AntiNote: The following is a speech delivered two months ago in the European Parliament by Haj-Ahmadi Rahman (PJAK) at the First International Conference on the Crisis in the Middle East, Iran and the Kurds.
We consider this speech of interest because of the evidence it provides of political cross-pollination across contexts among various branches of the not at all homogeneous Kurdish movement. We have published other material describing and comparing approaches to democratic self-administration and democratic confederalism in predominantly Kurdish areas of Syria and Turkey, but this is the first we heard of the phenomenon in Iran, where conflict and government repression in Kurdish-majority regions has also been escalating of late.
As with any of the testimony we present at Antidote, this speech should be understood as just that, testimony, and not as our endorsement of any particular party or perspective. That said, we do not distance ourselves from Haj-Ahmadi Rahman’s political proposals or their liberatory, collaborative spirit but rather declare our solidarity with Iranian Kurds and all people struggling under and against domination and deprivation.
4 June 2015
First of all, on behalf of the Party for Free Life in Kurdistan (PJAK), hello and warm regards to all conference participants. We hope that this conference will be used as a point of departure for dedicated activity.
As we hold this conference, a new political process is being developed in the Middle East, against the backdrop of what might be called the third world war. But against that backdrop, both crises and potential escape routes are becoming visible. As a consequence of conflicts among widely varying socio-political forces, a new Middle East is taking shape, for better or worse.
The Islamic Republic of Iran is quietly becoming a focal point in these red-hot transformations, as its own striving for regional dominance confronts and comingles with the interventionist policies of capitalist world powers as well as the broad spectrum of democratic movements in Iran itself.
The story of an impossible revolution
We share an important documentary made by the Camara Negra Collective which looks at the Syrian revolution and counterrevolution, giving voices to the grassroots activists who continue to struggle for freedom from tyranny and oppression. In Spanish and Arabic with English subtitles.
“I belong to this revolution that surpasses national borders. I love all revolutions. I love the revolutionaries that understand its meaning, its morals, its aspirations and its vision.”
AntiNote: Early in March 2011, inspired by the images coming from Tunisia and Egypt, around fifteen school children were arrested for writing “The People Want To Topple The Regime” on the walls of their schools. In their beautiful naivete they wrote their names under their messages of hope. The mukhabarat (secret police) broke into the houses of the children and arrested them In the dark of the same night. Among other verbal abuses, the chief of intelligence Atef Najeeb told the parents to forget about their children. The first demonstrations broke out, the first victims of a genocidal regime had to be buried, more protests followed. That is where the uprising started. Out of solidarity, for freedom and justice, self-determination, and personal emancipation.
The Syrian revolution did not follow any blueprints. Nevertheless, and contrary to the constant misrepresentation, it remains a struggle for self-determination, liberty and a breaking point of the fear towards an all-powerful regime.
This is where the Syrian revolution conveys countless lessons for revolutionaries around the world. For us here at Antidote, this is expressed first and foremost in the ongoing discussions between an old, dogmatic “left” that refuses to recognize that it is about to become oblivious and marginal to protests and uprisings, so stubborn that it rejects everything that does not fit its approved textbooks, and a radically decolonized, ideologically emancipated and de-centralized left, which represents a fluid and ongoing project, where theory has to stand the test of its context and its time.
Last but not least, it is in the light of the Syrian struggle that we reflect and recognize our own shackles, our own dictators and regimes, and our own fears. And this is why we express our solidarity with those embracing diversity, supporting struggles, searching for allies, striving to become accomplices, wherever humans rise up and shake off the shackles of fear towards oppressive regimes.
The absence of dignity is the driving force of any revolution, that devotes itself to the desire of acquiring a life worthy of being precisely lived.
Ash-Shab Yurid Isqat en-Nizam!/ The People Want The Fall of The Regime
Website of Camara Negra: http://camaranegra.espivblogs.net/
AntiNote: After yesterday’s inspiring election results in Turkey, it is more important than ever to recall the concrete hopes and demands that accompanied the People’s Democratic Party’s successful bid to enter parliament and stave off the looming fascist disaster of a further empowered and emboldened AKP government, and to consider how these political developments relate to developments over the border in Rojava.
