Autonomous enclave amid violence of Syrian conflict
The now autonomous (and multi-cultural) territory of Rojava is attempting localised, egalitarian government in Kurdish regions won back from ISIS in northern Syria.
Sept.4.─ We arrived at night, but the heat in Qamishli was still oppressive. As soon as we left the city’s small airport, still under the control of Bashar al-Assad’s soldiers and police, we entered the territory of the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria, or Rojava (‘west’ in Kurdish). At least two million people (60% Kurds) live here on land reclaimed by force from ISIS. The territory, along Turkey’s southern border, is bounded by the Euphrates and Iraq.
Since 2014, Syrians living here have been part of a political experiment inspired by Abdullah Öcalan, founder of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), imprisoned by Turkey since 1999. The PKK and its Syrian ally, the Democratic Union Party (PYD), abandoning Marxism-Leninism, have taken inspiration for over a decade from the libertarian communalism of the American environmentalist Murray Bookchin (1921-2006).
Rojava’s foundational text, the Social Contract for the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria. was adopted in 2014. It rejects nationalism and advocates an egalitarian society with equal representation, and respect for minority rights.
Rojava is now de facto autonomous. Apart from the tiny Damascus-controlled enclaves of Al-Hasakah and Qamishli airport, the region is run by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), made up of Kurdish fighters from the People’s Protection Units (YPG), the Women’s Protection Units (YPJ) and contingents from Sunni Arab, Yezidi and Christian militias ...
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