As they have driven ISIS back in northern Syria / Rojava the Kurdish YPG and their allies in the SDF have won increasing visibility in western media. While such reports often mention the key role in this fight played by women in the YPJ, there is otherwise little examination of the revolution happening behind the front lines in Rojava. That revolution is why they stood and fought ISIS rather than fleeing. This can be true of a lot of alternative media coverage. In part this is due to the limited amount of information on what this revolution involves. but it’s also in part because photographs of women with guns are judged to be more striking than women workers in a co-operative bakery or a community assembly.
We’ve tried to address this imbalance somewhat, both in our coverage and through bringing a number of Kurdish and other speakers over to talk at the Dublin Anarchist Bookfair. They spoke about what is happening behind the front lines. What is it that is being constructed that so many have judged is worth going to the front lines to defend against ISIS? Our speakers this year included Erjan Ayboga author of ‘Revolution in Rojava’ and US academic Janet Biehl who has visited the region twice since the revolution to investigate what is happening on the ground.
A little over ten hours ago (24th August) Turkish tanks crossed the Syrian border to supposedly attack ISIS. For the last couple of years Turkish troops and ISIS militants have been exchanging hand waves across the border as month by month hundreds of ISIS recruits have been allowed to cross it.
People gathered outside the Turkish embassy in Dublin last night to take part in a solidarity protest of remembrance for the 100 plus people killed in the bombing of a peace rally in Ankara on Saturday.
The cartoon on the left is from a few months ago but expresses how Kurds saw the role of the Turkish state towards ISIS and the conflict in Syria. Considerable evidence of support for ISIS from the Turkish state has been published in the international media over the last months. An ISIS commander told the Washington Post on August 12, 2014, "We used to have some fighters -- even high-level members of the Islamic State -- getting treated in Turkish hospitals."
This Sunday the Observer revealed details of a US Special forces raid on an ISIS compound. “One senior western official familiar with the intelligence gathered at the slain leader’s compound said that direct dealings between Turkish officials and ranking ISIS members was now “undeniable”.” Oil smuggling was what that ISIS leader was co-ordinating with the Turkish officials and ISIS were getting an “estimated $1m-$4m per day in oil revenue”
The Rojava revolution is taking place in three catons of northern Syria that are part of the area known as Kurdistan stretching through Turkey, Iran and Iraq. In 2012 a revolution occured in the Syrian cantoons, an area of 18,300 square km. The population of Rojava was estimated in 2014 as 4.6 million, obviously the ongoing war in the region makes precise estimates difficult in particual as refugees move into and out of the region as the fighting ebbs and flows.
Dublin protested last night against ISIS and the support it has received to date from the Turkish state. The protest was called by Lookleft in the aftermath of the Suruc bombing. 32 humanitarian volunteers on the way to help in the rebuilding of Kobane were killed in the bombing, at least 2 anarchists were amongst those killed.
The bomb went off on Monday at a community centre in Suruç a small mostly Kurdish town just across the border in the Turkish state. The Amara Culture Centre which was where 300 people on a Federation of Socialist Youth Associations stayed on their way to Kobane. 32 of them were killed by the bomb including at least two anarchists and over 100 injured, some critically.
17th May and ISIS capture Ramadi and with it another huge stock of modern US weaponry. Something like 6000 US trained Iraqi soldiers have fled the city without putting up much of a fight. From all accounts the ISIS force was considerable smaller and reliant on a waves of suicide car bombs for its final attack. It’s not hard to see why ISIS had been successful in establishing the idea that it was indeed an unstoppable force carrying out gods will.
But on the same day to the north west ISIS suffer yet another major defeat at the hands of the YPG and YPJ in Rojava. The YPG/J unlike the Iraqi army is a force almost starved of heavy modern weaponry. Photos have circulated online of self constructed armoured vehicles, often tractors with steel boxes bolted on, that for all intents and purposes are identical to the home made anarchist armour of the 1930s Spanish revolution. And no match at all for the captured US armour ISIS have.
This session at the 2015 Dublin anarchist bookfair examined the reasons why gender liberation is central to the Rojava revolution in northern Syria and looks in particular at the importance of the struggle against tribal feudalism.
Revolutions are seldom made in favourable circumstances. Russia 1917 emerged from the mass slaughter of WWI and the disintegration of an economy under the pressure of the supply demands of that war. Spain 1936 emerged from a well planned and executed fascist coup amongst a powerful military backed and armed by international fascism. Schemas for revolution that depend on quiet times and plenty may well be doomed from the start.
That said it’s hard to imagine more impossible conditions for revolution than that of Rojava. A brutal civil war, 3 small areas of territory that were kept in a state of low development by the previous regime and are not even linked to each other. A fanatic army of barbaric religious extremists armed with captured looted US heavy weaponry attacking from one side, a hostile state quietly backing that army and closing its borders to the good guys on another and waiting in the wings the old regime and its long history of brutal counter insurgency. And above all this the tactical and strategic intervention of an imperialist power whose manipulations have devastated the land to the South East over a period of almost three decades.
“Ed, that’s soldier’s headed our way, we’re gonna have to move”. Sure enough the soldier is trudging down the road towards us, unshouldering his rifle and looking, even from this distance, distinctly narked. Ed doesn’t directly acknowledge my warning, except with a barely discernible movement of the head, focussed as he is on his camera shot. He knows I know that he’s heard me and he knows that as I haven’t yet added the “...now!” intensifier, that he has a few more precious seconds to finish the shot, as the camera pans over the ruins of Eastern Kobane against the backdrop of Mishtenur Hill. It’s 2:30 in the afternoon of Thursday 19 March on the Turkish side of the border with Syria and Kobane.