“Rojava” is Kurdish for “West”. It refers to the land in the western part of Kurdistan (the land where Kurds live), in the north of Syria.
The Assad family has ruled Syria under dictatorship for 40 years. The official name for the country is the ‘Syrian Arab Republic’, formally denouncing the existence of Kurds and other minorities, despite the rich tapestry of cultures and languages that inhabit these lands.
In 2012, in the midst of the Syrian Civil War, the rule of the Assad Regime weakened in the Kurdish majority northern regions. The Rojava Revolution was announced on 19 July 2012.
Important decisions were made at the seventh congress of Kongreya Star. The congress was held under the banner, “We will make the women’s revolution a communal revolution!” The conference was held in Aram Tigran Cultural Centre in the city of Rmelan in the canton of Qamishlo, and it was attended by about 700 representatives.
After the Democratic Autonomous Administration was able to establish a democratic way of life in Northern Syria, they introduced the socio-economic model of co-operative societies. As the revolution has developed, people have begun to form co-operatives. Hundreds of co-operatives are now operating in the area. One of the areas where many co-operatives have spread is in Serêkaniyê city, where residents began forming co-operatives in 2014.
A delegation from the Co-operative German Cities Organisation visited the People’s Municipality in Derik in order to establish relations in many fields and exchange expertise and opinions. The delegation included two members of The Co-operative Societies of German Cities, Edith Dunklitt and Dr Hans Walter Kleif. The delegation was welcomed by two co-chairs of the
The Committee of the Union of Co-operatives in the region of Tell Hamis in Qamishlo held a special meeting for women in the village of Nayem to discuss women’s rights in the co-operatives societies and to encourage them.
Avîn went to Turkey looking for work at the beginning of the Rojava Revolution, but she couldn’t endure the injustice in the treatment of the workers. She returned to Qamishlo and now works in Nisrîn Co-operative. Avîn saiys that in Turkey, they were treating the workers like slaves.
Before the beginning of the 2011 protests against Bashar al-Assad, structures like the Kumin and Mala Gel already existed among the Kurds. Because of the harassment at the hands of the state forces, the Kurds created their own informal organs of self-administration, which were judged as illegal by the central state. The Mukhabarat (secret police) could arrest anyone participating in them. After the government forces departed from the territory of Jazira, the Kumin and the Mala Gel took government functions upon themselves. A little over a year ago, representatives of the Kurdish, Assyrian and Arabic communities decided to give the political system its current form. In January 2014, the forming of the cantons Jazira, Kobanê and Afrin and the unifying territorial entity of Rojava was announced.
The Syrian Democratic Council announced a new unified administration in the areas controlled by the SDF in North and East Syria, after a Thursday meeting that included officials from several local councils.
The House of Co-operatives has coordinated with the Economic Assembly has to hold a meeting with the share holders in the Manbij Consumer Co-operative.
The efforts to build up communes everywhere never ceased after the start of the military cooperation with the US; rather the number of communes doubled. Also the creation of co-operatives continued; today there are a few hundred co-operatives. The democratic-communal economy continues to be developed. The anti-capitalist mentality was stronger in 2017 than in 2014 when I traveled for the first time to Rojava.
The people of Fars al-Ghanam village in the countryside of eastern Manbij have formed a co-operative society to run an electric generator in co-ordination with the Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Economic Committee in Manbij.
In Rojava, the significance of the co-operative system lies in efforts to democratise all sectors of society, including the economy. For this reason, creating alternative means and avenues that allow traditionally marginalised groups such as women to actively participate and engage with the market is an essential aspect of the radical democratic model.
This report by the Information Centre of Afrin Resistance was first published on 25 January, 2018. Sadly, Afrin is now completely under the control of Turkey and its Jihadist allies. We are publishing it now because we believe it is important to maintain an awareness of the situation of Afrin and its history.
“Because this model” Dr. Yusuf says, “is the model by which the history of humanity will be brought back to life our chances of winning are high.”
The following article is based on my trip to Rojava in March 2016 where I interviewed Delal Afrin, Head of the Women’s Economic Committee of Kongira Star [Kongreya Star] (a women’s umbrella organisation, previously known as Yekitiya Star) and Hediye Yusuf, Co-President of Cizire Canton (now co-president of the Democratic Federation in Rojava and North
The peace committee talks with the families. If there is violence in a family, the woman can get help from the Asayiş. In Hileli meanwhile it’s socially disapproved for a man to hit his wife—that’s all but come to a stop. In other districts it’s still present in places. Here it was usual for the television to be on 24 hours in an apartment, with Turkish broadcasts in Arabic language—that was a big problem. But when the energy suddenly went off, so did the TVs, and people’s minds were cleared to do something else.
After two months of hard work, Inanna Agricultural Co-operative, which is supervised by Kongreya Star in Afrin has started harvesting the crops of green onions and garlic, and selling them in the markets of the region.
Inanna Agricultural Co-operative began its first agricultural project in the area of Rajo in Afrin by planting wheat, onion and garlic.
