands of militants, and we must always keep in mind that without their sacrifices, none of what we are experiencing here today would
be possible. The attacks we survived caused painful losses, and we must move forward and build new houses on the ruins left by the war. This
experience has made us aware of basic needs, such as self-defense,
Rojava remains an inspiration for revolutionary movements around the world, a place for debate and political practice that shows that
another world is possible. Rojava is not an anarchist society, but a society where anarchists from all over the world can put our ideas into
practice. We cannot allow this torch of hope to go out, and although it will still not be easy, we intend to continue to build, defend and
develop the world we dream of. More attacks will come and cause new losses and pain, but we are not afraid of debris, because we carry a new
world in our hearts.
The trade embargo was imposed by Turkey, Iraq and Iran, powers that did not find understanding for the transformation of the economy
based on workers' cooperatives.
If one wonders how an oil-dependent system can be ecological at the same time, the problem is probably that we are in a war zone on which
a trade embargo is imposed by neighboring countries. For the time being, Rojava's ecology consists of a strong emphasis on the local economy.
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