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Interview about Rojava – Topics for Debate: Questions about the Strategic Scope – an interview with PYD officials

A mass demonstration showing people’s support for social change in Rojava

Posted on March 01, 2015 – Bruno Lima Rocha


[Editor’s Note, Conjuncture Magazine: A dear friend and supporter of ours from Brazil, Dr. Bruno Lima Rocha, established contact with a series of organizations involved in the social revolution taking place in Kurdistan. Mainstream media sources have largely failed to cover the social process, though news has been able to break the radio silence. This is the second interview we publish in this series. It should also be said that minor grammatical errors were corrected (as neither participant in the interview is native to English). But most is left in the original form, for fear of losing accuarcy.]


Introduction: Since the Kobani siege started I have been dedicating several hours per week to understand and divulgate as much as possible about this social revolution, initiated in a combination of Democratic Confederalism and the Syrian civil war. As a militant, I always have been involved in international solidarity. As an Arab descendant, I always have been trying to find a reliable left-wing force combining direct action and internal democracy.


As a scholar and a professor of geopolitics, studying the region for more than 25 years, Rojava is a dream coming true. Here I start the first of some interviews with organizations that have real experience in this process and on the ground. In this interview, I was lucky to get information from PYD (Democratic Union Party) officials, women and men concerned with building a new society in Western Kurdistan in the middle of the Syrian and Iraq civil war.

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1. Is it possible to understand the PKK as a politico-military force formed by the thought of their historic leader (currently stuck in prison with life sentence) which were then transferred organically into the whole organization? Hence we have two questions in sequence: Can you imagine the reproduction of these ideas beyond a certain cult of personality around the image of Abdullah Ocallan? And, will it be possible to universalize the proposals of the PKK-KCK beyond national issue not yet resolved yet by the Kurds?


- It is clear that PKK was not that classic party such as any familiar Marxian party, PKK have criticized the Soviet experiment in the eighties which bothered some social parties in the Middle East in that time. Moreover, Ocallan has in his book ‘’Built Socialism- Soviet Socialism and its accessories’’ predicted the fall down of the Soviet Regime and that was the main reason that PKK didn’t get affected by this fall down (As per Ocallan in an interview with an Arab newspaper). Worthwhile that the great review and change was happening throughout Ocallan pleadings starting from the first pleading ‘’Subject: from the State of Sumerian priests towards democratic civilization’’ and ending up with the last pleading ‘’Subject: Kurdish case and the Democratic Nation solution’’, it is a series of pleadings under main subject: ‘’Democratic Civilization Manifesto’’. Yes, PKK and their historical leader have made a big change in their ideological system and even in their organizational system, this major change has affected logically all parties who adopted or referred to PKK ideology. Therefore we said that there is no reproduction of Ocallan ideology but it a deep understanding plus creation as needed due to the circumstances and conditions of each part of Kurdistan and each group of Kurdish people. Regarding the ‘’cult of personality’’, we totally disagree about this expression because it leads to destruction in all aspects, our movement aims to liberation, so how it will chain/tie up itself by ‘’personality cult’’!


Yes, PKK-KCK proposals could be universalized in different directions, for instance: Women, strategic relations, coexistence between religious and ethnic components, and stay away from intolerance and narrow-mindedness. This is what is actually applied in Rojava. The PKK vision is not a narrow national vision, it is a humanitarian international vision and the main target is to change the whole world towards the better by pushing everybody to accept others and not to suppress each other.


2. There is a strategic problem observable for the Rojava revolution. I do explain: The current border, and the one which can be used as sanctuary is with the KRG, beside Kobane, which is in the epicenter of the war. It seems that if there is no reinforcement of Peshmergas, the anti-Isis US-led coalition would probably not be bombarding the jihadists positions. Soon, the alliance between PKK-PYD and the KDP and its coalition with Barzani, head of KRG cabinet, could imply an inevitable approach to the West? It is possible to survive as a revolutionary process if this depends on military aid from KRG and the West?


Geography plays an important role in creating the history, Kurds are surrounded by states which were occupying their lands. That makes the Kurdish case not a simple case. But this time it is a different story because our brothers are at the other side of the borders and because of some considerations of KRG towards the Turkish state there was border blockage till 14th October 2014 when the agreement between TEV-Dem and Kurdish National Council was signed. Our point here is that we have no issue to have relation with western countries and the agreement and relation between us and KRG will support this relation with the West.


KRG has thankfully offered some aid but it was not enough comparing with the difficult circumstances which we are facing. As for support from western countries we could also say that it does not per se attack and challenge our experiment. Here we want to mention what our core practical ideology is: to rely on ourselves, our people, and our resources, to depend on our capabilities and abilities and to compensate the lack of resources though the revolutionary and sacrificing souls and through people’s eagerness to the liberation, the people who sacrificed thousands of their sons and daughters to get this liberation.


3. Still within the strategic theme; by all indications, the Government of Turkey is controlling supplying lines and leaves ISIS stronger within in the territory under control of the Turkish army. Apparently, this is caused by the realistic calculation of Ankara and the AKP government, to consider a ‘caliphate’ or the return of the Ummah less dangerous than the idea of Kurdish separatism, or even political autonomy for Rojava inside the failing State of Syria? From the Turkish position, how to evaluate the dispute between the other States operating through Sunni Jihadists, like Saudi Arabia and Qatar?


