Eyewitnesses to the Rojava revolution: women empowerment

ROAR Magazine

Protest against Turkish invasion in Serekaniye, Rojava. July, 2019 Photo: Olmo Couto / Shutterstock.com

The Rojava revolution is under attack. Debbie Bookchin and Emre Şahin share their thoughts on this unique revolutionary process after recently visiting the region.

Authors: Debbie Bookchin, Emre Şahin, Marina Sitrin

What has been taking place in Rojava is easily one of the most inspiring and exciting experiments in autonomous self-government to ever exist. It is also one of the most massive, and gender inclusive, often compared to the Spanish Revolution of 1936, as well as the Zapatistas in Chiapas, Mexico. And yet, people outside the region know little about the different dimensions of the revolution taking place in Rojava. And now, this revolutionary territory is under military and political attack — its very existence at risk.

What follows is the first of a three part interview series with people who have had ongoing relationship to Rojava, and who have spent time in the revolutionary territory. The first two parts of the series are with Debbie Bookchin and Emre Şahin. Debbie, a journalist, author, public speaker and organizer is Murray Bookchin’s daughter and spent a part of the spring of 2019 in Rojava. Emre, a Kurdish PhD student and translator, spent most of the summer of 2019, traveling to 14 different towns and cities in Rojava, conducting research and in-depth interviews.

The third part is an interview with Carne Ross, Executive Director of Independent Diplomat and author. Carne left his career as a British diplomat, having served in numerous embassies and was Head of the Middle East section and Deputy Head of Political Section at the UK Mission to the United Nations. Carne made the film, Accidental Anarchist, based on his time in Rojava.

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No Friends But The Mountains

Anarchist Communist Group

The Kurds have entered into alliances with local States and imperialist powers, always to be betrayed. After World War One, they were promised their own state by the victorious imperialist forces of Britain, France and the USA. These promises, enshrined in the Treaty of Sevres in 1920, proved to be worthless, and anyway it was always about how the great powers would carve up the old Ottoman Empire.

The Kurdistan depicted in the Treaty of Sevres would have been under British control. Some Kurdish nationalists supported this, but others sided with the Turkish nationalist military leader Kemal Ataturk to fight the Allied powers. These Muslim Kurds preferred Ottoman or Turkish nationalist control to domination by a Christian power. Others feared that the British would re-introduce Armenians – who had fled after the genocidal attacks on them by the Turks – would be re-introduced to the region. This was a decision to be regretted by the Kurds as they experienced the reality of life under the Ataturk regime.

The British had occupied the oil-rich province of Mosul, where many Kurds lived, in 1918. The following year Mosul was incorporated into the newly created Iraq. The Treaty of Sevres promised the Iraqi Kurds the chance to be part of this projected Kurdistan, a promise never to be fulfilled.

In 1920 Shaykh Mahmud Barzanji led an uprising of the Iraqi Kurds against British rule and declared a Kurdish kingdom in northern Iraq. At first the British had backed Barzanji, who they saw as offering a convenient buffer territory between their interests in Iraq and the Turkish state. He had become increasingly resentful about the failure of the British to keep their promises. He was wounded, captured and imprisoned in India until 1922.

However, the British now decided to bring him back to stabilise the area against the Turkish nationalists and he was installed as governor of south Kurdistan, but after his return he proclaimed himself King of Kurdistan, turned down the British deal and allied with Turkey. Barzanji was defeated and captured again in 1932. He sued for peace and was exiled to southern Iraq. During the series of uprisings against the British, the RAF used bombs and chemical weapons against Kurdish insurgents.

In 1968 the USA supported the coming to power in Iraq of the Ba’athist Party, which promptly began to attack the Kurds in that country. In the 1970s it supported the Shah of Iran as its ally in the region, and gave support to the Kurds against Iraq. When war between Iran and Saddam Hussein’s Iraq ended suddenly in 1975, Iran dropped its Kurdish allies and the Americans stopped supplying them with military aid. The Kurds then were at the mercy of Saddam.

In the 1980s The USA saw Saddam as a useful regional ally, particularly with the fall of the Shah and the Islamic Revolution in 1979 in Iran. The Americans turned a blind eye to Saddam’s atrocities against the Kurds. This changed again in 1990 with Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait. He was now the enemy of the USA and American support was given to Kurdish and Shiite revolts in Iraq. However with the declaration of a Kurdish autonomous zone in northern Iraq, the USA failed to provide assistance and the revolt was crushed.

