Cooperatives are Taking Root in North Syria

This is a translation of an Arabic article by Ahmed Samir that first appeared on Hawar News on 18 December, 2017

Cooperative societies have been established in North Syria to develop the communal economy. They have proven that they can satisfy people’s needs and prevent some traders from monopolising, and so far there are more than 142 co-operatives.

A co-operative society is an independent group of people who co-operate voluntarily for shared social, economic and cultural benefits. Co-operatives include non-profit organisations, companies that are owned and managed by the people who run their services, like consumer co-ops, or by the people who work in the co-op, like worker’s co-ops, or even by the people who live in the co-op, like housing co-ops.

People in North Syria started establishing and developing co-operative societies as a result of the suffocating blockade imposed on the region, and also to regulate the fluctuating prices in the market, all with the help of the institutions that were established after the revolution of North Syria.

People and administrators in Rojava and North Syria are developing a better understanding of co-operative societies now in this new democratic environment, focusing more on self-sufficiency, and changing the capitalist mentality that was adopted by the oppressive powers in society.

The start of the co-operative societies in Rojava

In the wake of the Rojava Revolution on 19 July 2012, the Union of Cooperative Societies was established with the aim of developing the concept of cooperative societies. Then the economic committees were formed, and cooperative committees were established in every region of North Syria.

The specialised institutions took the responsibility of explaining the concept of co-operative societies in the democratic nation, in the framework described by the leader of the Kurdish people, Abdullah Ocalan.

The region has been blockaded since 2012 by Turkish-backed groups, and that led many co-operatives to form day by day, and then many of the co-ops moved to liberated areas.

Women have a special role in managing co-operatives. Many women started managing projects which helped them become self-sufficient and not need to rely on men, and also develop an economy that is far from the capitalist mindset that divested women of all their rights. Şilêr Co-operative is a good example of that.

There are many committees in the regions of North Syria that have been working to develop the co-operative societies, some of which are:

  • The Agricultural Committee, which is securing farmers’ needs through co-operatives.
  • The Industrial Committee, which is providing power generators for people who live in regions that lack electricity, factories, bakeries and pharmacies, by establishing co-operative societies which have been joined by 3,080 families, according to statistics made by the management of the Union of Co-operatives in Rojava.
  • The Commercial Committee, which is providing food products, fertilisers, cement and iron at cheap prices with the help of Hevgirtin, and it has more than 6,000 members in the Jazira Canton [Kantona Cizîrê‎ / Cezîre], according to the statistics maintained by the Union.
  • The Livestock Committee, which establishes poultry farms, and stables for cattle and sheep.

There are more than 142 co-operatives in North Syria. In Jazira alone there are more than 87; in Afrin Canton [Kantona Efrînê‎ / Afrîn] there are 21 and in Kobanî Canton [Kantona Kobaniyê] there are 34, with 600 families participating.

Nabila Mohammed, the Co-chair of the Union of Co-operatives in Jazira Canton, said in an interview with Hawar News that the concept of co-operative societies have recently reached the areas that have been liberated from Daesh [ISIS] by The Syrian Democratic Forces [SDF], such as Tabqa [Al-Thawrah], Raqqa [Rakka] and Deir ez-Zor.

Nabila said, “There are many kinds of co-operative societies, according to the needs of every region, and they have proven that they are the best solution against the manipulation of prices, inflation and monopoly.”