Rojava and the hope

You might be asking yourself who or what is Rojava? Most Westerners have heard very little about Rojava in their daily news. Rojava is a little enclave in Northern Syria consisting primarily of Kurds and was the primary resistance to the extremist organization the Islamic State. The Kurds for quite sometime now have held territory in Syria along Northern Turkey boarder. However Syria & Turkey refuse to recognize Rojava as an independent state.

Syrian Kurdistan or Western Kurdistan commonly known in Kurdish as Rojava, is a de facto autonomous region in northern Syria. The region gained its autonomy in November 2013 as part of the ongoing Rojava Revolution, establishing a society based on principles of direct democracy, gender equality, and sustainability. Rojava consists of the three cantons of (from east to west) Jazira, Kobani and Afrin. Rojava is not officially recognized as autonomous by the government of Syria and is a participant in the Syrian Civil War.

Rojava Map February2014

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rojava

Rojava Revolution

During the Syrian Civil War, Syrian government forces withdrew from three Kurdish enclaves, leaving control to local militias in 2012. Because of the war, People’s Protection Units (YPG) were created by the Kurdish Supreme Committee to defend the Kurdish-inhabited areas in Syria. In July 2012 the YPG established control in the towns of Kobanî, Amuda and Afrin.The two main Kurdish groups, the Kurdish National Council (KNC) and the Democratic Union Party (PYD), afterwards formed a joint leadership council to administer the towns. Later that month the cities of Al-Malikiyah (Dêrika Hemko), Ra’s al-‘Ayn (Serê Kaniyê), Al-Darbasiyah(Dirbêsî), and Al-Maabadah (Girkê Legê) also came under the control of the People’s Protection Units.

ISIS/ISIL/IS Threat 

In July 2013, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) began to forcibly displace Kurdish civilians from towns in Ar-Raqqah governorate. After demanding that all Kurds leave Tell Abyad on or else be killed, thousands of civilians, including Turkmen and Arab families, they fled on July 21,2013. Its fighters looted and destroyed the property of Kurds, and in some cases, resettled displaced Arab Sunni families from the Qalamoun area (Rif Damascus), Dayr Az-Zawr and Ar-Raqqah, in abandoned Kurdish homes. A similar pattern was documented in Tel Arab and Tal Hassel in July 2013. As ISIL consolidated its authority in Ar-Raqqah, Kurdish civilians were forcibly displaced from Tel Akhader, and Kobanî in March and September 2014, respectively.

In June 2015 at least 220 Kurdish civilians were massacred in mass killings by ISIS Fighters in their homes or killed by the group’s rockets or snipers by an attack on the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani on the Turkish border, which is one of the worst massacres carried out by ISIS in Syria. Women and children were among the bodies found inside houses and on the streets of Kobane. Also in a nearby village, IS reportedly shot dead at least 20 civilians, including women and children. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that ISIS fired at everything that moved.

Rojava Government

The Kurdish Supreme Committee (Desteya Bilind a Kurd, DBK) was established by the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and the Kurdish National Council (KNC) as the governing body of Rojava in July 2012. The member board consists of an equal number of PYD and KNC members. In November 2013, the PYD announced an interim government divided into three non-contiguous autonomous areas or cantons, Afrin, Jazira and Kobani.

The political system of Rojava is inspired by democratic con federalism and communalism. Similar to the grass root political system of democracy that once was influencing the Western world. It is influenced by traditional libertarian principles, and is considered by many a type of libertarian socialism.

The Constitution of Rojava has protection for currency, property rights and free trade. The basic unit at the local level is the community which pools resources for education, protection and governance. As opposed to a large central government the people prefer a local level community government. For example the police are elected by the community they will be serving. At a national level communities are unrestricted in deciding their own economic decisions on who they wish to sell to and how resources are allocated. There is a broad push for social reform, gender equality and ecological stabilization in the region. This system of governance is a positive change from the predominately oppressive dictatorships of the Middle East.

