Friday, August 21, 2015

Rojava's revolution

 This text is the introduction to our book A Small Key Can Open A Large Door.
"In Northern Syria, 2.5 million people are living in a stateless, feminist, religiously tolerant, anti-capitalist society of their own creation. They call their territory Rojava, and they defend it fiercely." So begins the introduction to A Small Key Can Unlock a Large Door, a 2015 book from the radical press collective Strangers in a Tangled Wilderness. They interpret a complicated Kurdish reality, misunderstood by many, not only leftists. "We need some context to truly understand the words and ideas of the rebels of Rojava, else we can be easily seduced by over-simplifications and distortions — like the claims that the struggle in Rojava is a replay of the Spanish Revolution, or that it is a sophisticated public relations makeover for a Maoist national liberation struggle." Small Key mixes left-libertarian analysis with interviews, firsthand accounts, and journalism.

"Rojava is neither a state nor a pure anarchist society. It is an ambitious social experiment that has rejected the seduction of state power and nationalism and has instead embraced autonomy, direct democracy, and decentralization to create a freer society for people in Rojava. The Rojava principles have borrowed from anarchism, social ecology, and feminism in an attempt to chart a societal vision that emphasizes accountability and independence for a radically pluralistic community." By direct democracy and a common economy, Rojava reinvents. {I updated this entry w/more hyperlinks to coverage, 12-19-15}

Dilar Dirik, in another excerpt, looks at women's subversion. Against ISIS, they join men who resist.  "Being a militant is seen as 'unwomanly'; it crosses social boundaries, it shakes the foundations of the status quo. War is seen as a man’s issue – started, led, and ended by men. So it is the 'woman' part of 'woman fighter' which causes this general discomfort." I think of a difference my wife and I have. She insists if women ruled, war would end. Perhaps in time it will, with such women as leaders?

Yet, they claim violence is not an end. Dirik shows: “'We don’t want the world to know us because of our guns, but because of our ideas,' says Sozda, a YPJ commander in Amûde, and points at the pictures on their common room’s walls: PKK guerrilla fighters and Abdullah Öcalan, the imprisoned ideological representative of the movement. 'We are not just women fighting ISIS. We struggle to change the society’s mentality and show the world what women are capable of.' Though there is no organic tie between the PKK and the Rojava administration, the political ideology is shared."

I admit peacemakers may, as in other self-defense campaigns, find their fervent hopes for conflict resolution thwarted by the reactionary and remorseless might of ISIS. The Kurds, under attack as non-Arabs for centuries by indigenous rulers and imperialist entities, cannot fend off by earnest appeals or amicable parleys the armed assaults and brutal regimentation of the Daesh, who have wiped out so many people in their invasions. Against their remorseless incursion, the Kurds take aim.

Across three cantons in Western Kurdistan on the Syrian frontier, a parlous situation continues. The map in the STW excerpt shows the smallness of the liberated Rojava areas vs. the vast ISIS territory. Western strategists understandably follow events here, while many on the left worldwide nit-pick. Libcom offers a helpful reading guide, where the comments and coverage display the pro-con sides.

I commented in an earlier post about the controversial legacy of "Apo" Ocalan, founder of the PKK, over his Maoist and Marxist-Leninist origins. But STW regards the recent transformation of Rojava as noteworthy. "Any sincere analysis of the past two years in Rojava shows an honest commitment to pluralistic and decentralized ideas, words, and practice." Against the male-dominated Kurdish traditions, feminism and plurality of ethnic and religious identities are encouraged. Anti-capitalism and a Murray Bookchin-Zapatista grassroots economics via cooperative ideals are promoted. Much more about these issues can be found hyperlinked at Peace in Kurdistan. More at Anarchy in Action.

The latter site reports, quoting Rafael Taylor: "The PKK itself has apparently taken after their leader, not only adopting Bookchin's specific brand of eco-anarchism, but actively internalizing the new philosophy in its strategy and tactics. The movement abandoned its bloody war for Stalinist/Maoist revolution and the terror tactics that came with it, and began pursuing a largely non-violent strategy aimed at greater regional autonomy." Ocalan calls this participation "democratic confederalism."

Since I wrote this, Turkey is bombing the Kurds in its zone in retaliation, supposedly, for ISIS. This cynical strategy is payback for Kurdish resistance, and the situation seems more dire than when I researched this two months ago. This dispirits me, and again, I wonder about self-defense against such overwhelming odds. Yet, unlike the Tibetans, say, surely some nations are arming many Kurds. 

You can support the people yourself. An autonomous university is opening and needs books and Kindles. A People's Library seeks stock to counter the destruction visited upon such centers by ISIS. Liberation can happen, the authors admit, as long as Western supporters and allies do not waste time over-analyzing the diverse roots of the struggle, rather than come to its practical, not theoretical, aid.

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