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(en) Russia, avtonom.org: "Step by step, the system changes": the story of the participants in the revolution in the Rust [machine translation]
Tue, 10 Apr 2018 10:41:14 +0300
"Autonomous" publishes the text of the speech of the German Mike Nak, who became an active
participant in the Kurdish revolution and one of the faces of her female wing. In Moscow,
Mike acted in 2016 as the speaker of the "Foundation for Free Women of Rozhava." Due to
involvement, her opinion about what is happening in Roast can not be called impartial.
---- Today in West Kurdistan (Rozhava), local residents are trying to build a system of
people's assemblies, achieve social justice and gender equality, establish accountability
and election of military commanders. This resembles the best impulses of anarchists of the
Civil War in Spain or co-operators after the Russian Revolution, when people tried to
build their lives in a new way. "Hevale: The Revolution in Kurdistan" is a research media
project on the Middle East. He tells readers about direct democracy, gender issues and the
cooperative economy in the region. "Avtonom" and Hevale represent the story of Mike Nak
from the "Free Women's Foundation of Rozhava," which spoke to Muscovites about the
situation in the Middle East.
The revolution in Rozh began on the general wave of the Arab Spring, during which the
Kurds decided to implement their social model, inspired by the ideology of democratic
confederalism. This idea was developed by Abdullah Ocalan, leader of the Kurdistan
Workers' Party (PKK). From the very beginning, Rozhava was subjected to a large number of
attacks by Islamist groups, such as the Front Al Nusra and the Islamic State (IG).
There are three types of armed forces: YPG \ YPJ - for all Rozhava, Asayis - the forces of
maintaining security inside cities. HPC - the vigilantes guarding their districts. For
each of the three forces there is an exclusively female unit, which, of course, overturns
the Middle Eastern consciousness. People who join the ranks of self-defense do this not
just to go into the army - they form a new way of life. During the service they undergo a
weekly education: people discuss the role of women, discuss all social and political issues.
After the beginning of the Arab Spring from the north of Iraq and Syria, at several
locations the IG struck at the Kurdish people. In the north of Syria, in response to these
attacks, groups of people's self-defense YPG \ YPJ were created. But in the north of Iraq,
the situation is different in its specifics. In the Shengala mountains, there are many
representatives of the ethnoconfessional group of Yezidi Kurds, who did not have at that
time self-defense units. That is why YPG \ YPJ created a security corridor, according to
which people from Shengala could leave for Rozhava. Iraqi supporters of the PKK also came
to the aid of the Yezidi people, who occupy part of the mountain areas in the north of
Iraq. YPG \ YPJ, if necessary, always help people to leave their places of residence
before the attack from the side of the IG. In Shengal, many houses were mined or burnt.
In 2012, almost without bloodshed, self-defense units took Kurdish cities and villages in
the north of Syria. The idea of these people's detachments is not in the militaristic
mentality, but in the mentality of defense. Rozhava is based on the blood of the
liberation of the people, and the culture of memories rests on the fighters who died in
this struggle. This serves as a kind of example for what to do next. By mid-2016, at least
3,000 people from the Kurdish side were killed in this war.
Of these, at least 500 women gave their lives to protect their lands.
Many Arabs join the ranks of YPG, for which the Kurdish culture of memory is very
important and shows its true humanism and respect for those who died in the battles. Yes,
in some Arab villages, people to Rust are not loyal. Accordingly, there are fears of
voluntary or violent recruitment in the IG. In such cases YPG \ YPJ insists that people
from the village are moved to another place. YPG shows the way of a new relationship with
people, and this changes their attitude to the Kurdish movement for the better. If you
have nothing to eat or there is a constant threat to your life, then you may not have time
for radical thinking over the basic instincts of survival.
Space for democracy
Syrian Kurdistan is very rich in a variety of cultures, peoples and religious identities -
there are Yezidis, Sunni Muslims, Alawites, Arabs, Assyrians, Kurds, Armenians. Islamists
are attacking rather old cultures and religious communities with a special fury, having a
long history in the region. For example, they attacked the Assyrian community with great
hatred, destroying its churches.
