“Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.” –Arundhati Roy
Song: Revolution by Helly Luv *(trigger warning: this video has intense depictions of war and violence)*
Over dinner, a friend of mine asked me about most days. Do you feel hope, or do you despair?
I said that on most days I feel hope.
It’s easy to feel hopeless when looking around, everything seems the same. Same politicians with the same hateful or useless rhetoric, same tragedies, same violences large and small that litter our days. Knowledge of victories won in the past and victories being constructed in the present are part of what can keep us moving forward. When I look up from despairing, I actually think there is so much amazing work happening, and incredible – actual – revolutions in the works.
International solidarity is important for the global struggle as well as for keeping hope burning in our hearts at home. Since it has escaped much mainstream press, I want to briefly highlight a revolutionary struggle that brings me hope.*
Rojava is an autonomous region in northern Syria that seeks to create a radical society based on the principles of feminism, ecology, and anti-authoritarianism as laid out by the eco-anarchist Murray Bookchin. It grew out of the struggle for Kurdish independence in the region between Iraq, Syria, and Turkey, largely through the P.K.K. (the Kurdistan Worker’s Party) and its leader, the now imprisoned Abdullah Ocalan.
The limited U.S. mainstream media coverage of this revolution focuses mainly on the violence of the region and Rojava’s use of arms to defend itself and fight against ISIS (including the women’s battalion).
It is true that Rojava is being defended by Kalashnikovs, a fact I think is situated in its current historical moment and is not uncomplicated. What’s missing from that narrative, however, is the attempt at building a new society that Rojava represents. A new society that it is currently succeeding.
“The PKK has declared that it no longer even seeks to create a Kurdish state. Instead, inspired in part by the vision of social ecologist and anarchist Murray Bookchin, it has adopted the vision of “libertarian municipalism”, calling for Kurds to create free, self-governing communities, based on principles of direct democracy, that would then come together across national borders – that it is hoped would over time become increasingly meaningless. In this way, they proposed, the Kurdish struggle could become a model for a worldwide movement towards genuine democracy, co-operative economy, and the gradual dissolution of the bureaucratic nation-state.” https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/oct/08/why-world-ignoring-revolutionary-kurds-syria-isis
Rojava gives me hope because it puts liberatory feminism at the forefront of societal revolution. It gives me hope because it attempts to decentralize power and put it in the hands of the people – all people, not just Kurds. It gives me hope because it uses a cooperative economy outside of capitalism that still manages to get the needs of the people met. It gives me hope because it dares to find a third way,** and that means we can find a third way, too.
Additional Reading and Media on Rojava:
- For an interview with Kurdish and solidarity activists, as well as music from the revolution, definitely check out Rebel Beat’s latest podcast on Kurdish/Rojavan resistance. There is also an older episode that features an interview on Rojava, but I have not listened to it yet. I vouch in general for Rebel Beat and encourage you to subscribe to the podcast! Get down with some class war on the dance floor.
(trigger warning for Orientalist descriptions, also really fucking boring descriptions. I’m not saying I’m a great writer, but who says “walnut-brown eyes”? This is also definitely the most negative and cynically reactionary piece I have read)
(a 44-page excerpt from A Small Key Can Open A Large Door: The Rojava Revolution)
* I am not intending to get into all the specifics and critiques of what’s happening, but instead just paint a broad brush about this struggle and offer additional resources for people who have not heard of Rojava.
**The Third Way refers to Kurds and Rojavans refusing to align themselves with either ISIS or the Syrian regime. See, for example, Impressions of Rojava: a report from the revolution – ROAR magazine