January 9th, 2015 – Bruno Lima Rocha
Insight into a 21st century revolution that is feminist, stateless, and anti-capitalist.
[Editors Note: A dear friend and supporter of ours from Brazil, Dr. Bruno Lima Rocha, established contact with a series of organizations involved in the social revolution taking place in Kurdistan. Mainstream media sources have largely failed to cover the social process, though news has been able to break the radio silence. For more reading that will add depth to this conversation consult this article by Jacobin, and the video attached above.
It should also be said that minor grammatical errors were corrected (as neither participant in the interview is native to english). But most is left in the original form, for fear of losing accuarcy.]
Introduction: Since the Kobanê siege started I have been dedicating several hours per week to understand and divulgate as much as possible about this social revolution initiated in a combination of Apoism and the Syrian Civil War. As a militant, I always have been involved in international solidarity. As an Arab descendent, I always have been trying to find a reliable left-wing force combining direct action and internal democracy. As a scholar and a professor of Geopolitics studying the region for more than 25 years, Rojava is a dream coming true. Here, I start the first of some interviews with organizations with real experience in this process and on the ground. In this one I’m talking to Devrimci Anarşist Faaliyet (DAF, or Revolutionary Anarchist Action). They have been very active in this activity and understand in details the whole Kurdish process, both in Rojava and inside the Turkish State frontiers.
E&A – It is possible to understand the PKK (PKK (Partiya Karkerên Kurdistani, Kurdistan Workers’ Party) as a politico-military force remodeled from the thought of their historic leader (and stuck with life sentence) being transferred organically for the whole organization? Hence we have two questions in sequence: can you imagine the reproduction of these ideas beyond a certain cult of personality around the image of Abdullah Ocalan (Apo)? And, will it be possible to universalize the proposals of the PKK-KCK (Koma Civakên Kurdistan, Group of Communities in Kurdistan) beyond national issues not yet resolved by the Kurds?
DAF – We have to see the issue as Kurdish Freedom Movement. PKK is one organization of the Kurdish people who has been struggling not just for 30 years, but for a hundred years. Especially since the 2000s, the party has changed its ideology, strategy, and character. So the critics about the movement always have the same habit to take PKK as the same party as the one from the ‘80s-‘90s. Just to remember: the PKK claimed a freedom not just for Kurdish people but a freedom for all people who are oppressed in the Middle East. Think about Rojava — PYD (Democratic Union Party, in Kurdish: Partiya Yekîtiya Demokrat) is struggling not just for the Kurds, but for the Ezidis, Turkmens, Shias, Alawis — all of whom Daesh (ISIS or ISIL or IS, Islamic State) want to destroy.
E&A – It’s an observable strategic problem for Rojava revolution. Let me explain: the live border and that one which is possible to be used as sanctuary is with the KRG (Kurdish Regional Government in Iraq, besides being the epicenter of the war is in Kobanê). It is observed that if there is no reinforcement of peshmerges (professional KRG’s forces), probably the anti-Isis US-led coalition would not be bombarding the jihadists positions. Soon, the Alliance between PKK-PYD and the KDP (Kurdistan Democratic Party, Partîya Demokrata Kurdistanê, or PDK) and its coalition with Massoud Barzani ahead of KRG cabinet could imply an inevitable approach to the West? Is it possible to survive as a revolutionary process if this depends on military aid from the KRG and the West?
DAF – We have to see the role of peshmerges. It has been nearly one and half months that they did not do anything for Rojava. When YPG (People’s Protection Units, in Kurdish: Yekîneyên Parastina Gel) and YPJ (Women’s Protection Units, in Kurdish: Yekîneyên Parastina Jinê), the self-defense organizations of Rojava people got 60% control of Kobanê, the forces of Barzani decided to come to help. It is obvious that this was a strategic action for Barzani. Barzani declared as there was no Rojava Revolution two years before and we have to see this, US and other western countries do not support Kobanê resistance. After the Rojava Revolution, the western powers did not accept the political existence of PYD or the cantons of Rojava. So the best solution for them is Barzani who has no problem with capitalist or statist politics. Moreover, Barzani’s KDP is the brother party of Recep Erdogan’s AKP (Justice and Development Party, Turkish: Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi). Under these circumstances, people in Rojava need any kind of support. This does not mean that they can get help from any capitalist or statist power. But it is like, YPG-YPJ is giving struggle against ISIS, Al-Nusrat Front (an affiliated Al-Qaeda group)…, but also giving strategic struggle against Turkey, Esad’s Syria (Bashir Al Assad), Barzani’s Kurdistan and all capitalist powers.
