Defending Rojava


A. M. Gittlitz in The New Inquiry:

The time is right to redraw the map, former US lieutenant colonel and Fox News talking head Ralph Peters argues, with a Free Kurdistan as the New Middle East’s crown. “Stretching from Diyarbakir through Tabriz, it will be the most pro-Western state between Bulgaria and Japan,” he says, continuing a century-long tradition of treating the Kurdish people as a talking point in negotiating borders, disciplining Turkey or invading Syria or Iraq. As the most effective fighting force against ISIS and the faction most likely to set up a stable secular democracy, Western hawks like Peters are once again championing the Kurdish cause, so long as it fits the daily agenda.

Often equally instrumentalizing, the Western left has taken a newfound interest in the allegedly revolutionary situation in the Kurdish-majority region of Rojava in northern Syria. There, a new system of stateless governance has formed and their rhetoric against patriarchy, neo-liberalism, and the nation-state quickly lead to both enthusiasm from those who see the embattled Kobane as the new Catalonia, and scorn from those who see it breeding short-sighted and faux-revolutionary nationalism.

In both cases, the voices of revolutionary Kurds are seldom heard, and Combustion Books’ collection of essays, A Small Key Can Open a Large Door: The Rojava Revolution, tries to fix this lack. Perhaps the first English language book on the subject, it includes an eclectic assortment of first hand accounts, including a letter from a 19 year old woman sent to her mother from the Kobane frontlines, a description of the situation on the border of Turkey by activists facing down Erdogan’s military police and newly translated essays from Turkish anarchist groups. Other selections compile a series of letters sent between Syrian and Iraqi Kurds and analyze the importance and mechanics of Kobane’s successful defense against ISIS.

The book reads as a primer for the situation in Rojava that the editors unhesitatingly refer to as a “revolution” in a 30 page introduction on the history of Kurdish resistance and the results of the PKK’s “libertarian turn”. In 2004, influenced by the works of Murray Bookchin, imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan determined that the authoritarian nature of Marxism-Leninism was behind the times and out of touch with Kurdish society, and the anarchistic model of governance by small councils of workers, youth, women, and neighbors would be a more pragmatic and truly communistic solution. Around this time Kurds in Syria attempted to enact the program, but were quickly and violently repressed by Assad.

More here.