Amed, Diyarbakir, Kurdistan, Turkey, village, cooperative, coops

Amed Village Production and Sales Cooperative Initiative, an interview

This interview was first published in Turkish in the 33rd issue of Meydan Newspaper, 5th May 2016.

We [Meydan anarchist newspaper] share with you the interview we have conducted with the Amed Village Production and Sales Cooperative Initiative, practising relations of solidarity and cooperative relations of production and consumption in Amed [Diyarbakır], a city where the economy hegemony and plundering projects of the state are abundant.

Meydan: How did the Amed Village Production and Sales Cooperative Initiative come about?

We began to think of a cooperative with three families after June, 2015. We also spoke to friends who work in agriculture in villages under the jurisdiction of the Yenişehir district of Amed. Initially we had a small-scale project in mind. However, two and a half months ago we ended up cultivating mushrooms in an unused adobe barn house with two rooms of around 50 square meters, and in the basement of a house that measures 80 square meters. We managed to do this at a cost much lower than the market price, with the solidarity we have believed in from the beginning.

The mushroom cultivation in the two places only meets the needs of three families at the moment. However, we want to include more families in this network.

What is your objective as the Amed Village Production and Sales Cooperative Initiative?

Projects such as the Southeastern Anatolia Project intended to bring the regional population under an exploitative system; it was the application of an economic genocide. On the one hand, the population was being robbed of their land through projects for dams, and on the other, the peasantry was indebted with imported consumption goods beyond their means. The people can neither pay their debt nor meet their needs. In these conditions, the cooperative emerges as a necessity.

We want to show that Kurdistan has a self-reliant geography, and that the local community can solve systemic problems through solidarity. The Kurdish people are organised along many levels, but the economy is not one of these. This is in part what we are trying to achieve. Our aim is to return the people to production through means of sharing and solidarity.

How does production work here?

Mushrooms emit gases harmful to human health in the places they are cultivated, which is why we do not want its production in living spaces and make use of abandoned adobe houses. The culture of solidarity that is part of Kurdish traditions has not been lost and is still in effect. This work is generally represented as ‘awareness’ but this has actually been a part of our lives to begin with. We will sell the output and share the revenue.

How does the product reach other people? What is the nature of your relationship with other cooperatives and producers?

We have relations with cooperatives that operate with our mindset. There is work done by the Economy Commission of the Democratic Society Congress, and we are in correspondence with them. This way, our production reaches the wider society. Apart from that, we have created a Facebook account. Although we are new to this experience and we have trouble with using the internet to promote our activities, we are still keen on maintaining this channel of communication.

Let us suppose that a friend from the Şeyhkent village of Yenişehir produces mushrooms, and there is another one producing tomato paste in another village. We want there to be dialogue between them. We bring together the spokespeople of the existing communes and cooperatives in their districts. If a friend was to consider increasing their landholding, we would consult the matter together and discuss what can be done.

Spokespeople from the district commissions come together, making up the provincial commission, and the provincial spokespeople compose the general commissions of Kurdistan and Turkey. Thus everyone has a spokesperson to represent them. However, they are only authorised to bring up existing discussions. This is the way communication is established between the cooperatives.

Is there anything you want to add?

Within our current system, our only choice is to build cooperatives, communes and solidarity. About 85% of the population have credit card debts, and no one can make ends meet. In light of this fact, if we rely on banks rather than one another, we will neither propagate our culture nor find the means to live…

The domination of the capitalist economy is deeply entrenched and the government is forcing everyone to be a part of cycles of exploitation, while new economic models in new geographies continue to exist outside of these.