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(en) Interview with a member of TURKISH ANARCHISTS DAF on the FIGHT FOR KOBANÊ
Wed, 25 Mar 2015 09:45:18 +0200
Can you give us an overview of the situation in the border region of Turkey and Syria,
describing the militias and other key actors that are operating there? ---- The people
living in the region are mostly Kurds, who have been living there for hundreds of years.
This region has never been represented by a state. Because of that, the people of the
region have been in struggle for a very long time. The people are very diverse in terms of
ethnicity and religion: there are Kurdish people, Arabic people, Yazidi people, and more.
One of the major Kurdish people’s organizations in Turkey and Iraq is the PKK, and the PYD
in Syria is in the same line with the PKK. As for military organizations, there are the
YPJ and YPG, the men’s and women’s organizations.---- Against these organizations stand
ISIS, the Islamic gangs, in which Al Nusra is involved. These are the radical Islamists.
There is also the Free Syrian Army, a coalition of many different groups; they are
supported by the capitalist system, but they are not as radical as ISIS. And there is the
Turkish state, and Assad’s Syrian state, who are on the attack. In northern Iraq, there is
also a Kurdish state, under the KDP of Barzani, which is ideologically the same as the
Turkish state, but ethnically a bit different.
What is the role of the PKK in the region, and the meaning of their supposed libertarian turn?
The PKK has a bad reputation in the West because of their past. Twenty years ago, when it
was founded, it was a Marxist-Leninist group. But a few years ago, it has changed this
completely and denounced these ideas, because the ideas of their leader changed and so did
the people. They went towards a more libertarian ideology after reading the works of
Murray Bookchin and on account of some other factors in the region. To understand the
situation today, it is also important that in the beginning, the PKK was not so
ideological. It did not grow up as an ideological movement, but as a people’s movement.
This is another factor explaining how it has developed in this direction.
What do you mean when you say Rojava revolution? What kind of social experiment is it, and
why is it relevant for anti-authoritarian social movements around the world?
The Rojava revolution was proclaimed two years ago. Three cantons declared their
independence from the state, from Assad’s regime. They didn’t want any kind of involvement
with any of the internationally supported capitalist powers. This successfully opened up a
third front in the region. It was a moment when the states in the region lost power.
This began as a project of the Kurdish struggle. It involves directly democratic practices
like people’s assemblies, and it is focused on ethnic diversity, power to the people, and
women’s liberation, which is a big focus of the Kurdish movement in general, not just in
Rojava. They formed their own defense units, which are voluntary organizations just made
up of the people who are living there.
You are part of the anarchist group DAF (Revolutionary Anarchist Action) in Turkey. One of
your main activities over the last years has been building solidarity and mutual aid with
the people in Kurdistan. Tell us about your group and what your involvement is in the
DAF advocates a revolutionary perspective; we call ourselves revolutionary anarchists
because we want anarchism to be socially understood in our region, because in this region
anarchism doesn’t have any tradition or history. Our first aim is to spread the ideals of
anarchism into the social fabric of our society, and for us the practice is more important
than theory. Or rather, we build our theory on our practice as revolutionary anarchists.
We are against all forms of oppression. We focus on workers’ movements and people’s
movements that are oppressed due to ethnicity, we stand in solidarity against women’s
oppression, and we are active in all of those movements. In Rojava, we were in touch with
participants in the revolution since it started; when the resistance began in Kobanê, we
immediately went to the region; our comrades organized solidarity actions on both sides of
the border. We still have people there on a rotating basis, and we are still organizing
actions. For example, recently, our women’s group organized an action in which they called
for conscientious objection in support of the Kobanê resistance.
DAF has organized on the Turkish-Syrian border, in a “human chain” intended to prevent
fighters of the Islamic State from passing over the border from the Turkish side to join
in fighting against the Kurdish resistance. Tell us about this form of direct action?
The Turkish state has been attacking Kobanê from the west. In their discourse, the Turkish
state sounds like they are against ISIS, but in practice it permits material resources,
arms, and people to pass through the border, and it has been attacking the villages on the
border. These villages are not very separate from Kobanê; it’s the same families and a lot
of people from Kobanê pass through there when they are injured or if they want to join the
struggle from the Turkish side of the border. So our comrades are staying in the villages
and participating in all the actions in the communes, doing logistical support for the
refugees and for injured people.