E&A – Still within the strategic theme — by all indications, the Government of Turkey is favoring the supply lines and leaving ISIS to strengthen within the territory under the control of the Turkish army. Apparently, this is caused because the realistic calculation of Ankara and the AKP government consider a proposition of “caliphate” – or the return of the Ummah – to be less dangerous compared to an idea of Kurdish separatism, or even political autonomy for Rojava inside the failure of the Syrian state? From the Turkish position, how do we evaluate the dispute between the other States operating through Sunni Jihadists, like Saudi Arabia and Qatar?
DAF – In the mainstream media, it is hard to find some of the news about Turkish support to ISIS. It is not just weapon support, nor it is a neutral position. As you have stated, there is an obvious logistic support from Sunni countries to ISIS, but the thing that we should never forget is the hidden relations of ISIS with capitalist western powers. The scene is clear that a terrorist İslamic group is strengthening the hands of US, especially in the Middle East.
E&A – Getting into the theme of the Syrian civil war, what can be seen today is a growing war between Sunnis and Shiites, and going together, a war between ISIS (and before Al-Nusra Front) and the attempted conquest of Kobanê. Considering this reality, what would be the role of the Free Syrian Army today (FSA)? Does this force still have some protective power – as Qatar- or was it dropped on condition of a secondary YPG ally? Can we consider Qatar the major funder of the FSA? And, maybe that’s why, whereas both FSA as YPG are also opponents of the Assad regime, Damascus and its allies (financiers) preferred to release the area of Aleppo and Raqqa for ISIS operations, allowing the Sunni Jihadists advance against Rojava?
DAF – As we stated before, some of the strategic actions like the struggle against ISIS with the FSA does not represent the real political view of PYD. So this kind of cooperation is the result of the circumstances in Syria and Rojava. The cooperation between the organizations and groups shouldn’t be taken as the result of the real policies of the organizations and groups. The war in Rojava, more in Syria still continues, so it is hard for us to determine the allies. It is far away from the solidarity of the revolutionaries for Kobanê Resistance and Rojava Revolution.
E&A – I understand, even at a distant glance that for the states of Turkey, Syria (what is left of it) and Iran, a Western Kurdistan with political autonomy and a society working in secular and egalitarian basis implies an insoluble problem. Wouldn’t the proposal of the PYD not formally separate from Syria, but obtain a status of an autonomously Federated policy on Syria, as well as a future rearrangement with Iraq and the Government of Irbil (KRG’s capital). Turkey would tolerate a similar statute, even though it has the second largest army of NATO and the biggest contingent on a state with the major population being Islamic? If Turkish Kurdistan received such status, what would prevent a Confederation with the Syrian Kurdistan? And, if so, what would be the reaction of the KRG and the coalition of the right-wing and pro-Western Kurdish parties, like the KDP?
DAF – These scenarios are being talked as the war in Syria has not been finished. It is really hard to estimate how these wars shape the Middle East. Rojava’s three cantons have declared their freedom nearly two-and-a-half years before without caring what will be the reaction of Esad, Erdogan or Barzani. Three of these declared that they did not recognize the self-governance of Rojava cantons. Moreover, they still do not talk about the political existence of Rojava. Comrade, we have to see that, during these two years the states around Rojava have changed their politics in their region with the decisive struggle of Rojava’s free people. They try to find some ways to control the freedom of Rojava. The main scenario is Rojava will be a federation which is part of Esad’s Syria. But which Syria are we talking about, what is the power of Esad in Syria or will it be an Esad who leads Syria? The second scenario Rojava will be a part of Barzani’s Kurdistan. That would be the aim of Barzani, but the principles that hold Kobanê against ISIS are not frightened ISIS but also Barzani. Because Rojava Revolution declared itself as an anticapitalist, antistatist, women and ecology centered revolution.
E&A – Would it be interesting for the KRG that Washington no longer considers the PKK-HPG (People’s Defense Force, in Kurdish: Hezen Parastina Gel) as a terrorist force? This would enable a request for freedom for Ocalan, reinforcing the leadership of this political force?
DAF – This is one of the constant political issues in Turkey. The Kobanê Resistance and the Rojava Revolution strength not just to position of the Kurds live in Rojava but also in Turkey, Iran and Iraq. So this occasion has some results in the political, social, and economic arena. But we have to keep in mind the political power of Erdogan’s AKP ,which does not hesitate to express their ideas in international politics.
E&A – How do you project the existence of a legal sovereignty and political autonomy status to Rojava considering some fundamental themes like: movement of currency (What it would be like? Would there exist a Central Bank?); trade relations with other territories (for example, in the petroleum trade); belonging to a territorial Federation (as in a reorganized Syria or Federated to KRG); and what concrete measures would be instituted trough Democratic Confederalism with full territorial unity and existence of the three cantons?
