Eyewitness Report: The Real Rojava Revolution

When it comes to the revolution in Rojava it seems that everyone has an opinion. Some see it as a shining bastion for what the left should yearn for, while the hardline class of anarchists declare it “fake”.

The reality on the ground is somewhat different. Not only are they not trying to be some kind of utopias, or fit into some thin western narrative, but more importantly they are doing things their own way based on what they need. And in this sense the revolution in Rojava is indeed succeeding.

So, what exactly is the political system in the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria, can it be described as anarchist and what exactly is it that is going well?

The opportunity of war and the Rojava project

Few would argue that the Kurds are some of the most oppressed people, a people that despite aspirations of nationhood get swallowed by their neighbors. This has meant the Turkey, Iraq, Syria and Iran, states that rarely get on sharing at least one common ideal and that is no state of Kurdistan.

And this is pretty much how things have remained save for 11 months after World War Two, when the Soviets tried to create a Kurdish state. Yet it has been the authoritarians, as well as instability within these ruling states that has once again led to the Kurdistan national dream.

Iraqi Kurdistan was of course the first, creating a separate identity from Saddam Husseins Iraq, fighting of ISIS before holding its 2017 independence referendum. This was not only shot down by Iraq, but more importantly and extremely ungrateful global community led by Turkey. Yes the Iraq side is now progressing, but with 51% less land and more more oversight from Baghdad.

In Syria, or to be more precise the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria the dream of Kurdish, as well other ethic self-governance is very much alive. This has occurred as part of the wider Syrian Civil War where north and east Syria were changed into autonomous zones governed under the ideology of Democratic Confederalism.

And while this was put to the test by the Islamic State, the Kurds of Syria unlike those in Iraq have actually come out stronger. And despite being surrounded by enemies outside and within what we know as Rojava continues.

And it has and is a truly left-wing government, one of the few still existing today and one that is really trying to govern in a way that has never been tried before.

What is the political system of Rojava and are they anarchist?

Is Rojava now anarchist? The answer to this is a resounding no, with local politicians never claiming that they are anarchist, nor that they are the finished article at all.

Many of the anarchist claims tend to come from a deep understanding of anarchism itself. This broad political spectrum covers a whole heap of things that Rojava is obviously not, with right-wing libertarianism even falling under the anarchist umbrella.

When people talk about anarchism with regards to Rojava what they actually mean is left-anarchism, anarchist-syndicalism, as well as real direct democracy. In this sense no secret is made that there have been heavy influences from left-wing anarchist ideas.

In Kurdistan this was formulated by the now imprisoned Abdullah Öcalan a former advocate of Marxism-Leninism who saw the perils of orthodox communism and sought left-wing alternative suited to Kurdish and regional needs. This is the ideology now practiced in Rojava.

Day to day this means focusing on the principles of autonomy, direct democracy, political ecology, feminism, multiculturalism,, self-governance and elements of a cooperative economy. And all of this while also protecting themselves from hostile forces that are quite literally everywhere.

To read about the crisis in Syria click here.

The Real Revolution in Rojava

Revolutions though from the French to Lenin, Castro and even Mandela do not always turn out as the originators would like, no matter their good intentions. And with this in mind the Rojavan revolution should very much be looked at ongoing.

Yet while it is far from the finished article, the success it has seen may well see it redefine what the world views as left-wing state, rather than it being confined to history like so many before it.

Chief among these successes, at least from an optical point of view has been the prominence of women in not just combat, but now managerial roles in government and enterprises. We saw this in our first interaction when not just the office in general was mixed, with females under no obligation to dress a certain way, but that our permissions had to be signed by both the male and female managers.

Does it work? Well there is no proof either way and of course someone like Jordan Peterson would no doubt argue against its effectiveness. This though is not the point, for in the view of the government it provides true equality of opportunity and governance, not to mention provide a strong message in such a patriarchal region.

And it is not just here where the revolution in Rojava helps women, with the government also setting up women’s centers, enterprises and even whole communities that not only fight exploitation, but also give women independence.

We personally visited one farm that only allowed women and their children which was fully self-managed. It was hosted by Arab, Christian and Yazidi women, some of which could not and others that did not want to return home. In this respects the government also realize that not all of their problems come from outside, but also from within.

And it is these facts, among many that many feel is making the revolution a success. Rather than trying to “achieve socialism” quickly as has been tried and failed so many times through Marxism-Leninism, they are taking the revolution slowly and evolving as needed rather than following an orthodox and unwavering path.

Protecting the Revolution

Yet while most Kurds and indeed many other natives of Roajava seem not just to welcome the new political experiment, but are actively proud of it Rojava faces enemies both domestic and foreign.

With the region this is most evident when you visit Raqqa the former capital of Islamic State. Here it is plainly visible that while the extremists might have been beat, their views have not necessarily changed. Here not only do Kurds govern, but the Peshmerga are an omnipresent feature showing who is really in charge.

This is not to say that the Rojavan authorities, or the Kurds are doing anything wrong, after all the success