After the announcement of the Democratic Self Administration in 2014, institutions were organised and local councils and committees were formed which concentrated their efforts on the economic situation in the region. One of the missions of the Economic Committee was to support the agricultural, industrial and commercial projects throughout Rojava, with the aim of reaching self-sufficiency, curbing monopoly and exploitation, reducing unemployment and activating the work force, both male and female.
The year 2016 was characterised by the advance of economic projects that aimed to improve the communal economy in Rojava, especially the projects that were connected to women.
In early December an international delegation visited Rojava’s Cezire [Jazira] canton where they learned about the ongoing revolution, cooperation and tolerance.
Administrators in the House of Co-operatives in Northern Syria organised a meeting for the people of Tabqa to explain what co-operative societies are and how they work.
Despite being surrounded on all sides by enemies, with Afrin taken and the ‘new’ regime there coming to world attention for its normalisation of brutality and human rights abuses, the ‘Rojavan Revolution’ continues to move forward in an uncertain environment…
The Women’s Council in Tabqa organised a meeting with the women who are registered to work in new projects. These projects will be supervised by the Women’s Council there, and will raise awareness about the role of women in society and the importance of these kinds of projects to create more jobs for women, and
"Everything was green before," sighs a young peasant from Sawidiyah, a small Syrian village at the banks of the Euphrates near Tabqa's massive dam. "Now it should be the season, but the crops are lost, because Turkey cuts the water, preventing the production of electricity. For us here everything is linked to the agricultural sector. If there is no agriculture, there is no more work."
For Raqqa, the ISIS occupation meant the dawn of a time of atrocities and oppression. With the liberation of the city last year under the leadership of the YPJ, a period of self-organization and emancipation began.
One year after the liberation of the city of Raqqa by the SDF (Syrian Democratic Forces), the pumping station was rehabilitated after being repaired.
Under the auspices of al-Raqqa Civil Council, the Reconstruction Committee and the People's Municipality Council, the first project of its kind was launched to develop the service level in al-Raqqa city.
The commune (komun) system is truly the beating heart of the Rojava revolution. It is based on the premise of Democratic Confederalism, that the power comes from the grassroots level.
After the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) liberated the district of Ayn Îsa from DAESH (ISIS) , in the Northern Syrian province of Girê Spî, the province began to revive.
Re-establishing peace and security meant rebuilding a new life under the leadership of women who had played a leading role in regaining freedom.
The House of Co-operatives in Sheddadi has been working on many projects that aim to improve the economy in and around the city.
I take a minibus and go to Qamishlo, the biggest city of the canton. There are dozens of oil pumps along the road. Hilly fields covered with fresh, green grass with oil pumps sticking out like crooked nails. When you look a second time you realise very few of them are moving. Only a small number are functioning.
The bakery project will be finished in a few months, and once it’s ready it will be supervised by a co-operative society that includes families of martyrs.
Eleven people participated in the co-operative. The price for a share is 60,000 SYP.
Co-operative societies in Tirbespiye have been giving economic support for many families, and contributing in developing the communal economy. Women have played the largest role in establishing and developing these co-operatives.
Rojava seemed to me to be poor in means but rich in spirit. The people are brave, educated and dedicated to defending their revolution and their society. Their revolution is grassroots-democratic, gender equal, and co-operative. I’ve never experienced anything like it. The people of Rojava are showing the world what humanity is capable of.
The Women’s Committee under the Hesekê Economy Directorate has developed several projects to develop women’s economy in the region.
In northern Syria, Til Xelef, Girê Moza and Til Beyder are home to more than 2,000 Neolithic sites. The self-government in northern Syria restored the destroyed artefacts and put them under protection.
Dirbêsiyê ─ With the start of June, agricultural and livestock co-operative Kasrek [Qesrik], the largest co-operative society of Jazira Canton [Kantona Cizîrê / Cezîre], began harvesting their rain-fed and irrigated crops. They will distribute the profits among 5,300 members. Kasrek Co-operative, a project of The Centre for Economy in Derbesiye [Dirbêsiyê / Al-Darbasiyah], is considered the largest co-op in Jazira
Akri Ibrahim – Ahmad Darwish The Economic Council of Dirbêsiyê [Derbesiye / Al-Darbasiyah] succeeded in making several socio-economic achievements in less than one year. The Economic Council of Derbesiye that was formed more than a year ago has managed to develop community economics in the region, and has made six economic achievements to date. 5,161 citizens participate in co-operatives. The Economic
A journey into the heart of the revolution and the strategies of transition towards a social economy: the multiplication of communes and cooperatives, and experimentation with new models of social, political and economic organisation.
In Kasrek [Qesrik] village of Dirbêsiyê [Derbesiye / Al-Darbasiyah], a co-operative society with 4,000 members started working on its economic, agricultural and livestock projects that will boost the community economy in the region. After a series of meetings of the people in the region, organised by the Economic Council in the Dirbêsiyê area, a new co-operative was formed
The House of Co-operatives in Derik has started cultivating the 1,550 dunams (decares) of agricultural land that belongs to Axa Welat Co-operative in the village of Haji Matri, one of the villages around Derik in the Qamishlo canton.
