Solidarity with Rojava - review of Serkeftin

Kurds view the US decision to withdraw approximately 2,000 US troops from Northern Syria as preparation for a full-scale Turkish military invasion and then occupation of the region. Turkish forces, armed with heavy artillery, are massing at the Syrian border. Since 2012, the Kurdish people and their allies in what they call Rojava (Western Kurdistan) have achieved self-government and implemented an authentic revolutionary process. Kurds, Arabs, Assyrians, Syriac, Armenian, Druze, Circassian, Turkmen and other peoples living in the region have established unity and been building democracy. More than 10,000 of their people have been killed fighting Islamic State and other jihadi groups, which have been backed by the government in Turkey. What the Kurds and their allies have established is a threat to the regional status quo and to the Turkish state, with its large Kurdish population, in particular. In January 2018, Turkey and its jihadist auxiliaries invaded the western most enclave of Rojava, Afrin, without protest from the western governments or from Russia. They have killed Afrin’s people, others have been driven from their homes - but guerrilla resistance continues there. Below we carry a review of a book on the Rojava revolution.

Hands off Rojava!  

Serkeftin: a narrative of the Rojava revolution Marcel Cartier, Zero Books £10.99

The introduction to this book is a moving tribute to revolutionary Mehmet Aksoy, who had lived in London, from whom the author clearly drew a lot of inspiration. Mehmet was killed on 26 September 2017, becoming a martyr for the Rojava revolution and for all humanity. Reading the correspondence between Mehmet and Marcel brought me to tears and this sets the tone for what is truly a powerful and inspiring read.

From here the author launches into a narrative of the Rojava revolution, giving an introduction to some of the things that make the book so inspiring, from the heroic resistance of People’s Protection Units (YPG) and Women’s Protection Units (YPJ) and internationalist forces at Kobane to the democratic structures of Rojavan society and unique forms of education being practised. Most of all, what Cartier captures is the spirit of the Rojava revolution and the society that is being constructed in the North of Syria.

The struggle for women’s emancipation is central to the Rojavan revolution and is an ongoing struggle today, but in Rojava there is a sense that women can liberate themselves.  A struggle is underway to undo patriarchal mentalities in men.  As Cartier tells us: ‘Every day, the soil of Rojava is given life by the blood of women who fall in combat, side by side with their male comrades as equals...Their examples are the practical manifestation of the ideology developed over decades of struggle, one that the movement believes has the potential to not only liberate the Middle East, but the whole of humankind.’

The commune is the basis for Rojavan society and it is within the commune structure that problems facing women are first addressed at the grass-roots.  Each commune has a representative from an organisation called Kongreya Star – an organisation which has the aim of tackling every problem that concerns the lives of women today in Northern Syria.

The Rojavan education system can truly be described as revolutionary.  In this system there is a dialectical approach to education taking place, in which students are also teachers.  This idea certainly seems different from the rigid, top-down education structures we are accustomed to in Britain.

This book gives a brief glimpse of the struggle taking place in Rojava, even under the constant assault from Turkey, IS and other reactionary forces in the region. This new, revolutionary society is being built.

I particularly enjoyed is Cartier’s response to the failure of much of the left to recognise what is taking place in Rojava. He deals with some of the excuses put about by internet ‘communists’ who label the Kurds as ‘pawns of imperialism’. He points out that this argument is not only insulting to the Kurdish people, denying their agency, but completely fails to grasp the difficulties involved in carrying-out a revolution in the midst of such reaction or the fact that this revolutionary struggle has been a decades long process of struggle and movement building. The Kurds will take whatever help they can get to defend themselves, remaining well aware of the potential pitfalls that come with accepting help from the world’s most powerful imperialist military.

One thing which struck me was the author’s brief mention of the Cuban and Bolivarian revolutions: ‘I can also truly say that for the first time in my life, despite all my travels to countries that have been engaged in some level of socialist construction (Venezuela, Cuba and North Korea), I truly felt like I was seeing the kind of vitality and deeply democratic, grass-roots society I had always imagined could – and should – come to life.’ I think this is meant in a comradely way rather than to put down these other revolutionary struggles, and is said more to highlight the inspirational role that Kurdish revolutionaries are currently playing, but it does give the impression of being a little dismissive of the grass-roots organising that is taking place in Venezuela and of the well-established grass-roots democracy practiced in Cuba.

Still, it’s easy to understand why the Rojava revolution means so much to the author and why it should matter so much to all revolutionaries. Cartier gives an emotive account of the society that is being constructed there, dotted with poignant reminders that this revolution is still under attack from reactionary forces and victory is by no means assured. We are reminded of this through the many fallen comrades, some of whom Cartier met personally while he was visiting Rojava.

This then, is a useful text for anyone who wants to get an understanding of the Rojava revolution: a powerful read which captures the uniqueness and spirit of the Rojava revolution. In a world where progressive forces have been in retreat since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, Cartier finds inspiration in the many Hevals (comrades) that are fighting and dying for a better world. He reminds us that it is the job of all progressives and revolutionaries to support the Rojava revolution. In Cartier’s own words, ‘The world’s progressive people owe it to themselves to learn from and study the Rojava Revolution, as well as to lend it support and solidarity at this critical juncture. Failure to do so will undoubtedly be to the detriment of the world’s oppressed, colonised and downtrodden yearning to be free.’

Lucy Roberts


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