Andreas Exner [translated from www.social-innovation.org]
Hardly anything is as depressing as news of the last days about the siege of Kobane in Northern Syria. Kobane is the capital of the self-managed canton Rojava – an example for an alternative development of peace and social equality in a region experienced the complete opposite at the moment.
For this development, a change in the orientation of PKK seems to be important, which has a strong backing in the region. The imprisoned Abdullah Öcalan has absorbed US-anarchist Murray Bookchin, for example. Activists report that this political reorientation influences movements in Rojava.
But Rojava and with it the whole autonomous province in Northern Syria faces the threat of extinction.
The Turkish government under Erdogan cuts any supply of relief and arms. It would welcome, one can imagine, that Rojava vanishes: a path of autonomous self-management, of equality of women and men, and of a multi-ethnic model of participation and of production cooperatives. Not least because the Kurds in Turkey might regard Rojava as an example for their own aspirations.
No wonder then that the Turkish state obviously supports IS, by offering medical services in hospitals, the possibility of supply crossing the Turkish border, and by other means. Also islamistic forces within the Kurdish people in Turkey seem to be supported by the government in Ankara. The demand for a puffer zone – allegedly to protect refugees – in Northern Syria, which the Turkish government declares to be a condition for military interventions, thus turns out to be nothing else than a maneuver to control the self-managed province.
In a similar way, air strikes carried out by the US and its allies against IS forces, are a quite tactical intervention with hardly any effect. One signals moral support, but does not support self-management and democracy in Rojava. It can be assumed that the US government has other plans than to support a development of self-managed and anti-capitalist democracy in the Near East. This is made clear not least by statements of US officials, for instance the speaker of the US Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Jen Psaki. From the viewpoint of the US military, Psaki said, the centers of command and control are paramount, and oil refineries. Oil again is more important than a good life for all.
Meanwhile, the EU still sees the Kurdish PKK as a “terror organization”, while its politics against the IS seem to be unassertive.
In this situation, the question is, how emancipatory movements and groups should act? Is it enough to donate for aid in terms of food, shelter and medicine?
Obviously, this would not be enough. Kurds in Kobane, and in the Northern Syrian region as a whole also need arms, which can combat the modern equipment of IS. The defenders of Kobane – roughly half of them women, as it seems – have been superior to IS until now only by its courage, strength, commitment and knowledge of local circumstances. This advantage seems to become less every hour.
To support the resistance against IS and its explicit or implicit collaborators is the demand of the Kurds in Kobane. They oppose a Turkish intervention as much as the erection of a puffer zone in Northern Syria. What they demand is to open the border between Turkey and Syria to Kobane and aid in arms to combat the IS.
All this is uncomfortable for a Left which hardly takes to the street any longer even in its “home countries” of the global North. However, the situation in Northern Syria is not uncomfortable, but catastrophic in ways hardly to be imagined. This situation could be decisvie for the fate of the Near East. The links between IS and the loss of perspectives of many people in Europa are evident. The links between the ge0politics of the US, Turkey and other governments in the Near East and the economy based on oil in these countries are evident as well.
Yet the struggle for the autonomous self-management in Rojava and the other two cantons in Northern Syria could even gain a historical importance resembling that of the Spanish Civil War. This is speculation, true, but it nevertheless points towards a possible historical significance of the fights around Kobane, which cannot easily be dismissed as well. In any case, the defence of Kobane and its neighbouring provinces revolves around the decision about a development of a good life for all – or the brutal opposite.
In this perspective, it is paramount to support the donation campaign for arms for Northern Syria, which has been organized by leftist groups in Germany. They try to gain further supporting groups in other countries. The campaign has been surprisingly successful already.
The call (German):
weitere Informationen gibt es unter
Tel. 0172 9169800
Background interview with one of the organizers (German):
Further articles on the conflict (English and German):