With the Syrian civil war, the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) of Turkey, who had been waging a war against the Turkish State, in alliance with its proxy, the Democratic Union Party (PYD) took over parts of Syria from the Assad regime. They defended themselves against attacks from the Islamic State. The Americans, seeking an ally in the region, at first supported the Kurds against ISIS with air attacks, and then later with financial and military aid. The Kurds had once again become a proxy of the USA.

All of this changed with Trump’s abrupt decision to desert the Kurds and to allow the Turkish state to attack the Kurdish area in Syria. But, once again, Trump has reversed his position of pulling US troops out of Syria, under pressure from both Democrats and Republicans, and the criticisms of many retired military leaders. What this means for the Kurds in Syria remains to be seen.

As for Russia, it initially gave support to the PYD and its military units, the YPG. Now, however, Russia’s uneasy alliance with the Erdogan regime in Turkey means that Putin has given the green light for YPG forces to be pushed back from the Turkish/Syrian border. Putin met with Erdogan at the Black Sea resort of Sochi last week, and there it was agreed that Russian troops in Syria would not intervene to stop the advance of the Turkish forces. For its part, the PYD has agreed for the return of control of north east Syria to Assad and his forces. The PYD might switch allegiances and go into alliance with Russia, which will cynically play them off against the Turkish State, and then in time-honoured fashion, drop the Kurds when they are no longer deemed useful. Putin’s support of the Assad regime is still a priority and comes before any support for the Kurds.

We should also be aware of the demands by the German Defence Minister, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer to set up a security zone in the area and send thousands of troops there. This represents a move by the Franco-German bloc in Europe to intervene for its own interests.

Meanwhile, across the border in northern Iraq, the USA still supports the Kurdish autonomous region ruled by the Barzani family. However, this support has its limits. After an independence referendum with a 93% vote of Yes, in 2017, the USA used its troops to support Iraqi forces to push the Kurds back into their enclave and the areas taken by the Kurds in 2014, including Kirkuk and its oilfields, were retaken by the Iraqi government. This is in spite of the role that Kurdish forces had played in driving out ISIS from most of Iraq.

There is an old Kurdish saying that the Kurds have no friends but the mountains. Any attempt by the Kurds to ally with world imperialist powers as well as regional imperialist powers like Iran, have proven time and again to be disastrous. The Kurds are used as proxies, as cannon fodder for the interests of these powers in a danger zone where the USA and its British and European allies, and Russia and its allies of Syria and Iran, are in confrontation.

Only a revolutionary movement that unites Kurdish, Turkish, and Arab workers and sweeps away the ruling class in the Middle East, whether it be the Barzani family, the theocratic regime in Iran, the Assad regime in Syria and Erdogan in Turkey, can offer any real solution to the situation.

Support antifascist prisoner David Campbell and anti-ISIS prisoner Aidan James

Cautiously pessimistic

David Campbell, a New York-based antifascist, is starting an 18-month sentence after being convicted of “gang assault”, a charge that sounds similar to the notoriously terrible principle of “joint enterprise”, allowing people to be convicted for someone else’s actions. To make things a little easier while he’s inside, you can donate money here, send him a message using this form which his friends will print out and pass on to him, or pick something off his very extensive reading list (or even choose a book you think he’d like that’s not on there) and order a copy to be sent to:

David Campbell #3101900657
Eric M. Taylor Center
10-10 Hazen Street
East Elmhurst, NY 11370

If you’d like to write to David, but aren’t sure what to write about, here are some suggestions:

  • the last time you saw a good play, or your favorite …

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Bristol , 25 October 2019. Shut down BAE and MBDA. Stop arming fascism!

Join us at the gates of BAE and MBDA to demand an end to the supply of arms to the fascist Turkish State.

Golf Course Lane, Filton, BS34 7QS

BE THERE FOR 7AM! Workers arrive early and we want them to hear what we have to say.

At 4pm on October 9th, the Turkish occupation army and its Islamist allies began their long-prepared war of aggression against the liberated areas of northern Syria. Turkish military forces have carried out serious violations and war crimes, including summary killings and unlawful attacks that have killed and injured civilians. BAE and MBDA, with offices in Bristol, supply arms to Turkey.