DAF – Two-and-a-half years before, after declaring the freedom of Rojava cantons; the people of Rojava started to organize the economy by instituting the collective lands to the people; open Mala Gels (House of People) and Mala Jins (House of Women) to organize society in a direct democratic way. These houses are the real political centers where people from that region discuss political and social issues together and decide what to do. They organize the juridical process with themselves without any court, any lawyer or judge. Social justice is not provided with any kind of central power like the state. No school, but there is free knowledge sharing like Zapatistas Soil Universities.
We have to accept that the Rojava Revolution is not an anarchist revolution. But there is no question mark about its social revolution. The political existence of Rojava is not a part of Esad’s Syria or part of Iraqi Kurdistan. We are talking about a federation which declared itself as anticapitalist. Now it is useless to be worried of the future of Rojava if they trade with capitalist or cooperate with states… Let’s make bigger the revolutionary solidarity and let’s take part in this social revolution, so that we don’t have so many things to worry. As DAF, we have also mentioned the position of ours in a text about Kobanê Resistance; we are not fortunetellers: we don’t guess the political position of Rojava after 10 years or 50 years. But we are revolutionary anarchists — we have to take part in the social movements and shape the movements.
E&A – What would be the concrete results of the mass policies through KCK organizers and democratization proposals from the municipal policy autonomy in Turkish Kurdistan?
DAF – The real misunderstanding of international social opposition is to differentiate the policies of Kurdish Movement (HDP – Peoples’ Democratic Party, in Turkish: Halkların Demokratik Partisi) or other institutions that are accepted by Turkish State; and the PKK (which is referred as a terrorist organization by the state). The realization chance of the democratic institutions policies depend on the struggle of the Kurdish people which is referred to as terrorism. So we have to understand the issue “struggle against Turkish State’s assimilation politics” as a whole meaning. There is no movement, policy, or institution which has expressed itself as apart from the struggle of the PKK and named itself as apart of this struggle. So the results of any policies depend of the success of Kurdish people organized struggle, the PKK. This situation may be a part of another kind of political culture situated in Middle East far from European one.
-Does DAF as an anarchist force take part of some coordination of alliances with the KCK or the DTK (Democratic Society Congress, in Turkish: Demokratik Toplum Kongresi)? As anarchists, how do you evaluate these activities with other social forces? And, in this sense, how to assess the electoral participation of the Alliance BDP (Peace and Democracy Party, in Turkish: Barış ve Demokrasi Partisi, in Kurdish: Partiya Aştî û Demokrasiyê), BDP /HDP?
DAF – Related with the answer of the question above, DAF takes PKK as the real subject of this matter. Especially after the change in paradigm in 2000s, after Ocalan declared the PKK is not a Marxist-Leninist movement anymore and referenced Bookchin, Bakunin and Kropotkin, it is impossible for DAF not to be interested with this change in theory. We have experienced the changes in practices day-by-day. Direct Democracy took an important place for this realization in politics. Although there are some critics from European anarchists as they were still a part of Marxist ideology, we are witnessing the changing not just in sharing the same political arena (that is, struggle against the state), but we are witnessing the harmony of the theory and practice in Rojava Revolution. The institiutions like KCK, DTK, DBP/HDP, these could be some strategies of movement in Parliament, juridical system… We can criticize these strategies but we do not take these institutions as they are other organizations that aim for other policies. Like we do not vote for HDP of DBP, because we have other kinds of strategy in parlamentary democracy, this doesn’t make us to degrade these institutions with PKK.
E&A – Whereas the Democratic Confederalismo is inspired in anarchism, we assume that there is an approximation and sympathy between the anarchist ideas and the current thought of the Kurdish left. Is this assessment correct? Could you specify in which sense?
DAF – As stated above, especially after 2000s new paradigm appeared in Kurdish Movement referenced especially Bookchin and Kropotkin, Bakunin (maybe Michael Albert in economy). So this is a good step for a popular movement. Kurdish people are giving struggle not just for 30 years, they are giving struggle for decades. For revolutionary anarchists, it is a good momentum for us, that organization of this liberation struggle referenced anarchism. It is a good time for us to socialize anarchism in the lands where people live without states for decades. A social revolution could be prepared just as if it got socialized. We, as DAF, are not anarchists just to write some texts and live anarchism in our closed groups as some comrades in Europe do. We aim for social revolution, we are struggling in every meaning, so this is a good step for us to socialize anarchism.
