Kurdistan, Rojava, Syria, Cizire, co-operatives, cooperatives, co-operative, cooperative, co-op, co-ops, solidarity, solidarity economy, workers co-op, workers co-operative, workers cooperative, cooperative economy, solidarity economy, Hevgirtin

Cooperatives: The Basis of Rojava’s Community-Led Economy

This is a translation of a report by Yerevan Hemi, which originally appeared in Arabic on Ronahi.net on 31/01/2016

The local economy should be the most important part of the economy. The Centre for Economic Development is working on the development of community life and cooperative work through participation in economic, social and cooperative activities. It works on the foundation of social norms, the introduction of a free communal life and equality as the basis for practical and administrative life. Women have the right to take their place in the various bodies. The Centre is committed to providing the basic needs of all components of society, working to achieve dignity, preserving human life and promoting cooperatives in all provinces of Rojava.

We visited the centre and met the chair of the Community Economic Development Committee in the city of Qamishlo (Qamişlo / Qamishli / Al-Qamishli, also known as Al-Qamishly, Kamishli or Kamishly), Mr Talal Julie. He said: “The Centre was established after taking protection, policy, conciliation committees and service committees into consideration. We found that Rojava needs economic management for its development and we understood the importance for the centre to progress and develop. It is organised according to work assigned to each committee, which appoints two people from the centre and the economic committee appoints the head and the deputy. The centre has been open for nearly a year.”


Active members of the cooperative

Cooperatives are economic associations based on cooperation, sharing, joint action and teamwork among members of society (in districts – villages – institutions…). They are not limited to profits only but operate on a basis of self-administration, collaboration and participation. The cooperatives work to maintain the economic level and on the reduction of monopolies, the avoidance of mistakes and not repeating them.

It has also worked in the development of modes of mass production, exchange experiences based on a mutual support system and the reduction of unemployment.

For the centre’s membership, Julie told us that everyone who works in the commune is entitled to be a member of the centre. The economic position of the individual will be improved through a process of self-development and in a proven ability to work hard with the encouragement of members of the centre. There are conditions which must be met in the centre’s membership, such as discipline, morality, raising the morale of comrades, doing the work required, and hygiene. Board members are, at the same time, working in the cooperatives, and everyone is committed to working in a spirit of harmony with the cooperatives’ activities. In addition, a member is not entitled to join more than one committee in the cooperative because the board appoints the management, finance and follow-up committees. Any member can be excluded from any committee according to the results of an election and by meetings held by the boards with all members agreeing to the exclusion decision.


Focus on agriculture in the province of Al Jazeera

Mr Julie said that the development centre gives great importance to agriculture in general and the focus is on land owned by the centre in every region of the Al Jazeera province (QamishloAmuda (Amûdê / Amouda) Derbasiye (Dirbêsiyê‎ / Al-Darbasiyah) – Terba Sebah – Derik (Dêrika Hemko / Dêrik / Al-Malikiyah). The crops are wheat, barley, cumin, chickpeas and lentils but we are not limited to that only, as in Terba Sebah we grew vegetables such as onions, garlic,..etc. The land which is planted, tradesman or any other person can benefit from the arable land by buying shares in the company for a sum of money. For example, in the association Hevgertin, the stock is estimated at 15 thousand Syrian Lira. All categories of people are entitled to purchase shares according to their needs and securing goods to cover the need for self-sufficiency for the rest of the province so the interest will be for the people. Our goal is to benefit the entire nation and not to profit commercially. We want to break down the monopolies in the market held by certain traders and distribute the profit evenly among all the people involved in the cooperatives, where they share the stock.

Julie added that the share price allocated to trade and care for livestock is estimated at 25 thousand Syrian Lira, agricultural stock is 30 thousand Syrian Lira per share and commercial stock is 15 thousand Syrian Lira per share; the prices are in Dollars in order to increase the interest rates and avoid losses.


Cooperatives’ role in improving the local economy

In relation to the role of self-administration in encouraging the building of cooperatives, Julie said: “For the past three years, the self-administration manages the centre to improve the economic situation which has arisen because of the closure of all border crossings and the embargo from all sides of Bashur [South Kurdistan / North Iraq] and Bakur [North Kurdistan / East Turkey], and of roads that lead to the province. The duty of the self-administration is to secure material for the rest of the province. For example, we agreed with some farmers to build cooperatives within the land owned and to institute a system of shares and dividends with everyone, but the project was not completed because there were insufficient participants with effective shares and our support was low due to our very limited budget. But now we are seeing strong demand for cooperatives and this demand has been created by the centre. We are now witnessing an improved level of per capita income through participation in these associations.”


Projects in progress

For the associations which opened in Rojava, Julie mentioned that among these associations and institutions are Hevgirtin company, the Agricultural Association and the Industrial Association, which are underway, and we are striving to complete them as soon as possible. Currently we have projects and plans, such as canned food plants and milk, but we need time for the completion of these projects. Projects that have already been created in Rojava are the aforementioned (Hevgirtin, the agricultural association and the association of sheep breeding).

The teamwork in the cooperatives enables everyone to have access to production and the fruits of production. It enables them to achieve justice and a rise of the overall level of the economy in Rojava.