The newly-formed North and East Syria Solidarity (NESS) group is seeking to inform the public about and collect material support for the revolution in the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES).
Fionn Skiotis, who is one of the groups founders, told Green Left that “a number of us decided a new group was needed with a clear focus on North and East Syria, known as Rojava in Kurdish”.
NESS was formed with the support of the Kurdish community in Australia and it has good relations with the existing solidarity groups. “We’re still getting established, but we now have an online presence and are starting to add new members.
“Our aim is to provide vital material aid for Rojava, to raise awareness about its revolution — history, principles, victories and challenges — and advocate for AANES here.” Skiotis said the group wanted recognition of AANES as an autonomous political entity.
“We’ll also work to develop links between various groups in Australia and their equivalents in Rojava, including schools or colleges, cultural groups and sporting clubs, or cities and towns linked with locations in North and East Syria as ‘twin cities’.”
While North and East Syria is a long way from Australia, and its problems may seem distant “the people of Rojava have developed a truly unique society with many positive lessons for the whole world", Skiotis said. "These same people have fought heroically and at great cost to defeat the scourge of Islamic State, really on behalf of all humanity — so they deserve our aid and support.”
Skiotis said NESS would encourage interested MPs and others to visit Rojava. “Such visits are made on a regular basis by delegations from many European countries, including official delegations and less formal visits of a solidarity nature. The idea that it’s impossible to get into North and East Syria is simply not true, even if there can be problems with the border crossing from time to time.
“Such visits are important for two reasons: first, they send a clear message to the people of Rojava that they are not alone in facing their many challenges, which include the constant threat of yet another invasion by Turkey and daily attacks by its forces in the occupied areas.
“Simply to visit North and East Syria is itself a very meaningful act of solidarity. A visit would also serve to educate and inform people about what is going on in Rojava — a radical initiative in which direct democracy, women’s rights, pluralism and a focus on the environment are the main pillars.
“I’m convinced that if politicians and others could visit they would come away with ‘new eyes’ on the region and a real concern that our well-developed country should do more to support these valiant people.”
Skiotis said Australian governments should “do the moral thing by recognising AANES, provide diplomatic support and send humanitarian aid on a systematic basis”.
This is unlikely to happen, he said, without a push. There are also many things small groups can achieve “which will be of real and lasting help to Rojava”.
“Solidarity is the people’s equivalent of the high-level diplomacy that nation-states see as their sole prerogative.”
An important objective for NESS is to raise material aid for the AANES. “A wide range of material aid is needed in Rojava. Our initial focus was sending medical equipment and supplies. We found out what equipment was available from donors here and wrote to the health authorities in NES to ask which items might be useful. They responded: ‘We need everything!’.
“Unfortunately, just as we were about to ship some supplies, the global logistics crisis hit; it’s now virtually impossible to purchase a container or to load one on a ship bound for the Middle East.
“Hopefully this problem will ease and we can source and send material aid to Rojava. In the meantime, we can raise and send funds (for example via Heyva Sor, the Kurdish Red Cross equivalent) and work on other initiatives, such as raising awareness about Rojava and advocating for recognition and support here.”
Skiotis urged people to get in touch with NESS. “Donations large and small are always welcome, and if people can also contribute their time then a wide range of projects and actions are ready to start.”