Rojava conference to discuss support for commune-style democracy

A member of the Kurdish People Protection Unit (YPG).
June 2, 2017

A conference on the Rojava Revolution will be held as the struggle in northern Syria enters perhaps its most critical phase.

“The Rojava Revolution in Northern Syria: An experiment in radical democracy, feminism & ecology” will be held in Melbourne on June 30 and July 1. The event aims to inform participants about the revolutionary process, to discuss the problems it faces and to build support for it.

For six years Syria has been engulfed in a terrible war. The original democratic revolt against the Bashar al-Assad regime has given way to a brutal multi-sided conflict. But in the midst of this carnage, under threat on all sides, the freedom struggle in Rojava is an inspiring beacon of hope. Initially a struggle for Kurdish self-determination, the liberation forces have established the Democratic Federal System of Northern Syria as a model for a multi-ethnic, federal and socially just Syria.

Today in northern Syria, a radical commune-style democracy is being constructed. Unprecedented efforts are being made to empower women. A new society is being created where the various ethnic and religious groups that form the incredibly rich Syrian social mosaic can live together in peace.

The assault on the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), backed by the United States, is clearly approaching its climax. All the various players are jockeying for position and preparing for the aftermath. ISIS strength is declining but is unlikely to disappear any time soon.

The Assad regime, with Russian and Iranian backing, has regained control of many areas but has been weakened by the long war. Obviously it does not want to see a radical democracy in northern Syria or anywhere else.

Turkey, ruled by the Kurdophobic regime of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, continues to make cross-border military attacks to target the liberation forces. The US has sought to discourage Turkey by patrolling the border, but will it continue to do this once ISIS is reduced to a guerrilla nuisance?

Washington’s support for the SDF, particularly for the Kurdish forces that are the biggest part of the SDF, is purely tactical and will only last as long as ISIS is a serious threat. The US has no interest in backing a revolutionary process in the region.

A great deal depends on the alliance between the Kurdish and Arab communities. As the battle for Raqqa nears its decisive phase, more and more Arab units are joining with the Kurdish People’s Protection Units/ Women’s Protection Units (YPG/YPJ) in the SDF, which is clearly a mass multi-ethnic, non-sectarian force. More Arab communities, including Arab women, are being drawn into the grassroots democratic structures that are being set up in the areas liberated from ISIS.

Three overseas guests will address the conference via video link. Saleh Muslim is a founder of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), the leading party in Syrian Kurdistan, and is one of the two co-chairpeople of the organisation. He travels extensively representing the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria. A chemical engineer by training, he has a long involvement in the struggle for Kurdish rights.

Hawzhin Azeez came to Australia as a Kurdish refugee from Iraq at the age of 11, lived in Western Sydney and went on to lecture in politics at Newcastle University. Today she is an activist with the Kobane Reconstruction Board. Azeez has contributed articles on Rojava to the online journal Kurdish Question.

Ercan Ayboga is an environmental engineer and activist currently based in Germany. Formerly he worked in the city administration of Diyarbakir (Amed) where he was the coordinator of international relations and heritage sites, including the urban Tigris River project. Ayboga is a co-author of Revolution in Rojava: Democratic Autonomy and Women’s Liberation is Syrian Kurdistan.

The conference is being hosted by the Victoria University College of Arts and Education and organised by Honorary Professor John Tully with the assistance of the Kurdish Democratic Community Centre and Australians for Kurdistan.

[The conference will be held at Victoria University’s City Campus at 300 Flinders Street, Melbourne. Tickets may be purchased from Trybooking. Visit Australians for Kurdistan for the draft agenda.]

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