Solidarity with Kobani: Why should the left support it?

October 17, 2014

Kurdish fighters in the northern-Syrian city of Kobani have been fighting an armed struggle against Islamic State (IS) fighters for the past month. The Kurdish fighters are resisting IS attempts to take their city, which would result in a massacre.

There has been some debate among left activists about whether the Kurdish struggle is anti-imperialist, whether the people’s militia groups in Kobani have been calling for imperialist military intervention, and what issue Australian anti-war activists should focus on.

Some have gone so far as to accuse those who are supporting the Kurdish struggle against the Islamic State, of whipping up more Islamophobia here in Australia.

The Kurdish struggle is anti-imperialist. The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) have led a decade-long struggle for Kurdish rights in Turkey to the point where the PKK has been listed as a terrorist organisation.

Turkey is a member of NATO and an imperialist puppet in the region. In recent months the Turkish government have closed the borders to prevent Kurds in Turkey reinforcing Kobani. This has included tear gassing and utilising other police violence against peaceful protesters in Turkey.

There have also been numerous accusations that while the Turkish government is doing nothing to assist Kobani, they have been directly aiding the IS, who are the very forces that are attempting to crush Kobani and who NATO have said they are there to fight.

But it’s not just who the PKK, People’s Militia Units (YPG) and Women’s Militia Units (YPJ) are fighting that make their struggle anti-imperialist. It is also what they are fighting for that is even more important.

What they are fighting for is the emerging progressive state of Rojava, where people of all ethnic backgrounds and religious beliefs are equal, where women are at the forefront of organising and leading. This is what those in Kobani are fighting to protect, and this is what the Turkish government is hoping will be destroyed.

The accusation that supporting Kobani against the IS will whip up Islamophobia in Australia implies that the IS is representative of all forms of Islam. In reality, the IS are targeting Muslims to be killed. Numerous leaders and prominent figures of Islam around the world have condemned the Islamic State for that reason.

Rojava is home is to Muslims, Christians, Jews and possibly other religions as well. This is a good example to hold up as this is what people have achieved in the Middle East and is a better way to counter the stereotype that all Muslims are fundamentalist terrorists.

The PKK, YPG and YPJ have called for Turkey to open its borders so that Kobani can receive reinforcements and supplies.

NATO have been attempting to bomb IS forces in the area with no success.

The PKK, YPG and YPJ are attempting to work with these forces so that there is some coordination and so that the bombing is effective in targeting the IS and not civilians. This is not the same as them calling Western forces in — they were already there.

Right now the Kurdish struggle and the anti-Islamophobia rallies have people’s attention in Australia.

In 2003, a large anti-war movement challenged the federal government to not send troops to start a war in Iraq. A movement like that is needed today but the left is not strong enough to create it by itself.

Solidarity campaigns with the Kurdish struggle can be one part of the anti-war movement, and can help to rebuild it.

The process in Rojava and the defence of Kobani by those living there are feminist issues. These incredibly brave women are fighting the IS because if they lay down their arms they will be captured, tortured, raped and if not killed, will be sold as slaves.

The YPJ women’s militia are also waging a campaign against domestic violence in Kobani. They are training women who do not wish to fight on the frontlines in how to shoot and use a rifle, and in doing so they are forming housewife brigades.

They are pushing the boundaries of the roles women are usually forced into. All of this is worthy of our support. Biji Kobani. Long live Kurdistan.

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