The economy of the autonomous Administration takes social economy as its main pillar, in which everyone participates to establish a local economy that seeks to reach self-sufficiency.
Since the beginning of the revolution, radical changes have taken place in many sectors of society. The most prominent of the changes that took place, which can be considered a revolution in itself, is the transformation in the economy. A social economy which can be seen as a savior for the society is trying to be established, in contrast to the monopolyzed economy of the Baathist Syrian regime.
The economy in the Self-Administration has shifted from and to the community, and it has become the property of everyone. As the Self-Administration took the initiative to put appropriate frameworks in place and formulate systematic mechanisms to transform slowly towards an economy based on a participatory community economy that benefits everyone without excluding any group.
To talk about this topic, the Center Of Civil Diplomacy in NES, in coordination with the Information Office of the Economy Authority held a panel discussion under the title “Social and Agricultural Economy in NES”, with Ahmed Hassan, joint vice president of the Economic Commission in NES; Mohamed Dakhil, co-chair of the Agriculture and Irrigation Authority; Laila Saroukhan, co-chair of the Agriculture and Irrigation Authority, and Karker Ismail, spokesperson for the society economy.
Mr. Ahmed Hassan answered the first question about the change in the economy sector and its radical transformation in the Administration into a social economy in which everyone participates and benefits everyone without exception.
He explained more broadly the course of the economic process in the Administration and the policy followed in it.
Firstly, I would like to speak and point out that the economy in most countries of the world is based on the capitalist system that transforms society into classes, and Syria was among the regimes that adopted the capitalist system in one way or another. Where the policy followed was the policy of starving the working class and the emergence of the bourgeoisie and the ruling class on the economy in the country and this led to inequality and deprivation of rights especially in the regions of NES.
NES is considered the food basket of Syria because of its oil and agriculture. Despite all this wealth that existed the people there were deprived of everything. Rather, the people were living below the poverty line and thus the continuation of this policy led to the displacement of the majority to work in other regions or to emigrate abroad.
With the beginning of the revolution which took place on the 19th of July 2012 in NES and the declaration of the Autonomous Self Administration, a new time period started for all people living in this region. From the beginning it was the goal to transform the economy into a social economy in order to be able to cover the needs of the region in light of the difficult conditions at the time. We have suffered and are still suffering from the old mentality that was learned in capitalism especially about economic matters. With the passage of time and with great determination by the autonomous Self-Administration we were able to overcome difficult steps in this field and strive towards the desired economic goals to achieve self-sufficiency and provide better job opportunities. This requires cooperation and efforts by people of all groups and all classes, including farmers and traders. With the progress of a communal economy, economic stability in the region can be reached, and this will positively affect the whole society.
As an economic commision, for us, all sectors of agriculture, trade and industry are complementary to each other and we support these sectors according to the available capabilities. Our aim is the building of a solid economic ground, unlike what it was in the past where raw materials were extracted from our regions and went to other regions and were not used. Now, we have overcome this problem and established factories and laboratories with local expertise. For example, an oil factory, a cotton gin, a dairy and cheese factory. Perhaps these factories are not very large and developed and do not cover the region completely, but we can say that they help a good part of the needs of the local market, but thus become competitive with imported products in terms of prices and also help reduce monopoly in the market. Several aspects, whether providing job opportunities and achieving some kind of stability within the markets, in light of the current situation, like the siege imposed from all directions, and the continuous military attacks by the Turkish occupation state.
Mr. Muhammad Dakhil also spoke about the agricultural sector, which is the main resource of NES. Which is the formula for the plans they followed as a body to overcome the obstacles they face in light of the threats to the region?
Agriculture is an important and main source of livelihood for most of the population in the region, therefore with the beginning of the declaration of the Autonomous self-Administration, the greatest burden was on the agricultural sector and how it should continue and develop. We initially worked on two basic pillars: the establishment of a strong and successful administrative corner and new administrative institutions starting from the smallest and basic cell in the administration, which is the commune, and from the agricultural committees within the commune, agricultural guidelines were formed in the villages.
The second pillar: to provide all the needs of farmers, and to stop all expired materials that were entering the area. On the other hand, through our scientific research centers we improved and preserved the types of seeds. Because we face difficulties in this matter, like international organizations do not not cooperate with us in regard to the issue of seeds and agricultural medicines. So we depended on ourselves, and with limited capabilities we were asked to carry out seed improvement operations. This type and deduction process requires great international cooperation to obtain the kernel, which is lacking. In terms of examining medicines and fertilizers to ensure their validity, a laboratory has been established to analyze these pesticides and fertilizers and determine their source.
