Rojava

Turkish war planes launched air strikes against Syria and Iraq on April 24.

For months local and foreign forces have been closing in on the main ISIS strongholds: the cities of Raqqa in Syria and Mosul in Iraq. Turkey is a NATO member and recognised as an ally against ISIS by the US-led coalition of Western powers in Iraq and Syria, that includes Australia.

But the Turkish air strikes did not target ISIS. Instead, they were aimed at the terror group’s most consistent opponents — left-wing Kurdish-led revolutionary forces.

United States warships in the Mediterranean Sea launched a large cruise missile strike against government-held airfields in Syria on April 7. They fired about 60 Tomahawk missiles on the Shayrat air base near Homs in central Syria as the US government called for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to be removed from power.

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.

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.

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.


Protest against Turkish invasion and massacre of civilians. Girkê Legê, Rojava, August 28.

The statement below was released on September 1 and signed by a range of politicians, academics and activists from around the world. To sign, please send your name, organisation and country to mc@kurdishinstitute.be.

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The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) says 4475 people were killed in the nation's horrific civil war during July. Of these, 1289 were civilians, including 263 children. Almost three quarters of these civilian casualties were killed in airstrikes by the government or its ally, Russia, and other attacks by the pro-government side, SOHR said. Since the Syrian Civil War began in 2011, more than 400,000 people have been killed, between 4-to-5 million people have left Syria as refugees and about 8 million have been internally displaced.
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.
Protest in Rojava against exclusion of Kurdish-led democratic forces from negotiations in Geneva, March 30. Photo: Hawar News Agency. The Syrian Kurds and allied communities declared their areas the “Federation of Northern Syria and Rojava” on March 17, and announced that democratic federalism is a viable alternative to the detrimental politics of both the Syrian regime and the jihadist opposition.
Sydney University campus came alive with political discussion, talks and workshops for three days during the Socialism for the 21st Century Conference, held over May 13–15. The conference had more than 30 sessions and 50 speakers, including international special guests Marta Harnecker, Michael Lebowitz and Ian Angus. Local and international activists shared their experiences of struggle and discussed the necessity of building alternatives to capitalism today. Up to 400 conference-goers faced the task of choosing from a range of stimulating sessions on offer.
Since a “cessation in hostilities” in Syria's multi-sided civil war was declared on February 27, about 6000 people have been killed in the conflict. This “cessation in hostilities” was brokered by the International Syria Support Group (ISSG), made up of the United Nations, the European Union and the Arab League and the governments of Britain, China, Egypt, France, Germany, Iran, Iraq, Italy, Jordan, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates and the United States. The ISSG is co-chaired by the US and Russia.
On March 17, after a two-day meeting held in the town of Girkê Legê (Al-Muabbada) in Rojava (Syrian Kurdistan), a Constituent Assembly established a “Rojava-Northern Syria Democratic Federal System”. The Constituent Assembly was attended by 31 parties and 200 delegates representing Rojava's Kobanê, Efrîn and Cizîrê cantons and the Kurdish, Arab, Assyrian, Syriac, Armenian, Turkmen and Chechen peoples of Girê Spî (Tal Abyad), Shaddadi, Aleppo and Shehba regions.
İlham Ehmed is Co-President of the Syrian Democratic Council, the political body with which the Syrian Democratic Forces (QSD) are affiliated, and a leading representative of the Kurdish-led Rojava Revolution in Northern Syria. She spoke to Firat News Agency on February 22 about the QSD's recent gains and Turkey's bombardment, and threatened invasion, of Rojava.

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What is your evaluation of Turkey's recent escalated attacks on Rojava?

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