Representatives of all nations can gather in the People's House - this is the basis of the
social organization of Rozhava. There was a space for meetings and discussions of all
their problems, solving issues on the basis of the assembly, constructive statements and
finding a way out of the situation.
People in Syria live very poorly, especially in the villages. The regime of the Syrian
nationalist party BAAS created a strong hierarchical system. In this system, only a few
people were allowed to have wealth and only a few could participate in the decision-making
process. This is one of the reasons for the spread of radicalism in the region. Especially
in the thinking of Arabs who live in hopeless poverty and do not know the way to get out
of this poverty. But at the same time today, the Arabs understand that they can express
their will and express their thinking through the system of democratic confederalism
created in Rozh. There are also councils organized on the basis of ethnicity: for example,
Arab and Assyrian councils. And also separately advice for Arab and Assyrian women.
We are building a new democratic confederalism, so the very principle of punishment or
fine in Roast differs from the generally accepted one. Step by step this system is
changing: if in 2011 we had usual old-fashioned courts, now the main attention is paid to
grass-roots commissions in communes. They are engaged in moderation and resolution of
emerging conflicts. The system is aimed at giving people an opportunity to understand what
is happening and to understand that what they have done is unethical. This applies to all
types of crimes, including military and social crimes. However, war crimes have not yet
been considered and, accordingly, have not developed a single legal position.
I will give an example. Traditionally, if a woman falls in love and wants to get married,
the man asks her to ask his father about money for the wedding. This money is her property
- it's like a dowry in Russia, going with a woman to her new family, and in this sense
protecting life. Then a man often takes this money and takes it easy. In the past, a woman
was punished for this, because it was believed that she began the relationship before
marriage and, therefore, stole money from her family. Under the new rules, it is necessary
to find and punish a man, because he has committed an act of double exploitation. On the
one hand, he subjected the exploitation of the emotion and feelings of this woman, and on
the other hand - stole money from her family.
After the capture, he is sent to educational courses, where he can think about his
unethical behavior. Everything can depend on what he has done. He may even be imprisoned,
but this is not the most appropriate term. It is rather an isolated place for getting an
education, where you will be forced to learn to behave ethically. Further decisions occur
depending on the desire of the girl.
Another example. In the structures of the IG there are women on high positions who even
recruit other women to the organization. If such a woman manages to be captured by the
detachments of people's self-defense, then they isolate her in this prison and follow her.
She is discussing what she thinks of herself. It is necessary to give the chance to change
the views and views that led her to such a fascist organization as the IG. We understand
this, so we focus on gender issues.
So many women took up arms to fight against the IG. Of course, there was a lot of fear
associated with this war, but we managed to motivate women to take the revolutionary
process into their own hands. The purpose of our women's movement is overcoming the
patriarchal way of thinking. The movement understands patriarchy as a system of
legitimizing exploitation, subordination, enslavement and violence, including war. The
decision of the Kurds is to build a society based on non-patriarchal values. We are doing
a different foundation - community, environment, grassroots democracy and equal rights for
all sexes, religious and ethnic groups.
We have a system of co-chairmanship in any organized form of social activity. Each
organization has a female parallel, and from this parallel a common organization grows.
Therefore, no decision is taken without the consent of the women's movement. For greater
efficiency, special women's centers have been built.
September 1, 2014, the organization of the "Feminist Foundation in the Middle East" was
established. In the constituent group were Kurdish and Arab women. Our work began with the
fact that we went from threshold to threshold with questions about what women need. The
first small donation we received only after six months of our work, but due to our energy
we managed to open four kindergartens and a women's center. Our main capital is not money,
but the participation of women in social activities.
And today, women lead a very traditional way of life, one of the main needs expressed by
them during interviews was that women need education. I will cite the figures: 92% of
respondents indicated this their main topic, 71% stated the need to find work and desire
to take part in the revolutionary movement, 60% said the need to improve the organization
of childcare. They say that mostly children are now on the streets, and therefore families
need kindergartens. More than 50% said that a new health care system is needed.