Turkey is one of the countries which highly negatively affected by the Syrian revolution, The AKP government which raised the slogan of ‘’Zero Troubles’’ was supported by the west as a moderate Islamic model. Therefore AKP did want the Islamic orientation for the Syrian revolution and the opposition via Muslim Brothers Movement and jihadists hoping to complete its control in the Syrian case, especially after Islamic groups have taken the lead of the so-called Arab spring in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. That caused a problem between Turkey and Saudi and later on with Egypt. The Qatari – Saudi struggle has affected negatively the case and Syria became a national, regional, and international struggle field. This situation makes our party tasks more complex to create the suitable foundation for a political agreement in order to limit the violence in Syria, the continuous destruction of the infrastructure, millions of people displacement and more than 200 thousands victims.


4. Getting into the theme of the Syrian civil war, what can be seen today as a growing war between Sunnis and Shiites, and going together, a war between ISIS (and before Front Al-Nusra) and the attempted to conquest Kobani. Considering this reality, what would be the role of the Free Syrian Army today (FSA)? Does this force still have some protective power – as the Qatar-or was dropped on condition of a secondary YPG ally? Can we consider Qatar the major funder of the FSA? And, because of this, may be the reason why, whereas both FSA as YPG are opponents of the Assad regime, Damascus and its allies (financiers) preferred to release the area of Aleppo and Raqqa for ISIS operations, allowing the Sunni Jihadists to advance in Rojava?


You are right; there is a complex conducted civil war in Syria now. And the Syrian regime likes to see that, so that they can prove that they are the only key to solve this issue, The Syrian regime doesn’t like to see such party like self-rule Administration in Rojava because they have a message that they are protecting minorities in Syria and they are the only guarantee for that. What is happening in Rojava is not their target because Rojava is successfully managing and protecting itself and their people. So the regime is pushing or at least makes it easy for ISIS to access and attack the Rojava experiment. The Syrian regime wants to show the world that the only safe regions in Syria are the ones where they are in control, and that is not Rojava.


Regarding FSA, there are only few scattered structure of FSA here and there, but they are not unified, the only shiny point for FSA is that there are a very few fractions fighting with YPG/YPJ in Kobani nowadays, otherwise there is no effective unified power on the ground for the FSA in Syria.


5. I understand, even at a distant glance that for the States of Turkey, Syria (what was left of it) and Iran, a Western Kurdistan with political autonomy and a society working on a secular and egalitarian basis implies an insoluble problem. The proposal of PYD would not formally separate [Kurdistan] from Syria, but obtain a status of autonomy federated policy on Syria, as well as a future rearrangement with Iraq and the Government of Irbil. Would Turkey tolerate a similar Statute, even though it has the second largest army of NATO and the biggest contingent on a State with the major population being Islamic? If Turkish Kurdistan received such status, what would prevent a confederation with Syrian Kurdistan? And, if so, what would be the reaction of the KRG and the coalition of the right wing and pro-Western Kurdish parties, like the KDP?


This question is kind of an assumption, but we could say here: we believe in the self-rule Administration and we don’t have any intention in the separation of Syria. At the same time, we believe in a confederation of all Kurdistan which is the core of Ocallan’s future theory for Middle-east.


6. Would it be interesting for the KRG that Washington no longer considers the PKK-HPG as a terrorist force? Would this enable a request for freedom for Ocallan, reinforcing the leadership of this political force?


Officially, nobody from the Kurdistan-Iraq leaders accepted to call PKK a terrorist organization but at the same time they didn’t exert an effort to push this title (terrorist) away from the PKK. Even some of their media channels deliberately want to corrupt the PKK picture!, Even though there is a different international look towards PKK nowadays (after fighting ISIS).


7. How do you project the existence of a legal sovereignty and political autonomy status to Rojava considering some fundamental themes like: movement of currency (what it would be like? would there be a central bank?); trade relations with other territories (for example, in the petroleum trade); belonging to a territorial Federation (as in a reorganized Syria or Federated to KRG); and what concrete measures would be instituted trough Democratic Confederalism with full territorial unity and existence of the three cantons? 


We could say that the social contract of self-rule administration in Rojava (attached) which details the administrative structure of the self-rule administration but let us explain it briefly:


Currency of Rojava: It will stay the same of the center (Damascus) such as in the canton system in Switzerland and federal system in Germany, but the flexibility will be more applied in Rojava. That means that the center will be the reference in the strategic and political main cases only. As for military and financial affairs of Rojava, the decision will be made by Rojava citizens from Kurds, Assyrian, Arabs and etc… old regimes economic policies will be denied as well, for instance Rojava citizens will have the priority to take the advantage of the oil of Rojava first then the center/others not the other way around- So all of Syria’s advantages will be mutually beneficial. Anyway, this will remain theoretical policy until the Syrian crisis will be over and until Syria will have a new comprehensive social contract for all Syria components.


The interview was originally published in Conjuncture Magazine and the questions have been sent in November 2014.


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