“We’re here to show that we are a part of the revolution,” says Şilan as she opens the trunk of the loudspeaker-truck to retrieve some more flags. Şilan is one of a few hundred mainly kurdish and arab youths marching on the main street of Derik/Al-Malikiya towards Qamişlo on this sunny but cold Thursday afternoon. As in many other regions of Rojava, al-Malikiya and Qamişlo are in these days the scene of Meşa Dirêj, the Long March, which is also attended by comrades from the Internationalist Commune of Rojava.
“Biji Berxwedana İmralı!” echoes through the streets as the protest march on the second day reaches the outskirts of Mabda/Rimêlan, “Long live the resistance of İmralı”. On the prison island of İmralı, Abdullah Öcalan is imprisoned since 18 years. The march is organized by Yekîtiya Ciwanên Rojava (YCR), the umbrella organization for youth of Rojava. “We see it as our job to get the youth on the streets, especially these days,” explains Şilan, who is herself a member of the YCR. The impending war in the canton of Afrin and the forthcoming elections for the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria made it necessary, especially in the current phase, for the youth to intervene and take an active role in society. Organizing youth through YCR happens from the bottom up, as in all other parts of society. At the level of streets, neighborhoods, villages and at the higher levels, the youth builds communities, councils and committees to promote their interests.
“We are also marching here to understand the history of our movement”, Azad, another participant, explains. “Over the past decades, Kurdistan’s liberation movement has consistently demonstrated determination and perseverance”, he says, the Long March can be seen as a metaphor for this resistance. The history of the Kurdish freedom movement begins in the Ankara of the early 1970s in the period after the second military coup. The revolts of 1968 severely shook the ruling order in Turkey as well. Vietnam, Angola, Bolivia, Colombia – all over the world, these days people are taking up the fight with the colonial oppressors. Inspired by the anti-colonial struggle of these movements, increasing numbers of young people are organizing themselves in Turkey to fighting against the prevailing order.
One of these groups is formed around three young students: Haki Karer, Kemal Pir and Abdullah Öcalan. Two of them, Öcalan and Karer, are Kurds, and most of the other members of the group come from the Kurdish areas occupied by the Turkish state. The idea is to organize independently of the Turkish left and to carry the fight for socialism from the Turkish metropolises to Turkish-Kurdistan. The goal is to build a revolutionary socialist movement in Kurdistan. Öcalan and his comrades laid the foundation for four decades of liberation struggle in Kurdistan and, not least, for the revolution and the democratic experiment that we see nowadays in Rojava. Today, it’s about building on the struggle based on the spirit of the organization´s early times, says Azad. “That’s exactly the job of the youth, therefore we have to be on the forefront of the society”.