We organized the work of our foundation in six areas: health, education, research,
economics, project initiatives and cooperation. The first thing we did was open pre-school
training centers. Previously existing centers we transformed into kindergartens and for
the first time children had the opportunity to go to kindergarten, where communication and
education is conducted in their native language. Previously, in such institutions,
educators spoke only Arabic.
The system of communes and councils operates in the Roel - people come to us who want to
open a kindergarten. We can not particularly help them with money, but we can tell you how
to organize it so that they can start their work. We have already opened seven
kindergartens. Today, there are 2,000 women's communes in Rozh, so there is a lot of work
ahead to make a kindergarten in each of these communes.
Also we are engaged in cultural leisure. In addition to children, we work with parents at
parents' meetings to help them organize the education of their children as the education
of strong personalities. We are assisted by doctors from Germany, Holland and Turkey. But
the most inspiring thing in this revolution is that no state at the moment has given a
penny to support it. But people from all over the world collect money and take part
themselves, coming here. The world is in crisis, so the world needs a revolutionary
perspective. People come here because the states and the current world order does not give
them life prospects and answers to their questions.
Health Care of the Rozhava
After the revolution, the public health system, formed by the state, ceased to exist. At
the same time, the capitalist system of medical services is largely in operation. The
principles on which we want to organize a new health care system: first, it should be free
for everyone. Secondly, it must develop a system of practice and care.
At the end of 2014, we began work in Narush, a camp of Yezidi refugees from Southern
Kurdistan. The peculiarity of this camp, unlike most others, is self-organization and the
creation of a coordination council. We hold here seminars on psychological support and
conversations with psychologists. Also in the camp had time to open a women's sewing
cooperative. Another example: we repulsed a small town near Igilov, and in such an evil
place we wanted to do something good, aimed at the good of the whole people. When we
opened a health center there, we invited all mothers whose daughters died in the war with
the IG. Women who do not know how to properly read and write, have learned health care and
are giving seminars in their areas.
At the same time, there is no prostitution in Rust. However, external forces such as Iraqi
Kurdistan and IG tried to introduce its appearance in society. Women of Rozhava have no
special reason to engage in prostitution. If something like this happens, then the forces
of law and order suppress such activities - first of all, women's detachments.
Of course, not everything is perfect. For example, the problem of an abortion is, of
course, serious. Society for a very long time lived under feudal laws and Islamic laws. In
the folk tradition, there were many sharia elements before the arrival of the IG. Even the
majority of women raped by IG gave birth to their children.
The family system as such is very different, and marital cohabitation is perceived not so
in a sexual aspect, as we are used to in the West. The idea of a large family comes from
the feudal worldview of caring for the family in the future. A phenomenon called "family
liberalism" is widespread in society. Within the same family, people from the PKK,
feudal-minded people and people practicing Islam can get along. This is a big problem - to
change the mentality of a society that lived in an authoritarian state with a rooted
Islamic religion, the mentality of a lower-level democracy society.
In Rust there is a mullah who is the speaker of the Ministry of religion. He has very
democratic views on how society can be organized, but his main problem is to bring these
views to the thinking of all people, it is very difficult. Mullah spent a month to consult
with various women's organizations on how best to do so. And he acted very wisely, having
prepared in advance for the exhausting work that is ahead of him. He studied the
experience of the women's movement, the experience of countering honor killings, when a
woman who violated patriarchal norms is killed by her own relatives. After studying these
practices, the theologian created a knowledge base for further dialogues with other
mullahs and their parishioners.
I think one of the reasons for such great success in Róva is the understanding of how
women can benefit from the revolution. Resistance of society is not the most appropriate
word, but, of course, it is very difficult for many people to change their way of
thinking. It is very important for autonomous women's organizations to take liberation
from gender, ethnic, religious and labor class exploitation into their own hands.
From the very beginning, electricity was a very big problem. People in many cities were
virtually without it and without water. However, having managed independently to organize
small power stations in Kamyshlo, they could share with other cities. At the same time,
60% of all oil reserves in Syria are in Rust. Oil production serves only its own needs -
we do not let anything export. The big problem is that those people who knew how to clean
up oil left the region. Before the revolution, there was no oil refining in Rzvia - all
oil from here was exported to other regions, and oil refining was already carried out
there. This was the colonial exploitation of the region, because the people living here
had no profit from the oil they live on.
