The Kurdish-led left-wing Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), which won 13.2% of the vote in 2015 national elections to become the third largest parliamentary group, has faced growing repression as the Turkish regime of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has turned increasingly dictatorial. Last year, all of the HDP’s 59 MPs were hit with arrest warrants, amid mass arrests of voices critical of the government.
After Turkish forces took the previously ISIS-held town of al-Bab on February 23, clashes have intensified in northern Syria between Turkish forces and local proxies occupying an enclave in northern Syria, on one hand, and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) on the other.
The SDF is an alliance of progressive armed groups — the largest of which are Kurdish-based Peoples Defence Units (YPG) and Women’s Defence Units (YPJ) — that is subordinate to the grassroots democratic structures of the Democratic Federation of North Syria.
Amid the horrors of Syria’s multi-sided civil war, a ray of hope has broken out in the north.
Led by left-wing Kurdish forces in Rojava following a 2012 insurrection that liberated the area from the regime’s control, the Rojava Revolution aims to build a new system on the principles of women’s liberation, a multi-ethnic participatory democracy, ecology and solidarity.
The July 15 coup attempt was a nightmare. Kurds remember the terrible army coups in Turkey’s past. After the coups, Kurdish people were jailed, killed and tortured.
Kurds are against military coups. By nightfall on July 15, the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) had immediately condemned the coup attempt.
Kurds thought that after the coup attempt, there may be a return to the peace process.
The reasons behind this were:
Revolution in Rojava: Democratic Autonomy & Women’s Liberation in Syrian Kurdistan
By Michael Knapp, Anja Flack & Ercan Ayboga (translated by Janet Biehl)
285 pp., $38.95
Rojava, which is Kurdish for the “west”, is to be found in Northern Syria. In the middle of a conflict zone, marked by the war against the Assad regime, a Turkish invasion and ongoing conflict with the brutal jihadists of ISIS and al-Nusra, the Kurds and their allies are creating a new kind of democratic system.
New international talks aimed at ending the Syrian conflict may be unlikely to succeed, but they do mark shifts in the alignment of competing forces.
The United Nations Security Council unanimously voted on December 31 to support a ceasefire in Syria that started the previous day. The latest round of international peace talks are scheduled for January 23 in the capital of Kazakhstan, Astana.
The Kurdish people are an oppressed nationality without a state, whose homeland is currently divided between five countries in the Middle East. Despite this, the left-wing Kurdish movement in Syria’s north is not fighting for a separate nation state. Rather, it is seeking to unite all ethnic groups and religions to fight for an autonomous, participatory democracy as part of a profound social movement that puts women’s liberation at its heart.
Syria’s five-year-old war is reaching a turning point. In the north and west, ISIS is on the back foot. Its territory is declining, as it is in Iraq.
But as with Iraq, the defeat of ISIS is likely to create new conflict over what comes next.
The north-eastern Syrian city of Aleppo has since 2012 been divided between the city’s west, held by the regime of beleaguered dictator Bashar al-Assad, and its east, held by a fractious coalition of predominantly Islamist rebel groups.
Cemil Bayık, the co-chair of the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK, the umbrella organisation of the Kurdish liberation movement), spoke to Firat News Agency about recent developments in Turkey.