Rojava’s Democratic, Feminist Revolution a Source of Hope among Horror
Rojava’s Democratic, Feminist Revolution a Source of Hope among Horror
By Tony Iltis and Stuart Munckton / telesurtv.net

In the Rojava region of Syria, despite the difficulties, people are organizing communes and women’s councils.
Syria can seem an endless black hole of misery, but in the northern, largely Kurdish region of Rojava, it is also the scene of a profoundly democratic and humanist revolution, which places the rights of ethnic minorities and women’s liberation at its centre.

Ironically, given the horror that surrounds it, Rojava is the site of the most profound experiments on grassroots, participatory democracy outside of the revolutionary projects in Latin America. Like in Venezuela, the ideal of “the commune” is at the heart of Rojava’s burgeoning democracy.

The Rojavan revolution came to the world’s attention largely through the heroic resistance by the fighters of the People’s Protection Units (YPG) and Women’s Protection Units (YPJ) in defeating an Islamic State group siege on the Rojavan town of Kobane in January. But many have noted the profoundly revolutionary ideology that drives Rojavan freedom fighters - which they are seeking to put into practice amid great odds.

Rojava is a “liberated zone” in northern Syria that forms part of the traditional homeland of Kurdistan. The major political party is the Democratic Union Party (PYD), which is ideologically aligned with the left-wing Kurdish Workers Party (PKK), based in Turkey.

In 2011, the PYD supported the uprising that broke out against Assad. However, it was concerned about the opposition overly militarising the conflict. At first, this was in response to Assad’s repression of unarmed protests, but was fuelled by the intelligence agencies of the West and its regional allies.

As well as the growing ethnic and religious chauvinism of a largely Sunni and Arab opposition becoming defined as Sunni and Arab, this caused the Kurdish movement to stay aloof from the fractious armed opposition.

By July 2012, the Assad government’s military presence in Rojava was depleted by pressures elsewhere in the midst of a worsening civil war. There was a growing danger Rojava would become a battleground between opposing forces hostile to Kurds and other ethnic minorities.

In response, a largely bloodless uprising was launched, declaring Rojava a liberated zone. This popular insurrection allowed the PKK and PYD’s ideas of “democratic confederalism,” based on participatory democracy and local autonomy, to begin to be realised.

The PYD plays an ideological role in Rojava’s democratic transformation, but not an institutional one. It helped establish the Movement for a Democratic Society (TEV-DEM), which organises and mobilises the population but is organisationally independent of the PYD.

Institutional power is based on a system called “Democratic Autonomy”. Ecology or Catastrophe blog said in January that TEV-DEM representative Çinar Salih told a visiting academic delegation, “Our system rests on the communes, made up of neighbourhoods of 300 people. The communes have co-presidents, and there are co-presidents at all levels, from commune to canton administration.”

“In each commune there are five or six different committees. Communes work in two ways. First, they resolve problems quickly and early — for example, a technical problem or a social one. Some jobs can be done in five minutes, but if you send it to the state, it gets caught in a bureaucracy. So we can solve issues quickly. The second way is political,” Salih said.

“If we speak about true democracy, decisions can’t be made from the top and go to the bottom, they have to be made at the bottom and then go up in degrees.The co-presidents are one male and one female … Female representation is guaranteed on all the peoples councils. No gender is allowed more than 60 percent representation. In addition, there are parallel women-only structures,” he explained.

“Women’s councils exist in parallel at all levels, the commune, the district, the city, and the canton. The women’s councils don’t decide on general issues — that’s what the people’s councils are for. They discuss issues that are specifically about women … They have veto power on issues concerning women.”

The emphasis on women’s liberation is reflected in the high visibility of female fighters in Rojava’s revolutionary armed groups.

Salih argued that the Rojava revolution is a “revolution of women,” explaining that they are involved in all areas of life. “We believe that a revolution that does not open the way for women’s liberation is not a revolution. There have been revolutions in Libya and Egypt and Tunisia … but the same status for women has persisted.”

Because of the war, devastation and isolation that Rojava is subjected to, its economy is largely geared toward survival. However, its socialist-oriented emphasis is on providing universal housing, nutrition, healthcare, childcare and education — none of which were provided by the Syrian government during peacetime.

The revolution in Rojava is explicitly a multi-ethnic revolution. In its preamble, the constitution of the Rojava autonomous cantons describes Rojava’s cantons as “a confederation of Kurds, Arabs, Syriacs, Arameans, Turkmen, Armenians and Chechens”.

It continues: “In building a society free from authoritarianism, militarism, centralism and the intervention of religious authority in public affairs, the Charter recognises Syria’s territorial integrity and aspires to maintain domestic and international peace.”

The emphasis in Rojava is on building structures that are multi-ethnic, as opposed to simply Kurdish. Everything from street signs, to media, to education are provided in the relevant language of the community involved.

Like gender, ethnic participation on the communal and other councils is enabled by quotas. There are also parallel bodies for ethnic minorities.

Due to such policies, the revolution quickly won support from non-Kurdish minorities. This is reflected in non-Kurdish participation in the revolution’s structures and organisations, as well as alliances made with non-Kurdish political and armed groups.

