World (OpenDemocracy) – Today is International Women’s Day. In the face of increasing femicide, sexual violence and rape culture, we need to confront the question of women’s self-defence. When some white women celebrate the non-violence of women’s marches against Trump and…
The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) are continuing their fight against Daesh in the Syrian city of Raqqa. In an exclusive interview with Sputnik Turkey, spokeswoman for the operation command group on Raqqa’s liberation and commander of the Kurdish YPJ female battalion Cihan Sekh Ehmed commented on the current situation in the city.
According to Ehmed, the recent military operation in Raqqa helped to save the lives of thousands of civilians.
During the second stage of the Euphrates shield operation to liberate the city of Raqqa which started on December 10, more than 15 villages near Raqqa were liberated from Daesh militants, Ehmed said, adding that the terrorist group has taken heavy losses.
The demands pushed forward in both parts of Kurdistan are almost identical, both demonstrating an attempt at formally installing a confederal municipal system into the region.
Back in the 1990s Murray Bookchin, exponent of libertarian municipalism, articulated the need to develop a “new politics”, which is “unflinchingly public, electoral on a municipal basis, confederal in its vision and revolutionary in its character”.
The creation of a free “commune of communes” – something anarchists, especially Bakunin and Kropotkin, have fought for over the past two centuries – has always been envisioned as an ultimate manifestation of anarcho-communism, hence of a “new politics” based on libertarian municipalism.
Today, more than two decades later and in a completely different geography, the Kurds in Rojava/Northern Syria and Bakûr/Southeastern Turkey have become the new avant-gardes of the “commune of communes”.
While I am in Rojava in northern Syria, the very first women’s art and culture festival takes place over four days. In a rundown theatre, a large number of women of all ages and ethnicities read/perform poetry which is impossible to translate simultaneously except in broad brush strokes. So I learn that the poems are mostly political – pondering on the war, the Kurdish question, women’s subordination and the tragedy of fellow Syrians abandoning the country and becoming refugees. Unfortunately, the poems are delivered either in plangent tones or at ear-piercing volume, defeating all my attempts to be a sympathetic listener. The paintings, by contrast, speak in a universal language.I wonder if the political nature of the poems is an attempt to bolster the revolution comparable to the partisan nature of Soviet art from the 1930s onwards. The organiser, Berivan Khalid, Head of Culture in Cizire Canton, tells me that while ‘they hope to represent their revolution to the world through art’, no selection process took place. She assures me that there was some love poetry but the overwhelmingly political focus reflects the concerns of the artist in revolutionary times. All women over the age of sixteen were invited to participate in the festival and all were showcased. The festival had put out a call for entries across all the cities of Cizire canton. If quality was not a determining criterion for entry to the festival, the egalitarian nature of the entry process did not extend to the awards ceremony where three of the best in each category would receive prizes.
The significance of the event though is not lost on me. Under Assad, any public expression of Kurdish identity or celebration of Kurdish arts and literature was criminalised. Khalid says they have experienced a 180° turnaround in their freedom. Speaking Kurdish in the workplace and other public places as well as teaching and learning the language was illegal. In her book, The Kurds of Syria, Harriet Allsopp says that organisers of Kurdish weddings had to sign agreements with the state that there will be no singing in Kurdish! Traces of the Arabisation policy of Assad are everywhere to be seen: from my media pass written in Arabic to help me through checkpoints to interpreters who are more comfortable in Arabic than Kurdish although they identify as Kurdish. Now, Kurdish language courses are flourishing; I also come across a number of adults who are more fluent in Arabic but are learning to read and write Kurdish to counter that.