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(en) Italy, FDCA - Il Cantiere #10-5: Rojava - Reflections and subjective counterpoints after a decade of revolution Pau Guerra Kurdist\u00e0n (18 July 2022)[1] (ca, de, it, pt, tr)[machine translation]

Date Thu, 22 Sep 2022 11:33:51 +0300


On 19 July 2012, the autonomy of the city of Kobane was declared, the reference date for the revolutionary transformation process that the north-east of Syria is experiencing. This decade of resistance and autonomy building offers us valuable experiences from which we can draw important lessons. And above all, it also leaves us profound changes and personal transformations for those of us who have decided to be part of the revolution. ---- Celebrating a decade of revolution is not something that happens often, and there are even fewer that can still be defined as such after 10 years. History has left us numerous examples of armed struggles and massive social mobilizations that end up being corrupted or co-opted by outside forces within a few years. But Rojava manages not only to survive, but to deepen the construction of democratic autonomy, with its difficulties but also with self-criticism to evaluate and continue to improve. Undoubtedly there are contradictions and shortcomings which, for those who want to outrage this difficult process of social transformation, will be useful reasons for doing so. For me, the things I have seen and learned here affect the way I see things. In part for everything I've learned here, partly due to the emotional and experiential ties that are created with these lands and the people who inhabit them. It is therefore not a question of a neutral, objective, sterile aspect. It is the gaze of those who, seeking to learn and understand in a perspective of critical solidarity, take sides in the conflict.

Those of us who embark on this journey to experience the revolution from within often find inspiration and parallels with the 1936 revolution, which also began on July 19th. I remember with a certain nostalgia the debates with my friend Joan, who was reading "Tribute to Catalonia" in the first months of our arrival, when we found ourselves in our daily life with situations similar to those described by Orwell in her book. This has led us to think that similar dynamics tend to occur in revolutionary processes, and this probably is the case. Frantz Fanon quotes in his book "The wretched of the Earth" the well-known quote "The last must be the first", to summarize the decolonization process. I imagine this phrase can be applied to all oppressed and marginalized movements that aspire to a revolution. It is in these processes of empowerment, when those on the fringes of society struggle for their rightful place in it, that dynamics and processes develop that repeat themselves, resonating over and over throughout history.

Internationalism in the 21st century and the echo of the international brigades

When I first set foot in Rojava a little over 5 years ago, the time of the YPG as popular militias - of neighbors holding Kalashnikovs, defending their homes and lands - was slowly fading. The so-called International Coalition Against ISIS, led by the United States, not only led to the contradiction of collaboration with the world's leading imperialist power, but also led to the reorganization of these militias into what have been called the Syrian Democratic Forces. This military restructuring, which served to expand the number of combatants, to improve their weapons and their legitimacy, bears some reminiscences of what happened with the popular militias of the

1936, in our case at the request of Soviet influence.

But in Rojava there is no KomIntern to pull the strings, which coordinates the transfer of tens of thousands of militants from Paris. There is no 3rd international, with dozens of affiliated socialist parties, and with the ability to send arms and entire brigades ready to fight. Those of us who travel to Rojava do so mostly individually, sometimes in small groups, leaving our homes behind to join the revolution. Our numbers are far from the tens of thousands who, almost a century ago, went to Spain to fight fascism. But this does not prevent us from studying and drawing parallels between what the war in Spain meant then and what the war in Syria, and in particular Rojava, means today.

In 2017, the SDF, in a joint effort between the Kurdish people and the Arab people, proved their effectiveness by freeing Manbij and then Raqqa, the de facto capital of the Islamic State in Syria. The war forged alliances that allowed the hitherto predominantly Kurdish autonomous administration to expand beyond its traditional areas of influence. This strategic turning point took place in harmony with the internationalist paradigm of the movement, trying to unite democratic forces beyond national identities, working with different peoples in a common democratic project for Syria and the Middle East. More important than welcoming those of us who, proclaiming ourselves internationalists, travel from Europe or America to Kurdistan, this

We "Westerners" find ourselves with great contradictions when it comes to understanding the complex inter-ethnic dynamics in the Middle East. Just a century ago, European colonialism exploited this great diversity to its advantage, instigating conflicts and wars between different groups that allowed it to establish its colonial hegemony. Therefore, we carry this additional responsibility, as part of the wealth and privileges we have is the legacy of colonization and exploitation of the peoples who, now, teach us what it means to make a revolution. And I must say, not without a little embarrassment, that people here have no grudges against us. On the contrary, they welcome us with open arms and patiently show us what they are building, hoping that this experience will help us expand their revolution (which is also ours) beyond their lands. We bring the revolution into our homes.