The Rojavan revolution faces constant threats from many sides – and has to navigate complex, competing forces seeking to push their interests in the region. But for all it has achieved against the odds, the Rojavan revolution deserves our solidarity – the world needs Rojava.

Tony Iltis and Stuart Munckton are journalists for Australia’s Green Left Weekly.

3.5 ·
1
What's Next
Trending Today
10 Provocative Quotes from Ivan Illich's "Deschooling Society"
Daniel Lattier · 12,871 views today · Ivan Illich’s groundbreaking book Deschooling Society (1971) offers a radical critique of the institutionalization of education within modern societies. Illich believed that we...
This Text Message Exchange Between a Mother and Daughter is Pure Gold
Belinda Hankins · 8,986 views today · When Belinda Hankins got a text message from her 13-year-old daughter, who was shopping for period products, it started an exchange that will resonate with women everywhere. Enjoy.
What Makes Call-Out Culture So Toxic
Asam Ahmad · 4,242 views today · Call-out culture refers to the tendency among progressives, radicals, activists, and community organizers to publicly name instances or patterns of oppressive behaviour and...
Welcome to Marinaleda: The Spanish Anti-Capitalist Town With Equal Wage Full Employment and $19 Housing
Jade Small · 4,143 views today · With virtually no police, crime or unemployment, meet the Spanish town described as a democratic, socialist utopia. Unemployment is non-existent in Marinaleda, an Andalusian...
When You Kill Ten Million Africans You Aren't Called 'Hitler'
Liam O'Ceallaigh · 3,323 views today · Take a look at this picture. Do you know who it is? Most people haven’t heard of him. But you should have. When you see his face or hear his name you should get as sick in...
Superblocks: How Barcelona Is Taking City Streets Back From Cars
5 min · 3,047 views today · Modern cities are designed for cars. But the city of Barcelona is testing out an urban design trick that can give cities back to pedestrians.
11 Traits of People With High Emotional Intelligence
Raven Fon · 2,715 views today · Lately, new ways to describe human interactions, social behaviours, and many facets of psychology have emerged on the social network scene. One of those descriptions is “high...
What You Might Notice If You Forgot Your Phone For a Day
2 min · 2,013 views today · There is a moment happening right in front of you, right this second, and you just might be missing it
Who Are You? Watching This Breathtaking Video Could Be the Moment You Change Your Life
2 min · 1,963 views today · "Normal is getting dressed in clothes that you buy for work, driving through traffic in a car that you are still paying for, in order to get to a job that you need so you can...
Ikigai - Finding Your Reason for Being
Chip Richards · 1,914 views today · What Gets You Out of Bed in the Morning? When asked what is the single most powerful contributing factor to one’s health and vitality, integrative medical...
Throw (2016)
10 min · 1,760 views today · The first installment of Invisible Thread, an ongoing ELM passion project series, Throw tells the story of an outsider from East Baltimore, an area challenged by gang violence...
93 Documentaries to Expand Your Consciousness
Films For Action · 1,503 views today · There are over 800 documentaries now cataloged in our library of social change films. That's probably way too many for any mortal to ever watch in a lifetime, let alone a few...
Today I Rise: This Beautiful Short Film Is Like a Love Poem For Your Heart and Soul
4 min · 1,357 views today · "The world is missing what I am ready to give: My Wisdom, My Sweetness, My Love and My hunger for Peace." "Where are you? Where are you, little girl with broken wings but full...
Fighting Trump - Residents Opposing Donald Trump's Scottish Golf Resort
14 min · 941 views today · Documentary on the residents protesting against Donald Trump's golf development on the Menie Estate in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. Directed and Presented by James Trosh.
Real Change in Democracy Comes Not in the Voting Booth but Activism at the Grass-Roots
Ilze Peterson · 937 views today · Many years ago, the late Judy Guay, a low-income woman from Bangor, founded the Maine Association of Interdependent Neighborhoods in order to advocate for the neediest in our...
Schooling the World (2010)
66 min · 937 views today · If you wanted to change an ancient culture in a generation, how would you do it? You would change the way it educates its children. The U.S. Government knew this in the 19th...
Doctors Response to Daily Mail Bigotry is Beautiful
Neil Tiwari · 849 views today · A poetic open letter to the Daily Mail newspaper from Dr. Neil Tiwari, in response to a bigoted attack on his colleagues, is going viral and it's beautiful.
Forest Man
16 min · 846 views today · Since the 1970's Majuli islander Jadav Payeng has been planting trees in order to save his island. To date he has single handedly planted a forest larger than Central Park NYC...
How to Criticize with Kindness: Philosopher Daniel Dennett on the Four Steps to Arguing Intelligently
Maria Popova · 688 views today · “Just how charitable are you supposed to be when criticizing the views of an opponent?”
John Lennon's "Imagine," Made Into a Comic Strip
John Lennon. Art by Pablo Stanley · 628 views today · This is easily the best comic strip ever made.  Pabl
Load More
Like us on Facebook?
Rojava’s Democratic, Feminist Revolution a Source of Hope among Horror