The following reflections were written in advance of the elections, but remain urgent for precisely that reason. Let us continue to build solidarity internationally for the emancipatory struggles in Bakur and Rojava (and in Istanbul and Ankara for that matter), as the HDP endeavors to alter the Turkish government’s destructive orientation towards these struggles from within.
Antidote has lightly edited this text for clarity. The original can be found here.
Thoughts of a Kurdish Anarchist on the Turkish Election and the Reconstruction of Kobanê
By Zaher Baher
Haringey Solidarity Group and Kurdistan Anarchists Forum
3 June 2015
Over two weeks in May, I visited a number of big towns in Turkish Kurdistan (Bakur), including Amed (Diyarbakır), Van, Colemêrg (Hakkâri), and Gavar. Later I returned to Suruç and was hoping to cross the border to Kobanê.
My main reason for visiting there was to investigate three important points. First, the similarities and differences between Democratic Self Administration (DSA) in Bakur and Rojava; second, the reconstruction of Kobanê; and third, the type of economy that Rojava can have in the future. Friends in the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), the Working Committees of Rojava in Amed and Suruç, and other organizations tried hard to arrange my trip to Kobanê, but it did not happen.
There are two important issues to talk about.
AntiNote: Nachfolgend ein Interview mit David Graeber über seine Eindrücke aus Rojava. David Graeber schrieb als Professor für Anthropologie an der London School of Economics und Aktivist und Anarchist im Oktober 2014 einen Artikel in der Tageszeitung The Guardian, als der IS gerade begonnen hatte, Kobanê in Nordsyrien anzugreifen. Darin fragt er, warum die Welt die revolutionären syrischen Kurden ignoriere.
Er erwähnt seinen Vater, der 1937 als Freiwilliger in den Internationalen Brigaden zur Verteidigung der Spanischen Republik kämpfte und fragt: “Wenn heute eine Parallele zu Francos vordergründig frommen, mörderischen Falangisten gibt, wer könnte das sein außer der IS? Wenn es eine Parallele zu den Mujeres Libres Spaniens gäbe, wer könnte das sein, wenn nicht die mutigen Frauen, die die Barrikaden in Kobanê verteidigen? Ist die Welt, und diesmal am skandalösesten überhaupt die internationale Linke, wirklich dabei, mitschuldig zu werden und zuzulassen, dass sich die Geschichte wiederholt?“
Laut Graeber wurde die autonome Region von Rojava mit den drei antistaatlichen, antikapitalistischen Kantonen 2011 mit einem „Gesellschaftsvertrag“ ausgerufen und ist damit ein bemerkenswertes demokratisches Experiment dieser Epoche.
Anfang Dezember verbrachte er mit einer achtköpfigen Gruppe von Studenten, Aktivisten und Akademikern aus verschiedenen Teilen Europas und der USA zehn Tage in Cizîrê, einem der drei Kantone Rojavas. Er hatte vor Ort Gelegenheit, die Praxis der „Demokratische Autonomie“ zu beobachten und viele Fragen zu stellen.
Transcribed from the 21 February 2015 episode of This is Hell! Radio and printed with permission. Edited for space and readability. Although we have cut this transcript down significantly less than we generally do, we strongly encourage you to listen to the audio, to fully appreciate the emotional intensity of the conversation.
“The people of Kobanê were about to face a massacre, and the president of Turkey just wore his sunglasses and made macho statements. He exploited the desperate situation in Kobanê.”
Chuck Mertz: We’ve been talking about all the new challenges to the traditional seats of power around the world, from the Islamic State and how it challenges our notion of the modern state, to SYRIZA and how they’re standing up to the Eurozone’s austerity policies, to Spain’s Podemos, who have created a whole new form of democracy, even to the extra-statecraft of free trade zones that exist outside nations’ and a people’s laws.
But there’s something completely unique happening in Western Kurdistan, a new kind of democracy, and it’s led by women, and they are fighting and beating the Islamic State. Here to tell us about Rojava, Kurdish refugee Dilar Dirik is an activist of the Kurdish women’s movement, and a Ph.D. candidate in the sociology department of the University of Cambridge, where her research focuses on Kurdistan, the Kurdish Women’s Movement, and the PYD (Democratic Union Party) which has existed in the Rojava territories since 2004.
