Rojava (aka the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria) is, however, extremely interesting as one of the most creative experiments in direct Democracy, federalism, co-operative economy, gender equality, LGBT and multiethnic rights (although Kurdish dominated there are also Arabs, Assyrians and other smaller ethnic groups – Muslims, Jews, and Christians) taking place in the world, all in the midst of the Syrian war and determined attempts by ISIL to expand their caliphate into their territory, which they fought with great determination, suffering around 10,000 deaths. In spite of acknowledging their central role in defeating ISIL locally and the international support they have received, their project is under threat from Turkey, and not at all clear what will be the Syrian central government’s attitude once the war is over. And they were not invited to Geneva for the peace talks as Turkey opposed it.
Perhaps it is precisely their success in creating a pocket of decentralized politics, gender equality and co-operative and green economics that make those with authoritarian tendencies feel uneasy. There are around 4 million people participating in this experiment.
David Graeber, Anthropology Lecturer from the London School of Economics went to visit a few years ago and has been writing articles about it for The Guardian, the New York Times and other publications in spite of which the project remains largely ignored. With some exceptions as they count now on the support of the British cooperative movement.
Graeber’s father had gone, together with many European young people (like George Orwell) to Spain to fight against fascism as WWII was developing its roots and Graeber sees lots of parallels with the young idealists who went to fight with the Kurds against ISIL. What he saw was how a movement somehow emerging from Marxism was inspired to develop a system more akin to libertarian socialism, or anarchism, inspired on a number of sources. Debbie Bookchin (also an inspiration for Barcelona’s mayoress Ada Colau) and feminist theory, and Abdullah Öcalan, the leader serving a life sentence in Turkey.
“They decided that rather than demanding a state of their own, they wished to simply make borders irrelevant and dissolve away states entirely. And it’s kind of made sense to people in that part of the world. Remember the Kurds are a population who are divided between Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey. The idea they are somehow carving a government out of that seems unlikely, “David Graeber said.
Rojava has its own University: “Young people in that region were historically excluded from higher education by the regime,” said Rana Khalaf, author of a paper on Rojava’s institutions. “If they wanted to study, they had to go to Aleppo. This meant that girls could not study, because their families would not allow them to commute between the two places.”At the end of its second year, Rojava University had 720 students and 127 faculty members, according to Massoud Mohammed, a media spokesman for the university.”
“A CO-OPERATIVE REVOLUTION IS HAPPENING IN NORTHERN SYRIA
People in Rojava are collectively building a society based on principles of direct democracy, ecology, and women’s liberation, with co-operation playing a crucial role in rebuilding their economy. In Bakur (the predominantly Kurdish region of eastern Turkey) people are setting up co-operatives within a similar democratic model, despite ongoing military repression by the state of Turkey.”
Rojava has many critics, like any functioning alternative to capitalism would have, and its future in such an unstable region is uncertain, but by reaching out for solidarity and showing themselves as a demonstration effect of what can be achieved through an evolving commitment to a society built from the bottom up they are increasing their chances of inspiring other parts of the Syrian society in the post-war reconstruction effort, and other parts of the world.
The report by Silvia Swindenshe posted in PRESSENZA.