E&A – Based on what we read, the DAF operates side-by-side with a front of pro-Rojava movements and as supporters of the Social Revolution in the region. This is generating an approximation of the Turkish left as a whole, maybe marking a position strengthened between the pro-Kurdish social and political umbrella (DTK-KCK and legal political forces, DBP/HDP), leading the population to have an option in addition to the rivalry between the AKP and the Kemalists-Nationalists?
DAF is in solidarity with Rojava Revolution and Kobanê Resistance from the first day. Because, on 19th of July, the cantons of Rojava declared their independence against Esad’s Syria, against ISIS, against Barzani and against all international economic and political powers that have goals in the region. DAF solidarity with the people of Rojava who are Kurds, Ezidi’s, Shia’s, Alawi’s… because Rojava is a hope for the oppressed people living in Middle East and other parts of the world. Rojava shows that we manage to win against states, against capitalists.
Actually the Rojava Revolution is like litmus paper for Turkish left. Because, some organizations and parties do not share solidarity with revolution because of nationalistic views they got. The Kurdish issue for social opposition in Turkish left is an important issue to see the effects of the state politics in socialism. Moreover, after the paradigm change in the PKK, this situation makes some of the socialist parties to hold-off with Kurdish Movement. The behavior of anarchists in this manner is also important. We, as revolutionary anarchists coming from a tradition, where socialist did not even give importance to the liberation movements of the people in 3rd world countries but anarchist comrades constituted first liberation movements in Bulgaria, Greece, Macedonia, Armenia in 1850s, we are coming from traditions where anarchist comrades gave the first liberation struggles in South America, in Indonesia, in Philippines… This is not to create a third front against Nationalists and AKP. DAF does not consider itself in Turkish parliamentary political agenda. This is a new front that is against parliamentary solutions for social, economic and political problems.
E&A – For what you might observe in Rojava and accompanying with greater proximity, what would be the greatest virtues of the social system being developed in the region? And, in this same sense, what would be the biggest weaknesses in the sense of PYD-TEV DEM (Movement for a Democratic Society, in Kurdish: Tevgera Civaka Demokratîk) may be establishing a new State in the region? What are they reproducing that may end in another State?
DAF – Comrades, we have to strengthen the position of social revolution in Rojava in all its meaning. The people are struggling there, struggling not for building another oppresive state. This is a struggle for social revolution without a state, without capitalism, without patriarchy… We know the scenarios about being united with Barzani’s Kurdistan or being a confederation in Esad’s Syria. Our role must be to get participatation and keep the social revolution away from these scenarios. If the solidarity of the revolutionary people is enough to create this stateless solution, it is useless to be afraid from these scenarios. This is not just our position in Rojava, this is also the position of Kurdish Liberation Movement.
E&A – We understand that the theme of the emancipation and empowerment of women is a huge amount, implicating in a single interview, but we can notice that this is an asset and an arrangement of the Kurdish-majority social process (and not sectarian, this is clear). In which aspects the presence of women combatants in YPJ is transforming social relations in Kurdistan as a whole? This has a direct relation with the PKK and organic thought of the women participation in the HPG?
DAF – There appeared Mala Jins (Women House) from the first day of revolution in Rojava. Mala Jins, socialize awareness in the role of women in society, socialize struggle against the patriarchal culture, it socializes the importance of women in society. This effort is really important because ISIS and other radical Islamists try to shape the whole region according to the values of their culture. Social revolution is not just a political change. We have to see the other changing like in women issue to understand the importance of Rojava Revolution.
E&A – To conclude, there is a great concern, because the facts are proving that Western societies (and their powers that be) observe the social process Rojava with sympathies and, in terms of behavior and rules of coexistence, Kurdistan seems to be the closest there is to a form of democratic, secular and liberal society. In the DAF’s vision, is there a real risk of the Kurdish lefts end by approaching to the West in a hopeless way (depending on Western support) that it may end as a secular and proto-State with gender equality (which is an achievement for the region) rather than a social revolution with real chances to build another society?
DAF – As we have written “We are not fortunetellers, we can’t possibly know what will happen in Rojava a month or a year from now. We can’t know that this social transformation which not only gives us hope as revolutionaries that struggle in a geographically close region, but also feeds our struggle in the regions that we struggle in, would move towards a positive or negative future. But we are revolutionary anarchists. We can’t just sit aside, watch what’s happening and comment; we take part in social struggles and take action for an anarchist revolution.”
Long live the Rojava Revolution! Long live the Kobanê Resistance! Long live the Revolutionary Anarchism!
Bruno Lima Rocha has a PhD in Political Science and is a Professor of International Studies and Geopolitics teaching at three regional colleges and university in the South of Brazil.
DAF militants are very active in supporting the Rojava Social Revolution