Rojava: The Paradox of Reality and Slogans
Ibrahim Khalil – Kurdish Writer and Translator/Syria
The withdrawal of the Syrian Baath regime from Kurdish-predominant areas in 2014, and the coming of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) with its ideological ideas as a replacement, was a cause of optimism for a wide segment of the population of Al-Jazeera, Afrin and Kobani. For half a century, this population has been subjected to dual oppression for two main reasons. First of all, since they are ethnically different communities from the formal Arab majority, and second, because they are part of the peripheral rural geography which has been deliberately neglected as part of the regime's strategy based on maintaining these areas as everlasting fields of its yield and sources of its inner wealth. In addition to being a reservoir of human reserves that provides the economy of the regime with cheap labor and a steadfast army of resilient recruits and an array of officers.
The investigation into the authoritarianism and conduct of the previous dominating Al-Baath regime is superfluous. Nevertheless, in this context, it is important to recall the fundamental principles underpinning the "Ocalanist philosophy", which is literally adopted by the new ruling party, that strives only to implement this philosophy in "Rojava Kurdistan" or what it now calls "Northeastern Syria".
Ocalanism is founded on three major principles which summarize and amplify all the ideas portrayed in Ocalan's works in his second phase of thought or the phase following his capture by the Turkish National Intelligence (MIT) in 1999. These three principles include the following:
• A profit-free communal economy as an alternative to the capitalistic mode of commerce.
• Environmental industry as an alternative to industrialization which is detrimental to life and the environment.
• The democratic nation as an alternative to the narrow nationalist tendencies which lead only to wars and conflicts.
Indeed, all of that is underpinned in the context of its theoretical intersection with the libertarian "anarchist" philosophy that is rejecting the concept of the state and instead, working towards the establishment of a municipal government based on cooperatives free from any authoritative, coercive, or exploitive tendencies. These principles are all charming utopian ideas that everyone is entitled to dream of and to try to achieve. Nevertheless, after the experience of seven years of application, what happened on the ground in Rojava was proof of the everlasting separation between theory and practice everywhere and at all times.
Following PYD's military control of Rojava, the party comrades were assigned as agreed upon over the backward infrastructure institutions left behind by the Baathist regime, in order to manage them and to monitor the progress of their work and their application of the modern "leader’s philosophy." As well as, to work systematically to cleanse minds and personalities from the impurities of the previous nationalized Baathist education. In other words, in a capacity similar to that of the famous colonial "high commissioner" deployed in all civil departments and institutions.
Without any prior preparation, the ex-combatants found themselves as "decision-makers" with a management stick instead of a war rifle. With the shift from the arduous and harsh life of the mountains to the life of prosperity that was the product of the availability of money and its abundance, it seemed to the comrades of the Self-Administration that they had reached the end of the race and were entitled to the end-of-service reward, with the help of local agents (intellectually corrupt, according to Ocalan) who have considered this opportunity to be their safe haven, under a fundamental condition, that is "loyalty".
Local agents were careful to introduce their new masters to currency bills, smuggling methods, and money laundering methods. They also acted as mediators between them and the merchants of war who surrounded them everywhere, even on the southern "blood borders," including the Damascus regime itself, which is in dire need of fuel and grain in particular. Little by little, the odors of corruption began to fill the noses until people whispered to each other the names of some of those parasitic brokers, yet without anyone daring to question them or delve into the details of their work - that is included in the national security clause - or even declare their names in the media. Thus, they led the whole Self-Administration, into the game of legalized corruption, that divided society into two classes; a ruling class under the shadow of the accursed money tree, and a ruled class under the pressure of high prices and desperate neediness.
The Self-Administration today is single-colored and raises a flag different from the Syrian and Kurdish flags. It speaks a peculiar "authoritarian" language separated in form and content from the street language. A language that is similar to a military insignia in which comrades recognize one another and people recognize them.
Politically, the PYD, owing to its lack of international legitimacy abroad and the popular consensus of the interior, has been compelled to pursue a pragmatic policy of appeasement with all (except for the terrorist organization ISIS and the parties of the traditional Syrian Kurdish political movement represented by the Kurdish National Council), despite the fact that this approach violated and contradicted with its theoretical principles. Among the principles violated was seeking support from the United States, the spearhead of capitalism, in defeating the terrorist organization ISIS. Moreover, their ambiguous positions with respect to Iran and the Syrian regime, and their tendency to increase security and authoritarian institutions that intrude into "every single detail of society," as Ocalan expressed in some of his books.
It is needless to say that the novel and vague concept of the "Democratic Nation" has, in the first place, not come into being. On the contrary, the movement itself has ceased to try to generate it – surely aside from slogans and rhetoric. All national, religious, and even tribal and clan groups and components in Rojava have maintained their affiliations and their sub-identities were more deeply rooted than they used to be. All that the faltering Self-Administration has done is that it has prevented by force of law and authority (which are originally anti-Ocalanist ideas) the occurrence of major conflicts arising out of such identities. With regard to the concept of nonprofit economy and the environmental industry, industry (not even industrialization) has not taken a single step forward, except for the media industry, which has prospered for reasons that everyone is aware of. While the notion of a nonprofit economy has evolved into a form of state capitalism (where there is no state). The novelty of the experiment and the weakness of the administrative experiment contributed to the emergence of a huge bureaucracy that hampered the interests of the citizens instead of managing and facilitating them. The revolutionary emergency also contributed to the lack of budget rhetoric regarding the processes of exports and imports.
The wealth of "Rojava Kurdistan" today is concentrated in Qamishlo, and in turn, Qamishlo's wealth is concentrated in the pockets and bank accounts of those close to decision-making positions and people holding these positions themselves (not employees working in the Self-Administration's institutions). The wealth of these cherished confidants is in the form of real estate, cars, brokerage firms, and bank accounts abroad. All the rest are dull human skeletons that live under the "law of inertia" and die as a result of aging or illness caused by food quality, or primitive oil burners, or odor from dumpsters.
A national bourgeoisie did not come into being in Rojava, as it did in many parts of the world. Instead, a segment of the war's opportunistic wealthy came into being. Free trade unions and professional federations have not come into being either. Those affiliated with the Self-Administration can only be considered as party annexes that believe in a specific ideology and follow a particular party. Similarly, the "army of employees" which receives its monthly salaries from the Treasury of Self-Administration can be regarded as nothing other than an army of "Reserve Soldiers". Poverty has led them to join the institutions of authority under the false name of employment as opposed to conscription.
Today, Rojava manufactures almost nothing, and at the same time imports almost everything from abroad. As the cradle of the desired Middle Eastern communal revolution, it has approved of turning into a market for the stockpiles of (the Turkish enemy) and of becoming a typically fortified cemetery that is visited monthly by relief organizations and the pious civil society that spends charitable vouchers received from the pockets of foreign donors.
Rojava, the consumer society of a rentier economy (producing about 80 thousand barrels of crude oil per day), where the most luxurious imported vehicles travel on the poorest local roads, where potholes and bumps remain standing in place of bridges and where trench systems take over metro systems. Rojava is the ideal place for adventurers in search of wealth, provided their acquirement of a subtle mind and an absent consciousness. That is to have tongues drenched by recalling the name of the motherland with tear-filled eyes, hands on the knife, and the knife cutting through the throat of the dove.
To sum up, the experience of the Self-Administration in Rojava is at stake. And if liberation is fulfilled by faith and force, then management is fulfilled by reason and tact. Before thinking about liberating a land, one must think about its management. This is something that no novice chess player forgets.