Although later, when we go home and try to apply what we have learned, we soon realize that it will not be an easy task. That the Rojava revolution is the result of a long list of factors, the most notable of which are the previous decades of work to build a broad revolutionary movement. When the comrades question us about the revolutionary organizations in our lands, it is not easy to answer. I have often found myself evasively dodging the question, talking about how difficult it is to live in capitalist modernity, the individualism that prevails in the West, the opportunism and lack of commitment of those who call themselves militants or activists. After years of providing these kinds of answers, I am beginning to think that, in fact, they are just excuses and that the

But while this knowledge and reflections flooded me with the illusion and fascination of being part of a winning revolution - breaking the terror of the Islamic State - a new war has given way to a new phase. The Turkish state, an important ally and supporter of Daesh, could not tolerate the revolutionary project taking complete control of the border, and in January 2018 it began the first direct aggression of the Turkish state against Rojava. The invasion of Afrin.

A new war, a new era

The SDF, accustomed in those times to the war against Daesh, suddenly find themselves faced with an enemy who has the entire NATO arsenal at his service. Turkish warplanes tirelessly bombard defensive positions, drones armed with thermal vision and guided missiles "neutralize" from kilometers above any element that could oppose their advance. War changes and resistance against the enemy must also change. Turkish planes had never bombed Rojava with such intensity before, but this was not a new war for the Kurdish people, as it is a war that has been fought in the mountains of Kurdistan for more than four decades. For the guerrillas of the liberation movement, who defend the peaks of the Zagros-Tauros mountain range, the Turkish F-16s are their daily bread. Unfortunately,

Not only do military personnel suffer the consequences of war, it is the civilian population who lose their homes when, once again, they see war knocking on their doors. I remember the story Fatma told me in Ashrafia, a neighborhood on the outskirts of the city of Afrin. Fatma had arrived in the city a few weeks earlier, sharing a small semi-built apartment with 2 other families who, like her, had to flee the Turkish bombs. In Arabic still incomprehensible to me, I was told a wandering epic of over five years of exodus.

Fatma was born and raised in Aleppo. When the so-called Arab Spring began in 2011, she joined the protests in hopes of a better future. With the escalation of the military conflict, the constant bombardment of the Syrian air force led her to take refuge in the nearby city of Manbij, as anti-regime movements had taken control of the city since 2012. Unfortunately, she was unable to spend much time there, because in 2014 the advance of the barbarism of the Islamic State led her once again to seek refuge in other lands. This is how she and her 3 daughters and 2 sons arrived in the Bilbile region, a town north of Afrin. A little over 3 years later, Turkish planes began bombing the area around her house and she had to flee again, seeking refuge in the city of Afrin. At that time the city was besieged by the advance of Islamist groups supported by Turkey. After an epic two-month resistance, the city of Afrin had to be evacuated, leaving more than 1 million people homeless. New refugee camps, built hastily and with almost no international support, become the makeshift home for thousands of families fleeing the war front, including that of Fatma.

Seeing the bombing in Afrin, witnessing the city besieged by enemy bombs, made me remember the stories my grandmother had told me when, as a child, it was our city that was under the bombings. Stories of how her father, my great-great-grandfather, hid her with her mother, sisters and brothers between two mattresses, hoping that if the bombs fell nearby, those worn-out mattresses could do some kind of miracle. When I listened to it, I didn't understand what a couple of woolen mattresses could do in the face of bombs or the collapse of the building, but it was in Afrin that I was able to make sense of that story. When the bombs fall you can only feel helplessness, anguish, fear that one of them will fall too close. One way to combat this overwhelming sense of helplessness is to find something useful to do; you feel that, despite the circumstances, there is still a glimmer of action in your existence. Seeking shelter under a table, protecting loved ones between two mattresses, taking the camera and recording in a random direction are ways to feel that you have some control over the situation, that you exist, and that there are things you can do besides drowning. panic and uncertainty.

