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.
On Monday, 20 July 2015, the ultra-reactionary movement Daesh (known as the self-proclaimed Islamic State) targeted a cultural center in Amara (in the district of Suruç, Turkey) which was hosting a meeting of 300 young Kurdish leftists, members of the Federation of Socialist Youth Associations (SGDF). They were preparing to go to the nearby town of Kobanê in Syria, in order to participate in its reconstruction.
These young revolutionaries had left Istanbul the day before, to present themselves as “Children of Gezi”—children of the protest movement that began in Istanbul in June 2013. In a video for their campaign, a socialist youth of the SGDF said: “We will plant five hundred trees in the name of revolutionaries who were killed in the resistance against the Islamic State in Kobanê. We will also plant fruit trees in the name of Berkin Elvan [who was killed during the Gezi protests at the age of fifteen], reconstruct the war museum in Kobanê, rebuild the library and nursery at the cultural center, build a playground, and join the cleaning efforts in the city center of Kobanê.”
These young people were bringing books, toys, and clothes, as well as young trees to plant. The terrorist attack caused the death of more than thirty of them, and injured over one hundred.
I am waiting in the Zurich main station; my train is coming in ten minutes. Now a familiar sight: two police officers are walking directly towards me. After checking my ID, they start with the standard questions: “What are you doing in Switzerland? What do you want here? Why don’t you go back home?”
I answer that I have a permit, and a lawyer.
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.