In 2017, BAE agreed a £100 million deal with the Turkish Air Force to develop a new fighter jet. Theresa May signed a special export license to ease the process of selling these weapons to Turkey. In January 2018, a deal was finalised between the Turkish government and EUROSAM for a new missile programme. EUROSAM is a joint venture between MBDA Missile Systems and Thales.

More information on arms companies supplying Turkey here:

Please share this widely to get maximum involvement! See:
https://alternativebristol.com/events/stop-arming-turkey-solidarity-with-rojava/

https://network23.org/kebele2/2019/10/22/rojava-solidarity-demo-at-bae/

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Werin Barîkadan – A las Barricadas in Kurdish

DayX – The moment has come – The war has started!

Internationalist Commune

A few hours ago the fascist Turkish state started its occupation operation on the liberated territories of Northeast Syria.

Turkish war planes attack the towns and villages of Serekaniye and Gire Spi. Qamishlo, Derik and many other places along the border are under heavy artillery fire. The self-defence forces of the Democratic Federation of Northeast Syria are responding to the attacks of the hordes of fascists with severity, hundreds of thousands of fighters and the civilian population at their side are ready to fight to the end. The situation is clear, we call for global resistance.

Declaration of the Internationalist Commune:

DayX – The moment has come – The war has started! We call to RiseUp, to defend Rojava

The imperialist forces have decided to go to war. The troops on the ground are waving the flags of Turkey and of the Islamic State, but the decision was not only made in Ankara but also in the palaces in Washington, Moscow, Paris and Berlin.

Since the beginning, the Revolution in Rojava as been an internationalist revolution. A revolution not only to free the Kurdish population in Syria, but also the Middle East from the centuries of colonialism, oppression and dictatorships. And it has been an internationalist Revolution, because many internationalists joined this revolution, on the front line against the Islamic State and the Turkish fascism, we helped in hospitals, planted trees and worked to build up a democratic, ecological society, based on the liberation of women. And many revolutionaries joined the struggle all over the world, because the revolution in Syria has shown to all of us, that another world is not just theoretically possible, but it’s actually being built up in everyday life.

Today the moment has come, to show what we have built in the last years of comradeship and internationalism all over the globe. Today the moment has come to put internationalism once more into practice by defending the revolution, and through this, we will defend our hopes, wishes and our dreams.

Even if we are standing against the second biggest NATO army, with thousands of islamist gangs as their cannon fodder we know that behind this revolution millions of revolutionaries, friends, sisters and brothers are standing. And with all of of them, with all of you, we will increase our political protest to the level of political resistance, until there are no more weapon exports to Turkey, until the Turkish fascist regime is defeated.

The first militant, the first comrade, the first martyr

Internationalist Commune

Haki Karer, internationalistic co-founder of the PKK

Interview with Mustafa Karasu, by İsmet Kayhan | Kurdistan Report Nr. 202

Haki Karer (fourth from left) as a student at Ankara University. | Photo: ANF

The years in which Haki Karer began to study at the university were the years of strong repression as a result of the military coup of March 12, 1971. The effects of the resistance of the revolutionary leaders Deniz Gezmiş, Mahir Çayan and İbrahim Kaypakkaya against the fascism of March 12 shaped Haki Karer very much. He took a place in the front ranks of revolutionary youth resistance, which spread like an avalanche from 1973. During this time, from 1973 onwards, he personally got to know the leaders of the left-wing and revolutionary youth movements. The person who shaped him most and was to change his life was the Kurdish leading personality Abdullah Öcalan.

Haki Karer met Öcalan in 1972 and from then on their paths did not part. The central reason that brought these two revolutionaries together was the ideological line that saw the liberation of Kurdish and Turkish society as a unity.

Haki Karer lost his life on 18 May 1977 as a result of a plot by the “Sterka Sor” after a year at Dîlok (Antep). His death was to deeply affect Öcalan and his friends. Öcalan called his companion Haki Karer his “secret soul”. Mustafa Karasu, a member of the Executive Council of the Community of Societies of Kurdistan (KCK), has reported on Haki Karer’s organizational activities within the workers and students of Dîlok and on the ideological struggle with the Turkish left circles. Karasu, who also took part in the funeral of Haki Karer, spoke extensively about this time.

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