When the exception becomes the norm

Less than two years after the occupation of Afrin, the Turkish army and other Islamist groups attacked again. The cities of Serekaniye and Gire Spi were at the center of the second invasion, as were the surrounding towns and villages. Til Temir and Ain Issa also ended up a few kilometers from the front, suffering the heavy consequences of Erdogan's ambitious war. The people of Rojava, still in shock at the loss of Afrin, had to accept a new military defeat; together with the heartbreaking reality of thousands of families who, once again, flocked to refugee camps after losing their homes. The war against Daesh, despite the hard and bloody effort it involved, had been a source of hope for building a better world. But this war was different and it was not easy to find hope in the face of the "Goliath" of gleaming fighter jets and stealthy armed drones. That anxiety was also felt in society, which, together with the pains of poverty and scarcity caused by the economic embargo, made the daily life of an exhausted population difficult after almost 10 years of war.

There have been important social advances, but also important challenges with which we continue to struggle today. The school in Kurdish, the neighborhood communes, the YPG / YPJ flags in the squares and the security posts were no longer a novelty. It was the new normality in the liberated territories, which after years of activity no longer generated the illusion that evoked the first days of the revolution. Spontaneous demonstrations celebrating the revolution were becoming less frequent. Co-operatives have not turned out to be magical institutions capable of miraculously solving economic problems, but simply spaces for work and horizontal production that require effort to function. The popular justice councils have not put an end to crimes and robberies, but they contribute to building, in the hands of the community, a model, less punitive and more restorative. The victory against the Islamic State did not mean the end of fanatical hatred and Salafist attacks, but it greatly reduced them after defeating it on the battlefield, preventing theocratic fascism from establishing itself as a hegemonic force. The consolidation of popular and democratic institutions, with recognition and legitimacy both for those living in north-east Syria and for some external forces, has made it possible, among other things, to admirably welcome and integrate thousands of internally displaced persons. And we are not only talking about those who had lost their homes in the war against Daesh or in the territories occupied by Turkey, but also of families who were in other regions of Syria, territories under the

The progress achieved must be carefully defended, as the enemies of the revolution have their own plans. Turkey has for years resettled its mercenaries in the occupied territories, hosting various Islamist groups, including Daesh commanders. Several Islamist groups continue to organize attacks and, although their plans are often thwarted, they are not always stopped in time. Just six months ago, in January 2022, large-scale fighting returned to the city of Haseke, when hundreds of former Daesh fighters revolted in the prison. Some managed to escape from the building and for several days wreaked havoc around the prison. The war against Turkey is still latent and the fronts around the occupied territories, although immobile, are active. A "low intensity" war continues, with continuous mortar fire and punctual drone attacks on specific targets. These conflicts come to life regularly, especially from drones seeking to take out commanders and other key militants, in their attempts to destabilize chains of command in preparation for the new invasion to come.

I remember with a certain amalgam of regret and relief when, visiting some neighboring families, families who had helped me to learn their language and to better understand how the first years of the revolution were, they referred to me for the first time their criticisms of the situation. Perhaps it was because of the trust and friendship forged over time, perhaps because I am from other lands after all, but critical comments on some of the movement's decisions were shared over a cup of tea. Those conversations unfolded with a strange mix of frustration and shame, anger and helplessness. Families who had opened their homes since the early days of the movement, who had been a key part of the clandestine insurrection in the most difficult moments, complained of the hardships they were going through. Right.

