ILRIG Statement in support of the Rojava Revolution and a call to end the isolation of jailed Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan
- Published: Tuesday, 26 February 2019 11:52
Very few South Africans are aware that currently in the north and eastern parts of Syria (Rojava) a revolution as progressive, profound and potentially as far reaching as any in history is taking place. There, an alternative system to the state, capitalism and patriarchy is being built and it holds the potential to inspire the struggle for a better, more egalitarian Middle East and indeed world.
Since 2012, when the Syrian state in the area collapsed, people in Rojava – Kurds, Turks and Arabs – have established a federation of communes and councils, based on direct democracy, to run society without a hierarchical and patriarchal state. In the process a genuine democratic form of people’s power has been created, in which women play a key role. On the economic front, they have been attempting to replace capitalism with a communal economy. At the heart of this experiment are worker self-managed co-operatives that produce not for profits, but to meet people’s needs. These co-operatives are in fact accountable to everyone in Rojava through the federated communes and councils.
Over the course of almost 7 years, the people of Rojava – mainly through democratic militia – have fought off the many dangers that have been posed to the Revolution, which have included the forces of the Syrian state,the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and the Turkish state.
The experiments in Rojava have been heavily influenced by the vision of Democratic Confederalism, which has a central role in the Kurdish national liberation struggle in Syria, Iran, Turkey and Iraq. The first person to outline the vision of Democratic Confederalism – a form of libertarian socialism – in the early 2000s was one of the key leaders in the Kurdish national liberation struggle, Abdullah Ocalan.
For almost 20 years, Ocalan has been imprisoned by the Turkish state on the island prison of Imrali. The Turkish state imprisoned Ocalan for his role in the Kurdish freedom struggle and as the leader of the Kurdish Workers’ Party – which the Turkish state claims is a terrorist organisation. In this regard, it must be noted that the Turkish state has, over the last several decades: engaged in systemic ethnic discrimination and cleansing against Kurdish citizens of Turkey; used its military and intelligence forces to harass, jail and kill thousands of Kurdish people living in the south of Turkey and in the process, razed over 3 000 Kurdish towns to the ground; and, regularly launched military operations in northern Iraq and Syria targeting Kurdish liberation forces and civilians.
For 10 years Ocalan was the only inmate on the island. Under the neo-fascist regime of Erdogan, Ocalan has been kept in total isolation since April 2015 and has been denied any visitations, including by family members and lawyers. Since late 2018, hundreds of people involved in the Kurdish national liberation struggle have been on a hunger strike demanding an end to the isolation of Ocalan.
In January 2019, the Turkish state also began to make plans for the invasion of northern Syria to end the Rojava Revolution. The Turkish state fears the Rojava Revolution will spread into Turkey itself and they do not want an experiment in direct democracy, feminism, ecology, anti-statism, and anti—capitalism to succeed. Already in 2018, the Turkish state invaded part of Rojava, Afrin, and are now unleashing plans to invade the rest of north and eastern Syria. These plans have been condemned by the peoples of the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria (as Rojava is now known) and they have called for a genuine international peacekeeping force to be deployed to prevent the invasion.
As the International Labour Research and Information Group (ILRIG) we support the Rojava Revolution, including its goals of creating a feminist, anti-capitalist and stateless society. We offer solidarity to the comrades involved in the current hunger strike and support their calls for the Turkish state to end the isolation of Abdullah Ocalan. We stand with the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria and oppose any invasion, including the current threat by the Turkish state to undertake military actions against the Rojava Revolution. Furthermore, we call on other progressive movements in South Africa to support the Rojava Revolution and the associated struggles for Kurdish national liberation, and for the South African Government to recognise the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria and its right to be free from the threat of invasion from any aggressive state forces.