In addition to these obstacles, climate change taking place also affects the region in a negative way. There is a lack of rain. Besides that, we suffer from the siege. Neighboring countries did not accept the introduction of modern oil refineries, which caused a crisis in fuel. Despite all these difficulties, as the Autonomous self-Administration we managed to transform the economy. We worked with double effort to support and encourage farmers in all areas and all crops according to the priority of each crop of wheat and cotton. Also, many houses were built. Plastics were subsidized to provide vegetables in all seasons and make people less dependent on import.
Mrs. Leila Sarukhan talked about the obstacles on the issue of irrigation. One of the problems the region is facing is Turkey, a neighboring government which cuts off the water by building dams, which causes great damage to crops.
She said, “The issue of water and irrigation is important and strategic for the region of NES, because the majority of its components depend primarily on the agricultural sector. The climatic conditions, such as the lack of rain, make irrigation even more important. Lack of water affects the production and leads to a decrease in the farmers’ lack of interest in rain-fed crops and causes material losses. Also, the Turkish state is waging a water war by builiding dams and cutting off water, and in this way reducing the water level of rivers in the regions of NES made the land of the region suffer from desertification and negatively affected the crops. Therefore, being fored to import some items from other regions, which led to the greatest harm to the citizens because of high prices.
We can say that the Turkish state has a main goal to thwart the policy of the Autonomous self-Administration and it seeks to do so with all the means it possesses, including in the field of economy. As an economic commision, we support and encourage farms. We hope that the international community, especially human rights and legal organizations, take the water problem into consideration and put an end to the transgressions of the Turkish state.
The other question was about the role of women within the economic and agricultural sector. Women played an important role in economy and agriculture throughout history, also women developed agriculture around 9,500 BC, during the Neolithic era. Women lost their position in economy with the emergence of class systems and the development of patriarchal systems. This happened 5,000 years ago and has continued to the present.
As for us in the Autonomous self-Administration, women started working in all areas of life, and participated in everything. Especially women started to work in the economy and to transform economy from a sector which excluded women to a sector in which women are considered very active. Women in NES took their role in agriculture and the economy together with men as well through the establishment of centers run solely by women. This led to their economic independence. In all spheres, including the economic sphere, women gained an active role in society.
In conclusion, Mr. Karker talked about the social economy in particular, which is one of the mainstays of the economy in the Autonomous self-Administration. The goal of a social economy is to produce for the society and to be more self-sufficient. It is an effective means of self-sufficiency and the application of the “cooperative” system within the areas of Administration and the areas that fall within the priorities of work, and this experience has served or will serve the community in a way general.
Karker explained, “The goal of the social economy is to reconcile the goals of economic development on the one hand, and equality and social justice on the other hand, so that the individual is at the center of the interests of the development process and above any economic considerations, such as profit or accumulation. Achieving a social economy and involving the people relying on themselves in the production process depends on the development of cooperatives and associations. New jobs have been created and the cooperative system contributes to food security within the communities. Improving the material conditions leads to more social peace and a better health situation.
The cooperative fabric is the main component of the community economy sector in North and East Syria, given the size of its contribution to economic development and its ability to integrate socially, thus achieving cooperation and coordination between the members of society in economic terms. The integrated economic growth is a growth whose fruits and profits are not concentrated within the rich class only, but are distributed over large segments of society and their integration into economic life.
One of the obstacles that we encountered in the beginning is how to change the mentality and deal with the economic system during the previous years to the present time.
In light of the region’s exposure to attacks and threats, one of the goals of the social economy is to liberate the region’s markets from monopoly and exploitation. Cooperative societies are the practical application of the idea of a communal economy, and we follow up and assist all societies to reach a good level of self-sufficiency, and we have visions and are working to convert uncultivated land in villages with the participation of many farmers in the village to cultivate it so that the whole community benefits. We also support the owners of poultry houses, encouraging and developing livestock, and the “Zozan” dairy and cheese factory, which we established in Derek, from the outcome of our work and production. We are currently in the process of regulating community markets, because if society is adopted in a serious and major way in the region, we are in constant coordination with all the authority concerned with the economy.
All these steps that we are taking are directed towards the region’s self-sufficiency, which requires a great effort of everybody.