At first I was surprised, because it is not common for families to be critical of the movement and less of internationals. But constructive criticism is healthy and necessary, and a revolution that does not build a critical people does not deserve to be called a Revolution. It is good to see that families, the common people who support this society, know they have the right to criticize and hold the militants accountable, because in the end they must be accountable to the people they aspire to liberate. And sometimes it is also our responsibility as internationalist revolutionaries to inspire trust, take up those criticisms, reflect on them and work to be part of the solution, not the problem. Those of us who come from abroad may find it easy to instill hope, because when someone who comes from afar,

This respect stems from the responsibility to help identify the enormous difficulties that Rojava was facing, as well as the importance, now more than ever, of resisting the enemy. It may be that the dream utopia has not been erected with magnificence, rather it is taking root little by little, day after day, with its progress, its defects and its contradictions. For those of us who understand that revolution is a process and not an event, we must arm ourselves with patience and continue to work to strengthen and expand this world that we carry in our hearts.

Revolution despite everything

Sometimes I stop to think about what the 1936 revolution might have been if it had taken another path. How would society have developed if Fascism had not won the war, if it had not imposed its particular vision of National Catholicism with blood and fire? Perhaps the revolution would have brought us disappointments, insurmountable challenges and internal conflicts, but fortunately or unfortunately there was no time to see it, we could not disenchant ourselves with the revolution that could not exist. For those who then believed in a better world, they had to see their dreams drowned in exile and in hiding. I can only maintain my admiration for thousands of unnamed militants who continued to fight after losing the war, both as a spot on the peninsula,

But the Rojava revolution has not been defeated, there is still hope in this corner of the Middle East that has dared to challenge the established order. It is not always easy and there are times when doubt, uncertainty, frustration, exhaustion take their toll. There are not a few days that I get angry, that I sadden, that I wake up disappointed, that I wonder what I am doing here. What went through my head to decide to leave my life behind and come to this remote and flat desert, a land of cold winters and hellish summers, with absurd sandstorms and so far from the sea? But then there are days when it all makes sense, when you appreciate everything you have learned and remember how hard it is to try to build a new world. Days in which you admire the efforts of the families around you to move forward, of comrades who work day and night to do this job despite the difficulties, of the young people who grew up in the revolution and who are the hope of a better future. And it is in these days that, when you come home, they make you think that perhaps the right decision is to stay in Rojava.

After 10 years, medium to long-term efforts are starting to bear fruit. Municipal councils are strengthened in their territorial management. Agricultural cooperatives are working at a good pace, road construction, energy distribution, public lighting systems with solar panels. Several new hospitals provide health services to the population and the first class of medical students from the University of Rojava recently graduated, along with other students from different disciplines such as sociology, agriculture or chemical engineering. Northeast Syria is arguably the safest and most stable region in the country, with greater democratic freedoms and cultural development. Whole cities like Kobane or Raqqa were rebuilt after the war, and all this without the need to impose a centralized state or government, but by promoting decentralization and community autonomy in a federal project. The self-defense forces are respectful and disciplined, without abusing authority over the population and keeping small Islamic State groups at bay trying to destabilize the area. Inter-ethnic conflicts have been significantly reduced and younger generations are educated in bilingual systems that promote cultural diversity. But undoubtedly the biggest development is the women's movement. Much has been written about this and it is not for me to say, but it is without doubt the greatest social transformation imaginable. The impact of the work done by the women's movement will affect not only Kurdistan, not just Syria and not just the Middle East.

A new war on the horizon

As I write these lines, several Turkish army convoys have crossed the border in recent weeks, publicly threatening to invade Rojava again. Elections will be held in Turkey in less than a year, and Erdogan knows he is weak. Polls indicate that the AKP will lose an absolute majority and a new invasion of Rojava is the only card left to stay in power, once again attracting ultra-nationalist forces and fueling Turkish fascism's dreams of territorial expansion. The agreements reached at the last NATO summit in Madrid, where Sweden and Finland decided to criminalize the Kurdish people in exchange for their entry into the military alliance, are a further example of the complicity of the West with Erdogan's authoritarianism. The question is no longer whether Erdogan will invade Rojava again, but when he will. After nearly 2 years of relative military stability, defensive preparations on both sides of the front have been strengthened like never before. Networks of complex tunnels extend into the border areas of the occupied territories, miles and miles of underground shelters to protect against enemy bombing. It remains to be seen to what extent these preparations may or may not change the course of the war. kilometers and kilometers of underground shelters to protect themselves from enemy bombing. It remains to be seen to what extent these preparations may or may not change the course of the war. kilometers and kilometers of underground shelters to protect themselves from enemy bombing. It remains to be seen to what extent these preparations may or may not change the course of the war.