Now the most important thing is to establish sustainable production. There was not any
heavy industry here, and no, since the region just recently left the feudal society. In
addition, heavy industry is part of the exploitative system, so for the time being it is
not planned to create it. It is planned to create an environmentally friendly economy, so
it is important to consider all the circumstances in order not to harm the nature and the
In Roast, people believe that there is no need for a new capitalist system with
traditional investments, through which investors would exploit nature and man. Instead,
people are struggling to nurture the public economy. This is not a model of a planned
economy, as in the USSR.
There are a lot of small cooperatives working here for up to 20 people. For example,
sewing and agricultural cooperatives. Our women are in the vanguard of this economic
experiment. They perform all the rough work and not only rough work. They do a lot of
things that men do not do.
We are often asked: is wage labor permitted in Rust? And what is the explanation here from
the standpoint of the socialist perspective and all this? Work is underway on this, there
is a constant development. We have production facilities, shops, car workshops,
pharmacies, markets. The idea is to change the approach to this work. For example - the
market. There is a kind of logistic necessity for people to get food. The same goes for
pharmacies. When I participated in the assembly of drug sellers, they said several
important things. For example, they had great difficulties with deliveries because of the
imposed embargo, and we decided how to bypass it and at the same time not to inflate
prices for the population. This is all discussed throughout the Roast, because prices have
increased by 200%.
Our committees have economic committees and their primary task for today is to control the
acceptability of prices for the needs of the entire population. It is worth saying that
teachers and educators do not receive a salary. They receive only what is necessary for
existence. The system of economic support is common in every commune to monitor the
adequacy of food. In communes there are also production capacities: for example, places
where it is possible to thresh flour.
We can say that the new economic system in Rust is really unique. In comparison with
Germany, everything is done for the benefit of the people, and not for selling abroad. And
in society there is a big political discussion about whether it is possible to exploit
nature and man. And if you are going to open an enterprise, then will not it be doing
overproduction. All these are ethical issues, and they are being discussed all the time.
In communes, in addition to councils, there are committees that organize the organization
of her life in various spheres. In addition, people's squads are formed in these same
communes. Committees of health, education and committees to resolve conflicts between people.
The problems in obtaining large profits from cooperatives do not. If business and sales go
well, then the funds received are re-invested in their project, or are invested in other
projects of this cooperative. The income is distributed according to the needs. Sometimes
workers need to go by taxi, this is given money. Also money is given for food, everyday
expenses, mobile communication. But now in Roast is still hired labor, people receive a
salary in money terms. However, the very mentality itself changes, the very attitude to it.
The rich do not like Rozhava very much, because most of them left the country, and the
rest do not hurry to share with the others. Now the attitude towards property is changing.
Some would like to immediately take the property away from the rich and give it to the
communes, but this would cause great instability in Rust. Rozhava really needs things from
the outside. In particular, tents for refugees, medical equipment and in this sense it
needs to trade in the classical sense of the word. However, the idea of Rozhava is that
the entire economic system should be in collective public ownership to serve the interests
of the whole society. This is the economic strategy of Rozhava.
In Rozhava came a lot of soldiers, internationalists, but there is no statistics on this
issue. A very large role is played by Kurds from other parts of Kurdistan (Eastern,
Southern and Northern). The exact figure is unknown, but about 100 people came from
Europe, Canada, the US and Australia.
People from Iraqi Kurdistan come to us, although there is an army there - Peshmerga, but
everything is very difficult politically. For example, it would be logical to expect
support in the situation of the Islamists' attack, but instead they left Shengala with the
weapons and weapons seized earlier from the population. This was due to the fact that the
leadership of the Iraqi Kurdistan pursues its goals, which do not coincide with the needs
of the Kurds of Syria, Turkey and Iran. Today, many think that the Kurds want their own
state - but this is not entirely true. Kurds only want to respect their rights and needs,
and the already formed unrecognized by anybody semi-state in the north of Iraq does not
protect the interests of the common people.
We also invite delegations from different professions to come to Rozhava, see the ongoing
processes and participate in them. In 2016, getting into Rozhava became the main problem.
