Resources on the Rojava Revolution, The Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria, and the Kurdish Freedom Movement

April 2nd, 2021

Introduction

The Communes of Rojava: A Model In Societal Self-Direction (documentary) by Neighbor Democracy- An in-depth look into the inner workings of the commune system in Northeast Syria (Rojava) and how they work in practice to give people direct say over the decisions that affect their lives at the most local level. I also call for people to form communes throughout North America and the world.

Kurdistan: Girls At War (documentary) by ARTE TV- From Paris to Sinjar, Kurdish women are taking arms against Daesh (Islamic State) and defending their people. A group of women who refuse to be victims or stand by whilst other women are victimised.

Lessons From Rojava by the Kurdistan Solidarity Network

This 5 part weekly series of educational seminars called Lessons From Rojava, hosted by the Kurdistan Solidarity Network out of the UK. These are super duper informative because each week they’ve had people who have actually lived in Rojava or are currently living there as well as other important figures in the Kurdish movement and I think they do excellent jobs going into the ideas behind the Kurdish Freedom Movement, what makes their approach so different than what we have here in the West, and what we can learn. https://kurdishsolidaritynetwork.wordpress.com/lessons-from-rojava-seminars/

Is a revolutionary approach to politics in Britain possible? (Equally applicable to the US) https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=1479571015536722&id=355288844808376&anchor_composer=false

What does democracy without a state look like? https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=602167750392203&id=355288844808376

What if women are the vanguard? Leadership and the women’s revolution in Rojava https://www.facebook.com/watch/live/?v=816942092171335&ref=watch_permalink

How do we connect personal change with system change?https://www.facebook.com/watch/live/?v=260197331957783&ref=watch_permalink

What’s next for social movements in the UK (or the US for that matter) https://www.facebook.com/watch/live/?v=268678500882061&ref=watch_permalink

Other lessons for American and European social movements from Internationalists who have gone to Rojava 

In this talk for Fast Forward 2019, Viyan at the Internationalist Commune of Rojava explores in depth the question of organising with and as part of society, as opposed to focusing on particular “communities”, and what this means in practice.

Some Lessons We've Gathered 

  1. Know your history- come up with a shared understanding of both a history of the system and a history of resistance. What is it that makes is organic for participants in one struggle to see that reflected in another struggle, not in a way that seeks to reduce it or coopt that  movement, but in a way that recognizes both the particularities of each and its common roots in the same oppressive systems?   (Democratic nation, two rivers theory: society vs the state)
  2. Think of the long haul
  3. See ourselves as part of society, not separate from it (not just rejecting the state, but really saying yes to society!)
  4. Organizing in our neighborhoods with as many people as we can (inside of our red lines) to see everything that we do as part of social change (*We organize society, not subcultures)
  5. To see our movements as being inherently intertwined, to build relationships, strategy, vision, and coordinated actions together
  6. Transform our social relationships to ones of love and care and solidarity (only 5% of your energy should be spent fighting the enemy and the other 95% on fighting the system inside of yourself)
  7. Bawerî (or Cornel West’s “secular spiritualism”)- Organize and believe that change is possible and act as though it is
  8. Democratic confederalism but based on one’s own context- still I think most of commune committees, autonomous gender/ethnic councils, co-chairs, and tekmîl are useful here
  9. Don’t go out of your way to alienate yourself from society in presentation, action, etc…i.e. You can still keep to your values without turning everyone off automatically before they’ve even heard a word you’re saying
  10. Make commitments to each other (based on bawerî); come up with shared values through back-and-forth and hold each other to those (not have one foot in, one foot out, rejecting transience)
  11. Always relax with some çai (Kurdish word for 'tea') first

Ideology

Democratic Confederalism / Stateless Democracy explained- describes briefly the idea of the Democratic Confederalism, how it works in Rojava (Northern Syria), and how Iranian Kurds desire Democratic Confederalism as well.