Rojava is pursuing “a bottom-up, Athenian-style direct form of democratic governance”. He contrasts the local communities taking on responsibility vs the strong central governments favoured by many states. In this model, states become less relevant and people govern through councils. Rojava divides itself into regional administrations called cantons named after the Swiss cantons.  – David Romano

The governance model of Rojava has an emphasis on local management, with regions divided into cantons with democratically elected committees to make decisions. The Movement for a Democratic Society (also known as TEV-DEM) is the political coalition governing Rojava.

Its programme immediately aimed to be “very inclusive” and people from a range of different backgrounds became involved in their government. A government by the people for the people as opposed to large corporations that use money and influence to buy political leaders. All people take part in their political system from Christians, Jews, Atheistic, Muslim, Sunni/Shia etc, to move their community forward.

It sought to “establish a variety of groups, committees and communes on the streets in neighborhoods, villages, counties and small and big towns everywhere”. The purpose of these groups was to meet “every week to talk about the problems people face where they live”. The representatives of the different community groups meet ‘in the main group in the villages or towns called the “House of the People”‘.

“self governance” in Rojava because it has the “determination and power” to change things, it includes many people who “believe in working voluntarily at all levels of service to make the event/experiment successful” – Zaher Baher

Rojava has “set up an army of defence consisting of three different parts” – the YPG, the YPJ, the Asayish (a “mixed force of men and women that exists in the towns and all the checkpoints outside the towns to protect civilians from any external threat”), and “a special unit for women only, to deal with issues of rape and domestic violence”.

There are no current plans for independence from Syria, but for self-administration and control of local resources.

There are 20 ministries dealing with the economy, agriculture, natural resources, and foreign affairs. Among other stipulations outlined is a quota of 40% for women’s participation in government, as well as another quota for youth. In connection with a decision to introduce affirmative action for ethnic minorities, all governmental organizations and offices are based on a co-presidential system.

Human Rights

According to the Constitution of Rojava, the administration of the de facto autonomous region is committed to international law regarding human rights. This includes the following amendments to Syrian law.

  • Equal rights for women and a ban on polygamy
  • Religious freedom and equality of all ethnic groups
  • Ban on capital punishment and Advanced Interrogational Tactics (formerly know as torture)

Economy & Resources 

There are no taxes on the people or businesses in Rojava. Instead money is raised through border crossings, and selling oil or other natural resources. Trade as well as access to both humanitarian and military aid is difficult as Rojava remains under a strict embargo enforced by Turkey.

The government is seeking outside investment to build a power plant and a fertilizer factory.

Oil and food production exceeds demand (2015 has been a more difficult year) so exports include oil and agricultural products such as sheep, grain and cotton. Imports include consumer goods and auto parts. The border crossing of Yaroubiyah is intermittently closed by the Kurdistan Regional Government side. Turkey does not allow Syrian Kurd businesspeople or their goods to cross its border although Rojava would like the border to be opened. *Rojava is currently in need of non GMO seeds for agricultural production.

Before the war, Al-Hasakah governorate was producing about 40,000 barrels of crude oil a day. However, during the war the oil refinery has been only working at 5% capacity due to lack of refining chemicals. This has severely  slowed the economy and is directly related to the downturn in their economy. Because of the war Rojava’s economy has been greatly impacted and this results in lack of sufficient resources for the population. The economy is being directly impacted by a variety of parties from IS, Syria, Turkey and other radical groups that are attempting to destroy Rojava through economic sabotage. 

Security Forces 

The DBK’s armed wing is the People’s Protection Units (Yekîneyên Parastina Gel, YPG). Military service was declared compulsory in July 2014 due to the ongoing war against Daesh.

The People’s Protection Units was founded by the PYD party after the 2004 Qamishli clashes, but it was not active until the Syrian Civil War. As of the signing of the Arbil Agreement by the PYD and Kurdish National Council (KNC), the YPG came under the nominal command of the Kurdish Supreme Committee, although in reality it is almost exclusively still the armed wing of the PYD. The Sutoro is a Christian militia defending Assyrian areas. The police function in Rojava-controlled areas is performed by the Asayish armed formation.

The YPG is a trained force utilizing snipers and mobile weaponry to launch attacks and maneuver quickly. Relying on speed, stealth, and surprise, it is the archetypal guerrilla army, able to deploy quickly to front lines and concentrate its forces before quickly redirecting the axis of its attack to outflank and ambush its enemy. The key to its success is autonomy. Although operating under an overarching tactical rubric, YPG brigades are inculcated with a high degree of freedom and can adapt to the changing battlefield.

