Rojava revolution

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.

Revolution in Rojava: Democratic Autonomy & Women’s Liberation in Syrian Kurdistan
By Michael Knapp, Anja Flack & Ercan Ayboga (translated by Janet Biehl)
Pluto, 2016
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.

The Socialist Alliance released the statement below on December 18.

The capture of formerly rebel-held East Aleppo by the forces of the Bashar Assad dictatorship and its foreign allies has been hailed by Assad and his Russian and Iranian backers as a decisive victory over their opponents that will end the war that has devastated the country since Assad used military force against a civilian protest movement in 2011.

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.

On the surface, it seems the war against ISIS in Syria is going well. On August 12, the town of Manbij was taken by forces of the Manbij Military Council (MMC) and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). Then on August 24, the nearby border town of Jarablus was occupied by Turkish tanks and troops. Turkish forces were joined by Syrian fighters claiming allegiance to Islamist and other groups affiliated with the Free Syrian Army (FSA). In both instances, the US provided air cover. However, there the similarities end.
In largely Kurdish Rojava in Syria's north, a profoundly democratic and revolutionary experiment is underway. A multi-ethnic, feminist and socialist-oriented society is being built from the ground up, organised around communes and other bodies of participatory democracy.
Hawzhin Azeez is member of Kobane Reconstruction Board in the largely Kurdish area of northern Syria and a former politics lecturer at Newcastle university. In Rojava, a profoundly democratic and revolutionary experiment is underway. A multi-ethnic, feminist and socialist-oriented society is being built from the ground up, organised around communes and other bodies of participatory democracy.
An August 11 meeting at the Melbourne Trades Hall heard an inspiring report on the rebuilding of Kobane and the progress and problems of the Rojava revolution. Hawzhin Azeez, a former University of Newcastle academic and now a central figure on the Kobane Reconstruction Board, spoke for almost an hour outlining the significance of Kobane to the Kurdish freedom struggle and the importance of the rebuilding effort.

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