Solidarity with Rojava

October 10, 2019

If you are in Johannesburg, South Africa, join us tomorrow (12 October) at The Commune in Braamfontein at 10am as part of the Global Action Day against the Turkish occupation and ethnic cleansing of Kurds in North and East Syria.

“We call on all people of good conscience to engage in protest and disruption at Turkish consulates, US government offices, arms manufacturers, and businesses connected with the Turkish government, such as Turkish Airlines. The Rojava Solidarity Committee Europe has joined organizers in Rojava in calling for a day of action on October 12 against the Turkish invasion; we endorse this call, and call for further actions before and after October 12. We need to build a context for broad-based direct action as a step towards building a global movement that can make such atrocities impossible. Together, we can stop the invasion. See you in the streets.”CrimethInc.

The autonomous region of Rojava in northern Syria is an experiment in radical democracy, feminism, grassroots ecology and egalitarianism. Inspired by various forms of libertarian socialism and municipalism, and bearing strong similarities to the system of Zapatismo practiced in parts of Mexico, Rojava’s system of democratic confederalism offers a tentative model of how an autonomous society beyond capitalism and the state could function.

Since 2012, often with women in leading roles, largely Kurdish communities in North and East Syria have been building and defending a social system that enables a peaceful, non-hierarchical and gender-liberated life for the multiple ethnic, religious and cultural groups in the region, all while warding off the threats of ISIS and the Turkish state.

Democratic Confederalism

The social system being developed in Rojava, commonly referred to as democratic confederalism, is a system of direct democracy where inhabitants of neighbourhoods of towns or villages can participate in decision making at the level that concerns them. This system attempts to address of the question of power by communalising and diffusing it across society. Democratic confederalism is largely inspired by the writings of imprisoned political activist Abdullah Öcalan, who is in turn deeply influenced by the writings of anarchist/municipalist Murray Bookchin.

Collective Empowerment

This diffusion of power is reflected in the many groups that have been empowered through their participation as free equals in the creation, development and defense of Rojava. The strongly anti-patriarchal ethos has been important for women in the region and has inspired many of them to become politically active for the first time. Various ethnic and religious groups, including Arabs, Christians (Armenians, Assyrians, Chaldeans and Syriacs), Turkmens, Chechens, Alevites, and Yazidis, have also gained some kind of collective voice and autonomy for the first time in recent history. The refugee communities in the region also operate on principles of self-management, in stark contrast to the EU refugee camp model.


The anti-patriarchal ethos in Rojava is also applied to environmental practices; instead of dominating nature in a way that echoes the way patriarchal societies create a relation of domination between men and women, democratic confederalism seeks harmonious, sustainable interactions between systems that do not entrench hierarchies.

Self-defense Units

Given the proximity to armed conflict, part of the Rojava project has involved the creation of self-defense units and a gender-egalitarian militia that in many ways echoes that developed by Spanish anarchists during the Spanish civil war in the mid-1930s. The YPG (People’s Defense Units) were officially formed in 2012, while the women in the YPG later formed their own autonomous structure, the YPJ (Women’s Defense Units), in January 2013. The YPJ and YPG, along with other armed resistance forces in Rojava, have been, by far, the most effective force against ISIS.

The Current Situation

In early October of this year, Turkey began its invasion of Rojava with airstrikes and bombardments. The Turkish state, headed by right-wing conservative Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, views the PKK (the Kurdistan Worker’s Party – an instrumental part of the Rojava project) as a terrorist organisation and seeks to eradicate it. With ISIS having lost all of its territory and tens of thousands of its fighters in detainment camps, Turkey’s invasion is the only thing that could enable ISIS to resume its activities. Turkey’s invasion has been partly enabled by US withdrawal from the region. Typical of the imperialist project, the US used the Kurdish resistance to support its fight against ISIS and then abandoned them, a salient reminder that we cannot count on the United States, the United Nations, or any other government or transnational institution to maintain peace, let alone to protect us. As Rojava shows, hope lies in grassroots organizing and international solidarity, not politicians, states or military might.

This pamphlet is a call to action. A call to stand in solidarity with our comrades and revolutionaries on the ground who are fighting for their lives and the lives of the Kurdish people while defending an experiment in direct democracy that reflects the tentative promise of a better life for all of us.

Against hierarchy, fascism and domination! For equality, freedom and collective liberation!

If from my poems
you wrench away the flower
from the four seasons of my poetry
one of my seasons will die.
If you exclude love
two of my seasons will die
If you exclude bread
three of my seasons will die.
And if you take away freedom
all four seasons and I will die.

Sherko Bekas (Kurdish poet , 1940-2013)

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