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Rojava: a beacon of hope fighting Isis

The socialist Kurdish region in Syria has successfully resisted the Islamic State and deserves our solidarity, says DEREK WALL

Rojava should be trending on Twitter. Rojava should be on the lips of all of us, especially of those on the left. Rojava (or Syrian Kurdistan) is a sign of hope in a world which often seems rather dark. However, most of us haven’t even heard of Rojava.

Rojava is an autonomous socialist state with a population of 2.5 million that has recently been formed in the Middle East.

Rojava community self-defence units have been fighting the so-called Islamic State and consistently winning. We should all be fundraising for Rojava's medical appeal, learning more about Rojava, giving its people solidarity and above all spreading the word.

The discourse in the mainstream media around Iraq and Syria is simple.

Murderous fundamentalists are killing Christians, Shia, Yazidis and terrorising people of all faiths in Iraq and Syria.

The killing of James Foley and threats to the US and Britain make them our enemy. For both pragmatic and ethical reasons, the US and Britain should return to the region and take them on.

Those who oppose direct military interventions are appeasing a force of supreme evil.

The history of US/British intervention suggests that this line of argument contains flaws. In 2003, when George Bush invaded Iraq, one of his pretexts was that Saddam Hussein had been working with al-Qaida.

However it is clear that while in 2003 al-Qaida had no serious support in Iraq, the chaos unleashed by the invasion has enabled the building of a force so repellent and regressive that even al-Qaida condemns them.

Cock-up or conspiracy, interventions have grown and fuelled this threat and with the supplying of weapons to Islamist groups in Syria, Isis have been armed by Obama.

A number of different organisations and states have been fighting Isis. It is forgotten, for example, that Russia has been supporting Iraqi forces for some time.

However, the force that has had the most consistent success in combatting the Islamic State is Rojava.
However Rojava, being a socialist autonomous state, has received no media publicity and no support from the US or Britain.

Rojava gained a measure of autonomy from Syria, and its main political party, the Democratic People’s Union, has organised self-defence units called the YPG. The Democratic People’s Union is affiliated to the Kurdish Workers’ Party, commonly referred to as the PKK.

A long-standing Kurdish revolutionary party, the PKK has been heavily repressed by the Turkish state. In fact much of the rise of the so-called Islamic State can be explained by Turkish opposition to an autonomous Kurdish state.

Turkey's border has been closed to Rojava to strangle this new socialist and Kurdish state. In contrast, the border has been open from Turkey to jihadists fighting the Kurds.

The long-standing PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan was kidnapped in Nairobi in 1991 by the Turkish secret service and remains in prison.

The PKK is listed as an international terrorist organisation and is subject to intense repression. Yet in Rojava, despite all this pressure, their sister organisation has achieved something interesting.

The PKK and PYD advocate socialism, feminism, freedom of religious belief and pluralism.

In a region dominated by authoritarian regimes and sectarianism, their experiment in democratic socialism should be celebrated. One of Ocalan’s key influences, somewhat surprisingly, is the late US social ecologist Murray Bookchin.

Thousands of Rojavans have been murdered by the fundamentalists, and Rojavan school students have been kidnapped to put pressure upon their families.

However, Rojava has fought back impressively, forming community defence group the YPG. Yazidis from Mount Singer, under threat of death from the Islamic State, were led to freedom in Rojava by members of the YPG.

There is much in the media and from politicians like David Cameron about the threat from Islamic fundamentalists.

Of course US and British intervention led to the creation of such a threat, funding from Qatar and Saudi Arabia fed this threat and Turkey has turned a blind eye to jihadists from all parts of the globe moving to Syria and Iraq to cause murder and mayhem.

Real hope in the region will have to come from democratic and plural political structures, based on self-respect, and in the immediate term the so-called Islamic State needs to be challenged. Those who have done so most effectively in Rojava need to be supported.

Yet, at present, the PKK and its affiliates are listed as international terrorist organisations by the US, Nato and the EU.

All of us on the left must call for an end to this terrorism listing, demand the release of Ocalan and challenge the role of Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia in supporting fundamentalism.

My knowledge of Rojava is basic but I know I need to find out more. We should set up solidarity organisations, spread the word about Rojava, organise film showings — there are a number of excellent films about Rojava — and, above all, donate to the medical appeal for Rojava.

You can find details of how to send donations to the medical fund here: http://kurdishquestion.com/kurdistan/west-kurdistan/the-kurdish-region-r...

Derek Wall is international co-ordinator of the Green Party.

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