AntiNote: This article first appeared in Jacobin Magazine. Reprinted with permission.
All parties to the collaboration which brought this article to English-language readers were conscious and wary of the anti-imperialist/anti-anti-imperialist sideshow currently preoccupying parts of the Western Left, and we expected to hear from these quarters. We were not disappointed. Some of the article’s critics, who complained that Babacan and Çakır do not make concrete proposals, can be dismissed immediately for reasons apparent to anyone that reads the article in its entirety. In more urgent need of response are allegations of propagandizing—that the social structures in Rojava are described too glowingly and that the righteousness of the PYD and PKK is not sufficiently interrogated.
Fair enough. The AWC’s initial reaction to these jabs (and the authors surely have their own) is that in situations as complex, fluid, and violent as either the Syrian civil war or the Kurdish struggle for self-determination—which happen to overlap here, wonderful—accusations of propagandizing can be leveled at any of the information flowing from any source with an obvious stake in the conflict. More specifically, the equally propagandistic claims that the PYD is guilty of repressing Rojava’s population or that the Kurdish Movement is ‘on Assad’s side,’ have not been substantiated to the extent that Babacan and Çakır’s contrary claims have been, and certainly not to our satisfaction at the AWC.
(To deflate this entire argument, though, we suggest turning our critical attention to this week’s article by Syrian revolutionary-in-exile Yassin al-Haj Saleh, and thus on ourselves.)
Finally, in the month since this article’s publication in English the situation in Kobanê has continued to evolve. We have updated the language in a few places to reflect this, though a full appreciation of the ultimate liberation of the city, confirmed only last week, is necessarily absent. Babacan and Çakır’s calls—especially for the opening of an aid corridor through Turkey—are, however, no less relevant as the city rebuilds and its inhabitants begin to return.
We have also not reproduced Jacobin’s link citations or, regrettably, their accompanying photo essay. Both can be found and enjoyed in the original.
The False Friends of Kobanê
by Errol Babacan and Murat Çakır
The significance of the struggle in Kobanê cannot be overstated. But real international solidarity won’t come in the form of military intervention.
The Travel Account of a Karakök Autonome Activist (Part 1)
AntiNote: Since the battle for Kobanê started making headlines last month, and before that if we may say so, the AWC has been conferring with our invaluable comrades close to both the Syrian revolution and the Rojava struggle and trying to determine how best to present these topics here.
Complicating matters, of course, is that news out of Kobanê in particular changes minute to minute—first, the fall of the city was inevitable, then it turned into a lasting siege; then all at once ISIS fighters were in retreat and the battle “over.” But the siege continues, and continues to confound: the roles and statements of the Turkish, American, and many other states shift constantly; people continue to scrape across the Turkish-Syrian border near Kobanê, in both directions; the situation is exquisitely fluid.
Transcribed from This is Hell! Radio‘s 12 July 2014 Episode and printed with permission. Edited for space and readability. Listen to the full interview:
“I don’t think I need to get out of the kitchen. I think we need to turn down the heat in the kitchen so more people can come into the kitchen. Because the kitchen is supposed to be the place where we make nice nutritious meals.”
Chuck Mertz: On the line with us right now is Jón Gnarr. He is the author of Gnarr: How I Became Mayor of a Large City in Iceland and Changed the World. Good morning, Jón.
Jón Gnarr: Good morning!
CM: Jón campaigned on the promise to get the dinosaurs from Jurassic Park into downtown parks, free towels at public swimming pools, a drug-free parliament by 2020—and he swore he’d break all his campaign promises upon winning the election. Jon promptly proposed a coalition government, although he ruled out partners who had not seen all five seasons of The Wire.
Jón, how is it that a comedian, running a campaign that’s simply a satire, was suddenly taken seriously?
JG: Well, it’s a combination of luck and good planning—and a miracle. The most amazing thing about the Best Party now, when you look back at it, is that it worked out. We did a good job and we all stayed friends. That’s probably the most amazing thing.