Theater of Cruelty

The Kurds in Rojava

Niels Johan Juhl-Nielsen
Niels Johan Juhl-Nielsen
Juhl-Nielsen resides in Copenhagen.
ANARCHISM / In Murray Bookchin's social ecology, Abdullah Öcalan saw how the dynamics of women's liberation could and must be reconciled with direct democracy and ecology.


When Abdullah Öcalan moved to Syria in 1979, it was to begin here a building of an independent Kurdish state with all that it might entail, i.a. a consolidation of the Kurdish language. At the same time, this structure was to constitute a safeguard against Turkey and the NATO country's desire for expansion in the region. Öcalan and the PKK (Kurdistan Workers' Party, established in 1984) developed their approach to a new culture through their activities in Syria – until their imprisonment in 1999 in Turkey. It happened at partially secret meetings and teaching in private homes.

The youth here received their first political education, and for the women it became the start of a revolution. They had not previously participated in politics. Everywhere, the women's movement was given a dominant role in gender equality in social relations and in the development of a communalisation. For Öcalan, such communalisation should now constitute the organizational base for the building of society in a decolonized Kurdish Syria.

However, patriarchal structures remained unchanged, with female militants simply being handed over from a patriarchal family to a patriarchal party (PKK). Legitimized by the party's own liberation propaganda, the autonomous Woman's Army (YJAK) pushed the party towards a more radical feminist agenda by loyally adapting to the father figure Öcalan. And the Marxist-Leninist Öcalan had realized how the dynamics should be continued: “The regime has long since missed the opportunity to rectify itself through reforms. So what is needed is the women's revolution that encompasses all social areas. Just as women's slavery constitutes the deepest slavery, the women's revolution must become the deepest revolution of freedom and equality. "

In Murray Bookchin's social ecology, Öcalan saw how the dynamics of women's liberation could and must be reconciled with direct democracy and ecology. This created the basis for a new paradigm that included a respect for the individual human being and real knowledge building.

This opened up opportunities for democratic grassroots organization and for the establishment of autonomous institutions, e.g. in education and under the leadership of women and young people. This new paradigm was to constitute an alternative to «capitalist modernity», whereby Öcalan understood oppression, dominance and hierarchies. Rather than dealing with current economic issues, the outside world must understand that culture reflects 5000 years of hierarchies and dominance, especially in relation to women.

The Women's Revolution

With this alternative, Rojava today presents a new way of thinking about society. It takes place in a part of the world in which tensions and contradictions have developed (in the wake of the Arab Spring) with the commitment of the whole world based on our own interests. For the Kurds – without a state – the development of local organizations was a necessity. Öcalan had realized that the establishment of society is not identical with the establishment of a state. The new society was to be based on being emotionally free of capitalist modernity.

The women's revolution and the social movements in Rojava also see themselves as part of an international solidarity movement. What headlines like "Not climate change, system change" and "Fridays for Future" express. Despite occupation and war. And with opportunities to create forms and spaces where freedom can happen here-and-now. By being able to free oneself from the idea that "the state owns our soul". And with the continuous development of tools for self-organization.

The women's movement forms the radical wing of the construction of society. Women throughout society are organized in a double structure. In parallel, women have their direct participation in society's own forums, where they can develop new social forms and their own knowledge production.

Patriarchy, the nation state and capitalism have invited common bonds. In this context, the women's revolution must be seen as part of a much larger social revolution – where you want to give people tools so that they can also liberate themselves. Rojava is the story of international solidarity between social movements and not nations. It is not primarily about Rojava's survival, but about the survival of all mankind.

See also: To have everyday power

I Fearless Cities (2019) has developed a guide for the global communist movement with Debbie Bookchin as one of the contributors.

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