Conference on the Rojavan Revolution
The Kurdish regions of northern Syria (Rojava) are conducting a remarkable social experiment. In brief, in the vacuum created by the Syrian civil war, Rojava is experimenting with a form of organization that might best be viewed as ‘anarchist’, or to use a newer variation, ‘communalist’. The key ingredients in this revolutionary process stress the absolute equality of all peoples regardless of sex, gender, race, or ethnicity. Building a truly sustainable relationship between people and the environment is a key concept termed “social ecology”. Decision making in Rojava is bottom up across the board. Individual regions of Rojava, cantons, have voluntarily chosen to confederate. Rojava has its own armed forces to protect the people of the region that is structured into a people’s militia called the YPG. A separate wing of the YPG is a women’s militia, the YPJ. In both, officers are elected by their soldiers. Remarkably, the YPG and YPJ operating with very few resources have been the most effective fighters against ISIS. Indeed, not only have the YPG/YPJ largely driven ISIS from Kurdish territory, the Rojavan Revolution philosophically stands as the polar opposite to the medieval barbarism of ISIS.
The revolution in Rojava is broadly based on the seminal writings of the late American political theorist Murray Bookchin. It combines the concepts of social ecology of Bookchin with the notion of ‘democratic confederalism’ as it has evolved from the work of Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan. The latter in adopting an anarchist position realized that the Kurdish people do not necessarily need to have the formal structure of a ‘state’ in order to develop their own autonomous and free society.
In spite of the current success of the revolution, few people in North America know much about Rojava or the revolution there. Even for many on the ‘left’ the nature of the revolution is not well understood. In fact, the events Rojava are sometime viewed through a rather dogmatic perspective that equates the help the YPG has received from the United States/NATO with Rojava having become a participant in a new form of ‘neo-colonialism’ for the region. This view is quite incorrect, but speaks to the need for a broader understanding of the events in the region and their historical context, particularly amongst those on the left.
Rojavans view their revolution not only as the best way forward for themselves, but also as a potential model for other communities, especially those struggling for autonomy. Whether this revolution will survive, however, is very much the current question. In recent days, the circumstances on the ground have changed dramatically. Turkey has moved its army into the region and brought in auxiliary jihadi fighters in an attempt to block the YPG and roll back the Rojavan revolution.