Democratic Confederalism: Building the movement for a democratic society by the Kurdistan Solidarity Network- Zoom seminar about the ideology behind the Kurdish Freedom Movement https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=868009160376437&id=355288844808376

The Main Principles of Democratic Confederalism by Komun Academy- An intro to the ideology behind the commune system in Rojava https://komun-academy.com/2018/11/22/the-main-principles-of-democratic-confederalism/ 

THE KCK PARADIGM An Interview with Duran Kalkan, KCK Executive Council member- Document from the KCK, the umbrella organization for all parts of the Kurdish freedom movement, that covers the whole ideology they are advancing and goes into self-organization methods for diverse populations, not only for defense against social and economic systems of domination, but for the construction of superseding systems.https://kck-info.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/Brochure-KCK-Paradigm-March-2021.pdf 

Democratic Nation- a brochure straight from the prison writings of Abdullah Ocalan, the architect of Democratic Confederalism, on the strategy of reimagining the nation, not based on borders or geography, but on a common mindset of freedom and cooperation for all people everywhere. http://www.ocalanbooks.com/downloads/democratic-nation.pdf 

The Art of Freedom: A Brief History of the Kurdish Liberation Movement- In 2018, one of the most important spokespersons for the struggle of Kurdish Freedom, Havin Guneser, held three groundbreaking seminars on the historical background and guiding ideology of the movement. The lectures have been compiled into a book that really distills and makes accessible the core ideas of the Kurdish Freedom Movement.

The book is broken into three sections:

“Critique and Self-Critique: The rise of the Kurdish freedom movement from the rubbles of two world wars”

“The Rebellion of the Oldest Colony: Jineology—the Science of Women”

“Democratic Confederalism and Democratic Nation: Defense of Society Against Societycide”

http://libcom.org/files/art_of_freedom_9781629638041.pdf

Communes/Neighborhood Pods

First Commune in Kobanê: Construction and Challenges- Short history of one of the very first communes in Rojava https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/north-africa-west-asia/first-commune-in-kobane-construction-and-challenges/ 

The Internal System of The Communes in Rojava- Internal documents of Rojava’s communes http://www.aymennjawad.org/2018/04/the-internal-system-of-the-communes-in-rojava 

Chai by Chai, Village by Village, The Work Goes On by the Internationalist Commune of Rojava- Article detailing how a commune was formed in a very conservative village, starting with a litter clean up day. Particularly relevant section: “The next step was three weeks going door-to-door in the village, drinking endless chai, hearing the people’s problems, and inviting them to participate in Gire Sor’s first commune meeting. Once all 80 families had been visited, the first meeting took place – attended by a grand total of five people, two of whom, Hevkar says, only showed up to complain that the whole enterprise was pointless. He left the meeting feeling disheartened, even afraid. But the work continued.” https://itsgoingdown.org/chai-by-chai-village-by-village-the-work-goes-on/ 

Rojava: Between City And Village, Between War And Ecology by the Internationalist Commune of Rojava-  https://itsgoingdown.org/rojava-between-city-village/ 

BEYOND THE FRONTLINES The building of the democratic system in North and East Syria- An in-depth explainer of the entire system as it actually works in practice in Northeast Syria https://rojavainformationcenter.com/storage/2019/12/Beyond-the-frontlines-The-building-of-the-democratic-system-in-North-and-East-Syria-Report-Rojava-Information-Center-December-2019-V4.pdf 

Constructive Criticism and Self-Criticism

Introduction to Tekmîl- our compiling of some great resources on criticism and self-criticism as practiced by the Kurdish movement https://www.cooperationdenton.org/blog/introduction-to-tekmil

Critic and Self Critic: What, Why and How- highly informative video for understanding tekmîl and why it is so important to resilient revolutionary movements and conflict prevention! https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=78v91YSbMlg

Also see: How do we connect personal change with system change? from Lessons From Rojava series above

Cooperatives

The Cooperative Contract of The Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria - Official documents from Rojava on the general principles of their cooperatives https://mesopotamia.coop/the-co-operative-contract-of-the-democratic-federation-of-northern-syria/