Diplomacy will also play an important role. Both Russia and the United States have shown their rejection of Erdogan's threats, but with the war in Ukraine and the contradictions between the two powers, agreements and negotiations could be decisive for Rojava's survival. At stake is air supremacy, a key element of the previous invasions, since the unruly Islamist groups that act as Erdogan's infantry have nothing to do against the SDF if they do not have the support of drones and fighter jets. It also remains to be seen what role the Syrian state and even Iran will play, which with the support of Russia has managed to keep the al-Assad government standing, a government that still aspires to regain control of the areas liberated by the Kurdish movement.

Turkey has its eyes on Kobane, the spiritual capital of the revolution, as Erdogan knows that taking control of the city that defeated Daesh would be a great coup, necessary to regain the credibility it has lost in recent years. The harsh resistance of the guerrillas in the mountains of Basur (Kurdistan in Iraq) has repeatedly questioned the effectiveness of the military strategy of the Turkish army, which in the absence of significant progress is increasingly resorting to the use of illegal chemical weapons. The international community is turning a deaf ear to these infringements, as confirmed after the invasion of Serekaniye, where it was shown that Turkey used white phosphorus against the civilian population and there was no retaliation. With this fairly complex situation, SDF spokespersons have said on multiple occasions that if Turkey attacks, the war will spread across the entire border. Although this threat was launched before the last invasion without becoming effective, this time the preparations and offensive capacity of the SDF allow us to imagine a different scenario. Rojava cannot afford Turkey to occupy any more territory, much less if that includes Kobane, so this time a desperate response of all-out war seems more credible. this time the preparations and the offensive capacity of the SDF allow us to imagine a different scenario. Rojava cannot afford Turkey to occupy any more territory, much less if that includes Kobane, so this time a desperate response of all-out war seems more credible. this time the preparations and the offensive capacity of the SDF allow us to imagine a different scenario. Rojava cannot afford Turkey to occupy any more territory, much less if that includes Kobane, so this time a desperate response of all-out war seems more credible.

With this complex amalgam of actors, of cross interests, of antagonistic political projects, it is very difficult to predict what the future holds. For us who come from abroad, after having built bridges of internationalism for years, now more than ever, solidarity must be the tenderness of the peoples. Slogans and symbolic declarations of moral and abstract solidarity are no longer enough, because if Rojava falls, hopes for a better future will fall with it.

The victory of fascism in Spain was followed by the Second World War, because we know that fascism advances if it is not fought. Seeing the rise of the far right in the West is not an impossible scenario to repeat, with the aggravating circumstance that the revolutionary forces today are a shadow of what they were. Rojava reminded us that revolution is not only possible but necessary, and that it is in our hands to contribute to its development. Kurdistan, a nation excluded from the national-state system, shows us how the problem can be the solution, and how the construction of democratic autonomy can become an alternative to the nation-state-model, patriarchal and capitalist by nature, which prevails in the our company.

Rojava is an oasis in the desert, a practical experiment of revolutionary transformation, an opportunity to learn and develop what the society of the future can be. But for this to happen, we must ensure its existence, its survival as a political and social organism. And the survival of Rojava is possible only if it spreads, because the revolution is like water, which corrupts when it stagnates. The revolution must flow, like a river, towards the sea of freedom.

1) The article, taken up in a tweet by Teko? Îna Anar? Ist, was translated from the Spanish language starting from the text on the site https://kaosenlared.net/reflexiones-y-contrapuntos-subjetivos-trasuna-decada -de-revolucion-en-rojava /. We thank the author of the article and the authors of the blog Kaosenlared.net
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Il Cantiere n. 10 Settembre 2022
Alternativa Libertaria/Federazione dei Comunisti Anarchici
ilcantiere@autistici.org
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