The primary roll of the Security Force is to defend the population from internal and external threats. Rojava’s forces are currently receiving training by Western special forces to help them deal with the on going threats in the region. These threats are from Turkey, Syria and Iraq consisting of armed groups that compose of radical extremists that wish to commit genocide against the Kurds and those who do not share their ideology.

Rojava has become the only safe haven for Christians, Jews, Muslims and people of all ethnicities and creeds. Many people come to Rojava seeking refuge from radical extremists.

The existing police force is trained in non-violent conflict resolution as well as feminist theory before being allowed access to a weapon. Directors of the Asayiş police academy have said that the long-term goal is to give all citizens six weeks of police training before ultimately eliminating the police. A society that polices themselves and respects one another holding true that all life is valuable.

Foreign Relations

Turkey opposes Rojava and has closed the boarder between the two entities. In 2014 Turkey was accused of supporting ISIS attacks on the YPG, allowing them [IS] to conduct attacks from the Turkish border and providing logistical support. Turkey has support for ISIS in their genocidal quest for world domination.

In January 2015, a UK parliament committee asked the government to explain and justify its policy of not working with the Rojava military to combat ISIS 

Although Rojava has enemies surrounding them they do have friend in France, US, and UK.

It is evident that the US has conducted air drops of Military aid to groups that oppose IS & the Syrian government forces. In Oct 2015 a 50 Ton weapon & Munition drop was carried out by the US to aid the conflict in Syria. Rojava has expressed a lack of Military aid that would greatly improve security in the region. Most of Rojava’s force are equipped with outdated Military equipment dating back to the 80’s while IS and their counter parts have new US Military grade equipment.

A New Hope 

With the creation of a Libertarian Socialistic government that keeps the control in Rojava to the people is unprecedented since 1776. A region as geopolitical as Syria to have a grass root movement of traditional democracy that promotes freedom, love, equality and self sufficiency is a milestone for the region. Long have the Kurdish people struggled for a place to call home. The Kurdish people are fighting for their freedom and there is no greater price then that of freedom! People from Canada, America, Germany and elsewhere have gathered together to support this experiment in Rojava. Not only Security Forces but doctors and tradesmen/woman have come together to create a new future for the people of Syria. Rojava is all inclusive and is dedicated to protecting humanity regardless of creed or ethnicity. They strive for change and this change is a threat to the norms and customs of the political elite of the region. The leaders in Turkey & Syria fear the people who have tasked themselves with creating their own system of governance. The regime was not protecting the people so the people created their own system out of necessity for their survival under the tyrannical regime.

A government that operates on a local level that is not heavily influenced by the central government helps insure that the people are truly governing themselves. A centralized system would enviably lead to a system like that of Washington where the peoples voices are restricted & are silenced by lobbyists and corporations. The government system is NOT anarchist, far from it! The system of Rojava is like that of traditional America in the mid 1700’s. A government by the people for the people is what America used to be based on and Rojava is attempting to bring back a Libertarian system mixed with Socialism.

The governance of Rojava has been a success because of the cooperation of all peoples. They base their system on a community consensus. The community has a vote/voice regarding all matters in their town/district. The people are directly involved as opposed to electing someone and trusting that they will fulfil their political rhetoric. The people meet once a week to discuss matters that affect their community. They meet in “The House of the People.”

Soon Rojava will be a beacon for the world as American, Canada and other ally nations continue to move away from the foundations they were once founded upon.

Rojava’s hope is in the people. Their success or failure will be dependent on the people of the local governments. We have witnessed that nations divided against themselves will cause them to fall from within. Having strong communal ties with one another has helped Rojava’s success over the past few years. They understand that the cooperation of the people is essential to their success or failure. The threat of IS, Syria & Turkey along with other radical entities has forced the people of Rojava to pull together or cease to exist. They have multiple threats from across the region and this has contributed to the understanding and realization of the grave reality of liberty or the death of a people. The Kurds have faced hardship for decades now throughout the Middle East but they have come together in Rojava to fight for their freedom.

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