“Bakur” is Kurdish for “North”. It refers to the land in the North of Kurdistan (the land where Kurds live), in the eastern part of Turkey, particularly the southeast.
The Turkish state was founded in 1923, at the fall of the Ottoman Empire, and a system of Turkish cultural and language assimilation was installed, known as ‘Turkification’. Kurdish and other languages were forbidden. Names of rivers, mountains, villages, cities and other places were changed to Turkish, and naming children anything other than Turkish names was also forbidden, as was education, books, etc in such languages.
The Kurdish movement was founded in opposition to this forced assimilation, in favour of Kurdish and other minority cultural rights.
Kurdistan is not a poor country; it is a country that is being made poor. The lack of Coca Cola does not make us poor. Capitalist modernity, as Ocalan defines it, makes us poor. It wants to belittle people’s own production and to impose on the society capitalist mass production. That’s why the co-operatives and the communes that we have been establishing made the state feel uncomfortable. Because this represents a logic of rupture from mass production and a move towards the use of our own resources. The state was losing its market in Kurdistan.
We took the rare opportunity to talk to an editor of the Jineoloji Journal in Diyarbakir about theoretical and practical activities of the Kurdish women’s movement in Turkey. The journal is one of the few remaining initiatives by the Kurdish movement that have not been shut down in the wake of the 2015-2016 military offensive by the Turkish state on predominantly Kurdish cities or otherwise repressed since the 2016 failed coup attempt. The latter was followed by massive repressions and the imposition of Ankara-appointed trustees in charge of Kurdish-majority municipalities (kayyum).
From Institute for Social Ecology board member and UMass graduate student Eleanor Finley: I recently had the opportunity to visit Turkey and North Kurdistan. In that short time, Istanbul celebrated the third year anniversary of Gezi Park, the Democratic Union Party (HDP) won unprecedented political representation in the Turkish parliament, and the cantons of Cizire
May has been an intense month of work for our ecological project. We have planted some new trees for our nursery, and the other shoots and trees keep on growing. We are also expanding our garden by planting a wide variety of seeds – some from local farmers around the commune, and some from different ecological projects from around the world. Melons, watermelons, beans, eggplants, pumpkins, corn… We are learning how they grow in this environment, while hoping that the hot summer doesn’t kill everything. We are also developing a greywater system to recycle waste water for use in the garden, making our camp more sustainable.
Many of the defining features of the political philosophy that Öcalan began to espouse in the 2000s are firmly rooted on my father’s idea of social ecology and its political practice: “libertarian municipalism” or “Communalism.”
Of Democratic Confederalism’s three pillars—radical democracy, gender liberation, and ecological sustainability—I would argue that the latter is the most crucial, and sets the foundation for a truly democratic, inclusive and egalitarian society. A society cannot be democratic towards ethno-religious minorities or be truly gender progressive if it cannot first and foremost demonstrate an integral and profound respect for our shared land.
Below is the transcript of our interview with three members of the anarchist group Devrimci Anarşist Faaliyet (DAF, or Revolutionary Anarchist Action) in Istanbul during May 2015. DAF are involved in solidarity with the Kurdish struggle, the Rojava revolution and against ISIS’ attack on Kobane, and have taken action against Turkish state repression and corporate
Do I think this system in Rojava is purely as Bookchin envisioned it? Not purely, but perhaps that may lie beyond the abilities of real human beings. But the people are wrestling with problems of implementation that Bookchin, as a theorist, never foresaw, and I think that even the mistakes that people in Rojava might make are relevant to the future importance of these ideas.
When Bookchin died in July 2006, the PKK assembly saluted “one of the greatest social scientists of the 20th century.” He “introduced us to the thought of social ecology” and “helped to develop socialist theory in order for it to advance on a firmer basis.” He showed how to make a new democratic system into a reality. “He has proposed the concept of confederalism,” a model which we believe is creative and realizable.” The assembly continued: Bookchin’s “thesis on the state, power, and hierarchy will be implemented and realized through our struggle . . . We will put this promise into practice this as the first society that establishes a tangible democratic confederalism.”
For Öcalan, democratic confederalism means a “democratic, ecological, gender-liberated society,” or simply “democracy without the state.” He explicitly contrasts “capitalist modernity” with “democratic modernity,” wherein the formers’ “three basic elements: capitalism, the nation-state, and industrialism” are replaced with a “democratic nation, communal economy, and ecological industry.” This entails “three projects: one for the democratic republic, one for democratic-confederalism and one for democratic autonomy.”