Rojava, Syria

Being Part of the Revolution ─ statement from the Internationalist Commune of Rojava

Cross-posted from the Internationalist Commune blog, where it appeared on June 21, 2017

Rojava, Syria, internationalist communeAbout the work of internationalists in the civil institutions of Rojava

The revolution of all kinds of relationships existing in society has been going on in Rojava for 6 Years now, but is far from being completed – if such a thing as completion is even possible. It is on the contrary at it‘s very beginning. It has to be defended against it’s enemies, deepened and continuously developed further. Therefore internationalists who go to Rojava do not come as tourists who can look at a finished work. Rojava is not a museum where the Revolution can be examined and measured. Rojava is not a monument of past battles. Rojava is a living organism which develops. And those who approach it as revolutionaries become part of it.

We internationalists in this still young revolution came from various countries and different political traditions. Most of us share the idea that we came to gain experience which will also be useful for work in the groups and structures of our home countries.

Therefore the direct involvement in the different branches of civil work of the revolution is an important part of the education made possible by the Internationalist Commune : In womens and youth structures, in communes and cooperatives. After the basic education which includes ideology and language we set off to work in society.

Learn to live with contradictions

“Coming from Europe, where Revolution can be treated in a rather theoretical manner and also the perspective on Rojava mostly stays a theoretical one, I was at first surprised at how many difficulties, compromises and problems I encountered in this revolution”, says heval Baran from Germany, who came to Kurdistan about a year ago. “You can not develop System for a free society without contradictions by sitting on your desk or having abstract theoretical discussions and then put it into practice just like that. Revolution is a process in which you encounter contradictions all the time. Enduring these contradictions and resolving them step by step without losing the revolutionary perspective, that’s something people can learn in Rojava.”

The reason for the contradictions within the construction of a new society in Rojava consists not solely in the fact that we are in a war zone. The influence of capitalism does not only show itself in the form of fighter jets or tanks. “One of capitalist modernity’s ways to influence the youth are the computer games. In Hileli alone there are four so called “Counters” where the youth goes after school to play counter strike until the evening”, says the Italian internationalist Serhildan about the time he spent working with the youth in Hileli, a neighborhood in the outskirts of Qamislo. “As a consequence of the excessive gaming they occupy themselves less with the reality they live in. They become passive. Their identity is defined by playing computer games and the ‘counters’ become the center of their social relations.” Superficial and sexist conceptions of beauty are found among the youth as well as the use of alcohol and drugs as an attempt to escape a reality perceived as depressive: “the cruelties of the war waged by Daesh have a big destructive impact on young people without a strong ideological consciousness. After traumatising experiences the youth turns to alcohol in search of distraction and suppression, although drinking is neither accepted by traditional society nor by the political movement”, he explains. “Apart from the military attacks committed by Daesh, the Syrian regime and the fascist Turkish state there also are attacks of capitalist mentality targeting especially the youth with the aim of weakening the revolution.”

The complexity of the revolution stretches out into all areas of society: Patriarchal family structures need to be overcome, feudal clan structures must be transformed without causing open enmity towards the new society. Economical supply has to be guaranteed even under the most difficult conditions.

The revolution is a struggle which is fought not only militarily. Organising is the key to success. “This makes the works of the revolutionaries in Rojava even more important. The youth is given possibilities of education and the development of a revolutionary youth culture and identity is supported. This work requires daily involvement with the youth, in their families, in the counters and in youth centers. It requires daily discussions about the desires and goals of the youth and it’s organising within the existing revolutionary structures”, says heval Serhildan.

Constructing the self administration

Cemile from France tells us about those who fight this fight relentlessly. She started her first works in Kobane with the Rojava Youth Union (YCR). “The aim of our works in Kobane was to motivate the youth to take part in the revolutionary work and participate in all social structures and thus free them from their passive role in the capitalist system”, she recalls. “The revolution here in Rojava is led by the autonomous women’s and youth structures. The youth is still creative and open for change. They have no fear of going new ways and participate with a lot of energy and enthusiasm in all kinds of works. This creates an enormous social strength. The numerous young teachers finally have the possibility to teach their mother tongue and to research. They understood the importance of independent education and pass on their knowledge.”

The work among the youth aims at the construction of structures of democratic self administration: “A big goal of our works was to give the youth a voice by bringing them closer to the practice of self administration. Building youth councils, students organisations and making assemblies so they can collect their opinions and suggestions, talk about them and strengthen them.”

For Cemile as well as for dozens of other internationalists in the civil works these experiences are pointing the way ahead for their work in Europe: “All in all this time was very beautiful and educational”, she says. “What is special here as opposed to living and working in Europe is the openness of society towards critics, discussions and support. You just approach the people and by establishing and understanding of each other you solve problems or prevent them from coming into existence in the first place. Many things and processes are still complicated and far from perfect but there is a rapid development of mentality and of the way of organising society as well as a development of the economical situation and the educational system. Those developments and methods leave me without doubt, that the revolution will continue advancing despite all the hostile influences from the exterior – like those of the Turkish state as well as those of capitalist ideology in general – and will keep pointing the way ahead for revolutionary work all over the world.”

Rojava, Syria

Dialectics of perspectives

Work in society is also an encounter of different points of view. “My internationalist perspective was something important that I could pass on to the youth: the importance of their steps for revolutionary processes everywhere, their function as a role model for others, the connection of the different fights which I consider necessary for a worldwide revolutionary change”, says Cemile. While contributing the experiences of other left movements to the local struggles the internationalists at the same time change their own patterns of thought and perception. They can learn how to actually work outside of their own “scene” or “subculture” among the “population”. They learn how much patience this requires but also not to present themselves as a missionary but as a human among humans.

“From the point of view of a radical left which rather distances itself from society instead of trying to organise it, working with society was a very important experience”, says Baran from Germany. “Visiting the families plays an important role in those works. The families who already support the revolution as well as those who are closer to KDP or the Syrian regime. For me political work always consisted of writing calls for action, organising protest marches, sitting in meetings and other similar activities. During my time in Derik I experienced how important it can be to visit a family and have dinner with them.”