“We cut the wires. The moment we passed the border, we were greeted with huge enthusiasm.
In the border villages of Kobanê, everyone, young and old, were on the streets. YPG and
YPJ guerrillas saluted our elimination of borders by firing into air. We rallied in the
streets of Kobanê.” –DAF report from a solidarity mission
Throughout the armed conflict, the mainstream media said that Kobanê would fall, despite
the fact that the resistance on the ground never gave up. Why do you think they reported
it that way?
This was a psychological war from the beginning. The media did not want the Kobanê
resistance to be heard. The coverage was part of the psychological war, because there was
a lot of international support for the resistance. And when it became evident that Kobanê
would not fall, they changed tactics: all the international powers tried to give the
impression that they were helping with air strikes, and the Kurdish states by sending
fighters. This was done right before it was evident that Kobanê would not fall, only in
order to give the impression that they are not against this struggle.
It is obvious that the people’s struggle in Kobanê is not in the interest of the
prevailing world powers. What do you think the prospects are for the Rojava revolution?
What is the situation on the ground now? How can people from other countries support the
Lately, other parts of Rojava have been attacked. If you remember months ago when ISIS
first attacked the Yazid people, the Yazids were forced to flee from their cities, and
they were saved by the YPD fighters. Afterwards, ISIS was repelled. Last week, the Yazid
people have formed their own defense units, similar to those in Rojava. So the struggle is
growing in the region, with self-defense and the idea of direct democracy gaining more
Also, on the Turkish side of the border, the war is getting harsher. The government is
using more violence against the Kurdish resistance. Again, last week, the police attacked
and murdered a 14-year-old kid. This shows that the struggle will continue in a more
violent way. This matter is not just limited to this region; you can see from the recent
attacks on the journalists in France that this has to be taken very seriously on the
international level, especially by revolutionaries.
This also shows the importance of the Rojava revolution against ISIS and radical Islamism.
I think that international support would mean taking more actions locally against the real
powers that are supporting ISIS.
How successful do you feel the intervention of the DAF has been in providing solidarity to
those in Rojava struggling against the Islamic State? What resources or skills are
important for anarchist groups to develop in order to be better prepared for situations
DAF has been in solidarity with the Rojava Revolution since it was declared over two years
ago. Our comrades have been there since the first day of the Kobanê resistance, in
solidarity, to the best of our ability, with the peoples’ struggle for freedom.
We always knew that Kobanê would not fall and it didn’t fall, contrary to what mainstream
media reported a hundred times since the resistance began. One month ago, ISIS controlled
40% of Kobanê, now it’s 20% and they are backing off. [Since this interview was conducted,
ISIS has been completely driven out of Kobanê.] Given that ISIS is losing their battles
with other forces in the region and getting weaker, we can say that the Kobanê resistance
The resources and skills would be different for every specific struggle. The level of
oppression and violence are different in every region and the skills for resistance are
best built on direct experience. However, the skills of organization and the culture of
sharing and solidarity are at least as important as any particular skills for resistance.
These are almost universal. DAF has built its own experience on the culture of the commune
and struggle against oppression as well as a long-term relationship of mutual solidarity
with the Kurdish people and other struggles for freedom in Anatolia and Kurdistan.
Unfortunately, it’s not possible to give a more detailed answer here on account of
security issues and other concerns.
How is the struggle in Kobanê changing the political context in Turkey, both for Erdogan
and for social movements for liberation?
The Turkish state has had to take steps backward in relation to the resistance in Kobanê.
It has stopped openly supporting ISIS, although it is still supporting ISIS behind the
scenes. It had occupying plans in the name of creating a “security region,” which included
military intervention to weaken the Kurdish struggle and also attacking Assad’s forces in
alliance with the Muslim Brotherhood of Syria. These plans have failed.