Pêşketin Co-operative Society is one of the co-operatives that has taken an important position in the region of Derik. It is divided into two parts, livestock and agriculture. The co-operative has accomplished partial self-sufficiency since its inception, and it has a participatory nature.
A meeting was held in Qamishlo by the Economic Committee and the General Management of Bakeries and Mills in order to discuss the problems of the bakery in Derik
The Women’s Agricultural Co-operative was established in 2015 by Kongreya Star and the Committee of Women’s Economy. It includes 135 members from Derik and the villages of Braaf and Kojerat, who each participated with 65,000 SYP, and planted on 380 dunams of land.
Sarhad Farm is the second biggest livestock-breeding project in Derik. The project is expected to be launched within one month, and it will be owned by a co-operative society with 400 members.
The co-operative started with the participation of 50 women who work the land, cultivating, planting and overseeing the growth of the crops.
Adar Bakery is the first bakery to be founded and run by women in Rojava. With the support of the TEV-DEM Women’s Economic Committee, six women were organised in a cooperative and began production in April 2016, communally making the bread and sharing the revenue.
“In Rojava…I saw the strength and passion that the human being is capable of, I saw the will and determination to fight for freedom, justice and truth women and men are capable of. I saw the passion with which men and women are building a new society. I saw how a human being can overcome pain and suffering no matter how enormous and even when you think they will tear you apart so that you will never get up again.” (Orsola Casagrande)
There are several pistachio gardens now in Kobane and surrounding villages. Use and distribution are determined by producers' co-operatives.
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
It's been one year since the US bombing of Kobanê—then partly occupied by Daesh [ISIS/IS]—and most of the buildings are still in tatters. Kobanê is in Rojava (meaning 'West' in Kurdish), a Kurdish majority region in the north of Syria that declared autonomy from the Assad regime in 2012.
Industry has been developing in Northern Syria despite the ongoing blockade and limited capacity. Many fields of industry, such as food and textiles, have been utilising the raw materials that grow in the region.
Since the start of the popular movement in Syria in the spring of 2011, many civil society organisations have been set up to prioritise women's empowerment. This coincided with the establishment of the self-administration in 2013, and the formation of its structures and institutions, which began to manage affairs in Rojava. In spite of the difficult economic environment and the challenging situation, women have played a significant role in many fields, and are encouraged to find work opportunities to achieve financial independence.
There are 21 co-operative societies in Qamishlo that are embodying the ideas of communal and participatory life, creating a collective environment at work, and building solidarity among the members of society.
A food manufacturing co-operative society called Yekbûn has been opened by some women in the Hilaliyah neighbourhood in Qamishlo. Yekbûn means "to be one".
The two communes of Shehid Mohammed Amin and Shehid Bahuz, which include 150 families in the Sweis neighbourhood of Qamishlo, have formed an electric co-operative society called Ronak. Their objective is to solve their problems autonomously and serve their neighbourhood. The administration includes seven people, and the price is 1,000 SYP [Syrian Pounds] per amp. The electricity generator will work from 12:00 to 17:00, and from 20:00 to 00:00 on a daily basis.
85 members of the Union of Pharmacists formed a medicine co-operative called Zanîn in order to prevent the selling of expired medicines.
Zanîn is a co-operative for medical, dental and pharmaceutical supplies and equipment for hospitals and clinics. The idea for this project came from a group of doctors who work in Jazira. Zanîn is a communal co-operative, and the price of a share is 100,000 SYP. There are a total of 5,000 shares which are collectively worth five hundred million Syrian pounds.
House of Co-operatives in Qamishlo has distributed flyers to introduce people to the concept of co-operative societies, explain how they work, and strengthen the relationship between people and co-operatives.
''Considering the economic situation, the deterioration of the living conditions and the lives of some of the people who live around the two communes, some steps have been taken to help them and support them financially. By letting people participate in the co-operative as members and workers who sell necessities at reduced prices, we help the people to endure the living conditions in the suburbs. There are some people who live in the neighbourhood working in the two projects, and that is reducing unemployment and creating a workforce. We are aiming to increase the economic projects around the commune in order to include more people, help them and cover their needs.''
A group of mostly women residents of Qamishlo set up Shîlan Co-operative for the sale of underwear on 7th January, 2017 in Hilaliya, a neighborhood in Qamishlo. They were able to establish the co-operative with the support of the local council of the city.
Nisrîn Cooperative was established on 11th April, 2015. At that time, it consisted of five people, who each paid around 15,000 Syrian pounds (SYP), meaning they were able to raise 75,000 SYP between them. Their main aim was to help the poor and to break the traders' manipulation of the prices of food and detergents, because the prices in Nisrîn Co-operative are cheaper and more competitive than the central market, which is controlled by the traders.
The Women’s Office in east Qamishlo [Qamişlo / Qamishli / Al-Qamishli] has opened a bakery called Lilit to make pastries and manakish. The opening was attended by many of Qamishlo’s residents, as well as members of Kongreya Star [the women’s movement umbrella structure], local councils and institutions of civil society. We headed to Qamishlo’s eastern municipality to get more information,