The Internal System for Cooperatives in Rojava- More specific guidelines on how the cooperatives actually work in practicehttps://mesopotamia.coop/how-do-cooperatives-work-in-rojava/

Revolution and Cooperatives- Lessons from an internationalist volunteer who worked in the economic committee in Qamishlo and Hasakah cantons, Rojava: https://internationalistcommune.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/Revolution-and-Cooperatives-1.pdf

Jineologî/feminism

Women Weaving Future Video Series

This video series organized by the Kurdish women's movement at the beginning of the pandemic was truly revolutionary as it took the radical perspective of the movement on women's freedom and made it widely accessible to people from all over the world in weekly online seminars

A Brief History of the Kurdish Women's Movement in Four Parts of Kurdistan https://youtu.be/b3HptQFGPnE

Toward A Democratic Society With The Co-Chair System https://youtu.be/N5KZ_kykOpU

Öcalan and Women's Liberation https://youtu.be/HhizLi6Ikbk

From Women's Liberation Ideology Towards Free Women's Organisations https://youtu.be/-7LVepNcABQ

Feminicide and the Answer of Women's Self Defense https://youtu.be/dkxUDSP1POM

The Relationship between Organisation and Freedom https://youtu.be/TBDTfz2IOXk

Jineolojî https://youtu.be/ZCwvmHrO3tU

Women's Confederalism https://youtu.be/YuB9AwaMicU

Pamphlets

Liberating Life: Woman’s Revolution by Abdullah Ocalan- A summary of Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan's writings on women's liberation that led to the freedom movement adopting women's liberation as its most central pillar  https://www.freeocalan.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/liberating-Lifefinal.pdf

Revolutionary Education at the Andrea Wolf Institute by Jineologî Committee- This brochure explores the meaning and content of revolutionary education from the perspective of Jineolojî, the Kurdistan Women’s Liberation struggle, and global women’s revolution. What is education? Why is it important for struggle? What topics are we developing in the academy and why? https://jineoloji.org/en/2020/05/04/brochure-revolutionary-education-at-the-andrea-wolfe-institute/

Killing and Transforming the Dominant Male by Jineologî Committee- Excellent deep dive into efforts of revolutionary men in Kurdistan and elsewhere to seek out and destroy that dominating masculinity within themselves and replace it with a more beautiful and wholesome masculinity https://jineoloji.org/en/2021/01/20/booklet-killing-and-transforming-the-dominant-man/

Documentaries

SARA: My Whole Life Was A Struggle- documentary covering the life of PKK co-founder Sakine Cansiz, who was murdered in Paris by a Turkish agent in 2013 after a half a century of some of the most important organizing for women's freedom in history https://youtu.be/YA49qeTScu8

Connections to struggles in America Black Socialists in America x Kongra Star: In Conversation- In 2021, members of both Black Socialists in America and Kongra Star – an organization founded in Rojava in 2005 to help women organize and develop their political consciousness with a focus on directly democratic, ecological, and feminist principles – decided to hold a recorded discussion about the experiences of those who do not identify as men within their respective struggles, as well as strategies for systems change that center women in particular.  https://youtu.be/lz3lVCDZ0sQ 

Panthers and Guerrillas, a six-episode podcast series by Neighbor Democracy- In the wake of the murder of George Floyd, there has been an outpouring of support for Black resistance in the United States from Kurdish society online. Solidarity between the Black Freedom Movement and the Kurdish Freedom Movement has a history, and has been growing especially since the Battle of Kobanê and the Ferguson Uprisings in 2014. This podcast tracks that history, the current moment, and explores ways that solidarity can deepen.  https://youtu.be/E1L4i4NETQU

Citizens' Assemblies: From New England To Rojava by Janet Biehl- Compares the centuries old town meetings of New England and the brand new communes and confederations of Rojava. Both are face-to-face democratic assemblies that take place at the most local level. However, they also differ in important aspects. http://new-compass.net/articles/citizens%E2%80%99-assemblies-new-england-rojava