The solidarity actions carried out by social movements for liberation spread around the
world to an extent that was unseen in recent years. This international solidary was an
important factor in the success of the Kobanê resistance. Rojava is another example
proving that people can make a revolution without a vanguard party or a group of the
elite, even where there is no industry. And this can happen in a place like the Middle
East, where struggling for freedom means fighting against all kinds of oppression,
including patriarchy as well as massacres based on ethnicity and religion.
DAF texts have described the Islamic State as “the violent mob produced by global
capitalism” and “the subcontractor of the States that pursue income strategies on the
region.” Can you explain precisely what your analysis of the Islamic State is—why it
appeared, and whose interests it serves?
It is obvious that the actions of Islamic State benefit the powers (economic and
political) that have goals in the region. These could be direct or indirect benefits that
strengthen the hand of these powers. For example, a radical Islamist group is useful for
Western economic or political powers to make propaganda about defending Western values.
Islamic terror is one of the biggest issues that Western countries make propaganda about.
Moreover, it is also a political reality that some countries, including the US, have
agreements with these fundamentalists. This is the 50-year-running Middle East policy of
The Turkish state expressed a negative view of the Islamic State in every speech of its
bureaucrats. But we have witnessed real political cooperation of the Turkish state with
the Islamic State in relation to the resistance in Kobanê. So in this situation, it
appears that they are supporting Islamic State but they are claiming that they are not
It seems clear that the Turkish government is hoping for the Islamic State to weaken
Kurdish power in the region. But what do you think the Turkish state’s long-term goals are
in reference to the Islamic State itself?
The Turkish state has been providing large amounts of arms, supplies, and recruits to ISIS
ever since the time when it was part of the globally supported Free Syrian Army. This
support continues surreptitiously, since politically the Turkish state had to seem to be
against ISIS after the resistance in Kobanê succeeded. Our comrades at the Turkish border
with Syria are still reporting suspiciously large transports crossing it.
The Turkish state has strong relations with the Muslim Brotherhood, and their joint
long-term goal is to gain more power in the region by eliminating Assad’s authority. ISIS
is their ally in this respect also.
Arguably, the Islamic State could never have come to power without the weapons and
instability that the United States imported to Iraq. At the same time, it appears that US
airstrikes and coordination with fighters in Kobanê have played a significant role in
preventing the Islamic State from gaining control of the city. Has this enabled the United
States to legitimize itself among those defending Rojava? What challenges does this create
there for anarchists who oppose state power?
This false impression is a product of the mainstream media. US airstrikes began very late,
after it was evident that Kobanê would not fall, and they were not critical. The bombings
also hit the areas in YPG control “by mistake.” And some ammunition landed in the hands of
ISIS also “by mistake.”
The success of the Kobanê Resistance can only be attributed to the self-organized power of
the people’s armed forces. Because of this strong resistance, as well as extensive
international solidarity, the US and its allies had to take steps backward.
The bombings and media coverage are part of the political maneuvers against the revolution
that will try to destroy it by including it. However, the Rojava Revolution is part of a
long history of Kurdish people’s struggle for freedom. Its insistence on being stateless,
its gains in the liberation of women, etc. are not coincidences.
The challenge is to communicate the values created in the Rojava Revolution and the
political reality of wartime conditions.
Can you say anything on the relationship between armed struggle and vanguardism? Does
armed warfare inevitably compromise anti-authoritarian struggles, or are there ways to
engage in warfare that do not inevitably produce hierarchies and specialization? This has
been an important conversation in the US after the protests in Ferguson, which involved
gunfire from both sides. Some comrades in Thessaloniki were debating this issue with us,
arguing that when guns are introduced to social conflict, it is always a step away from
anarchy. But perhaps in some cases there is no other option?
When all the people (who are able) are armed, who is the vanguard? The people’s
self-defense forces in Rojava include all ages, both men and women (who are already
legendary fighters) from all ethnic and religious backgrounds in the region.
The hierarchy created in the armed struggle of the guerrilla does not necessarily mean an
exclusive authority in the social structures created by the revolution. This awareness is
a part of the Rojava peoples’ struggle for freedom.