It was completely isolated, and even politicians could not leave or return. A year
earlier, the border could have traveled from Turkey and Southern Kurdistan. Turkey opened
it, if she wanted to launch Igilov in the territory of Rozhava. Then we issued a call to
Southern Kurdistan - to open the border, because Rozhava really needed people from
outside, including doctors and journalists who would cover the situation. We wanted to put
pressure on the Kurdish government Masud Barzani, because people who tried to cross the
border without permission were under arrest.
Contribution of Russia
Often asked about the military support of Russia, so in 2016 it is not. But Russia renders
support, first of all, political - for gaining the political status of the region. And, of
course, bombing Igilovsky strongholds - however, these blows also destroy civil
structures. We had several meetings with Russian political representatives about what kind
of first aid can be rendered by Rust. Especially for health, social construction and
However, there is no alliance between Russia and Rozhava - it exists between the Assad
regime and Russia. The absence of an alliance means that Rozhava will not become dependent
on Russia. But we must say that the dialogue that Russia is conducting with Rozhava is
unique. I emphasize that Rozhava will never become a social system, which is organized
according to the example of systems opposing it. It's in power in an independent
organization, hence the ideological contradictions with Russia.
Ghost of the State
Some say that people lose enthusiasm for the whole project, because there are economic
difficulties and the social structure becomes more like the state. Well, there is always a
contradictory dynamics in the society. Of course, people from rich and well-known families
see that they lose their rich and privileged position. They do not know how to give up
Initially, these people may have supported the revolution, but after a while they realized
how hard it really is. Not only be exempt from exploitation, but also stop exploiting
others. Refusal of privileges for them is very painful, even if they believe that a
revolution is something good.
People who lived for many years in Rust were formed and educated, which taught them to
live in the old social structure. They are accustomed to these norms within the family and
beyond - unfortunately, it is very difficult to change. In the end, there is always a
rollback dynamics to return to the routine, familiar life that people have led before. If
we look back four years or even 40 years ago, we will not see practically any Kurdish
identity. Kurdish women did not have self-consciousness, and the people were oppressed in
all four parts of Kurdistan. The policy of assimilation was conducted everywhere.
Now in two parts of Kurdistan we have co-chairs. In all four parts of Kurdistan,
autonomous women's organizations operate from the commune level to the highest levels.
Everywhere discussions are held about the emancipation of oneself and of one's thinking.
Discussions about forced marriages and the money that is levied for weddings and honor
killings. Everywhere there are ideological military and social forces that protect women
from this violence.
The tendencies of the formation of elements of the state are also sometimes manifested in
the society of Rozhava. But there is a large system of criticism and self-criticism in it.
In society, there is a great will to transform oneself into free personalities on a free
land. Of course, there is much work to be done to become a free man. At the very least, to
conduct a lot of discussions, but nevertheless, I think that people will manage to reach
this level. And the more complexities Rust has to experience on this path, the stronger it
will become afterwards.
It is fortunate for us to observe the way of the development of Rozhava since at the
beginning no one believed Abdullah Ocalan and his plan for transformation. In his life he
encountered different life processes and situations. In particular, the protection of
women's organizations - this put him under attack from patriarchal-minded people. However,
his ideas spread throughout the Middle East like a fire, and this fire changed a lot of
people. Everyone who accepts such ideas takes responsibility for supporting this
revolutionary ideology. And how great that we have common ideas and common goals.
Perhaps tomorrow I will be there, where no one has ever heard of these liberation ideas.
And I will tell you about my comrades from the PKK and its allied structures, who died
fighting this war, thus I will continue their war. The words that I'm telling you, through
me, are spoken by millions of people living in Rust. But not only the Rozhava, but also
from diasporas and other parts of Kurdistan.
Since the work of the Hevale team, several dozens of articles about Rozhava have been
translated into Russian in June 2015, the books "Life without a State" and "Kurdistan:
Real Democracy in Conditions of War and Siege" have been published. More information about
the revolution in Kurdistan:
The material was prepared for the magazine "Avtonom" . The Editorial Board of the journal
will be grateful for your support:
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