Comrades from DAF and the Anarkismo Editors Group have made strong arguments that it is
important to act in solidarity with the struggle in Rojava whether or not it is an
explicitly “anarchist” struggle. But no society, ethnic group, or struggle is homogenous;
each contains internal conflicts and contradictions, and the hardest part of solidarity
work is usually figuring out how to take sides (or avoid taking sides). In your efforts to
show solidarity with those struggling in Rojava, has DAF encountered tensions between more
authoritarian and less authoritarian structures within the defense? How are you engaging
As you have stated, no popular movement is homogenous. The importance of the Rojava
Revolution is the revolutionary efforts that are becoming generalized. This is a mutual
process in which the people of Rojava are becoming aware about social revolution and at
the same time are shaping a social revolution. The YPG and YPJ are self-defense
organizations created by the people. The character of both organizations has been
criticized in many texts as authoritarian.
Similar discussions took place among comrades in the early 2000s in reference to the
Zapatista movement. There were many critiques of the EZLN’s authoritarian character in the
Zapatista Revolution. Critiques about the character of the popular movements must take
into account the political reality. As DAF, we would frame critiques on the process that
are based on our experiences, and which are far from being prejudgments about Kurdish
movement. So there is no cooperation with any authoritarian structure, nor will any
authoritarian structure play a role in social revolution.
In the United States, some anarchists have sometimes spoken of certain ethnic groups such
as the people of Chiapas as if they are “culturally anarchist.” Now some people here are
speaking about the Kurdish people the same way. To us, although we do not want to render
the struggles of oppressed peoples and colonized peoples invisible, it also seems
simplistic and dangerous to confuse ethnic identity with politics. Likewise, our comrades
in former Yugoslavia have expressed concerns over struggles that are based in ethnic or
religious identity, on account of their experience of the 1990s civil war. How important
is ethnic identity in the struggle in Rojava? Do you see this as a potential problem, or not?
The Rojava Revolution is indeed made by peoples with at least four different ethnic and
three different religious backgrounds, who are actively taking part equally in both
military and social fronts. Also, the people of Rojava insist on being stateless, when
there is already a neighboring Kurdish state in place. Kurdish ethnic identity has been
subject to the denial and oppression policies of all the states in the region. Raising
oppressed identities is strategically important in peoples’ struggle for freedom, but not
to the extent that it is a device of discrimination and deception. This balance is of key
importance and the Rojava Revolution has already proved itself in this respect.
DAF also finds that the values that the people of Chiapas have created in their struggle
for freedom align with anarchism, although “culturally anarchist” would not be a term we
Are there any other regions of the Middle East where social experiments like the one in
Rojava are taking place, or where they might emerge? What would it take, internationally,
for what is promising in Rojava to spread?
The Rojava Revolution has been developing in a time when many socio-economic crises
appeared around the world: Greece, Egypt, Ukraine… During the first period of the Arab
Springs, the social opposition supported this “spring wave.” After a while, these waves
evolved into clashes between fundamentalists and secular militarist powers. So the
revolution in Rojava appeared at a conjuncture when the social opposition had lost their
hopes in the Middle East. Its own international character and international solidarity
will spread this effort—first in the Middle East, then around the world.
What does the conflict in Kobanê tell us about the kind of struggles ahead in the 21st
century? It seems to be an early example of what might happen in “sacrifice zones” in
which traditional state forces seal off the area and withdraw, leaving autonomous
communities to do battle with new fundamentalist or neo-fascist post-state organizations.
Do you see what is happening there as something new, or old? Or both?
As we stated above, this is a part of the process that started with the “spring waves.” It
can be understood as a part of this theory of “sacrifice zones.” But this theory gives a
great deal of importance to the character of international powers as subjects. We also
have to recognize the role of internal political, economic, and social forces. We have to
check out the internal capital that has relations with fundamentalists against
international capitalist powers.
Moreover, one of the biggest issues to understand the political culture of the Middle East
is to recognize its unique character. Religion has a unique effect in the political agenda
of the East. Not just for the Rojava Revolution, but across the board, DAF’s perspective
on international politics is based in an understanding of relations of domination between
social, economic, and political forces which cooperate and clash from time to time
according to convenience, all of which are useless for oppressed people.
Interview with a member of DAF on the Slovenian anarchist radio show Črna luknja in early
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