«Rojava is a laboratory that links the environment and society with municipalism.»

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A conversation between two Gilets Jaunes on their way to Rojava, where they want to learn for their movement and the ecological struggle.

Can you introduce yourself?

I am an agronomist from France and have worked most of my professional life in Central America, Africa and Asia. My passions, my purpose in life are the environment and municipalism. These are two things that go together. What about you?

I have spent my life with you and I am over seventy years old. Today’s youth, who fight for the environment, for democracy, for strong ideals, take many risks that can affect their whole lives. When we are on our way to Rojava today, it is important for me to stress that we, the elderly people, who have had the chance to live a good life, can take some risks in the name of the youth – we must take them. You are part of the Gilets Jaunes movement in France and you participate in demonstrations every week. What is your motivation?

Like you, I am over seventy years old and my motivation is the same. I assume the responsibility of having contributed to putting our world in the current situation, that is to say, not having struggled from the beginning for a peasant agriculture and a real democracy.

We wanted to travel to Rojava. Why?

Rojava, with Chiapas, is the largest laboratory that has ever existed in the search for a system that links environment and society with municipalism – as described by Murray Bookchin, among others. So it was my duty to visit Rojava. Not as a tourist, but in an attempt to make my contribution by planting drought-resistant trees using direct seeding systems. And above all to learn from them how they started this unique revolution involving the whole population. Every resident has a voice regardless of ethnicity, religion or gender.

I have also travelled here, with a lot of fear at first. Because I wanted to understand, see and then above all share experiences when we return. Since at our Gilets Jaunes roundabout we talked about Rojava and noticed that no one around us knew about it. The fact that we took this step has opened many doors. Yesterday, for example, I received an e-mail from a friend of Gilets Jaunes who I hadn’t known three months ago and who asked me: «How can I send a few Euros to Rojava? I want to support the Kurds.» And I answered her: «To support Rojava, the actions you do with the Gilets Jaunes are the best contribution. Because you try to share, to enable us to have a different way of life with others and to understand each other better and better».

I also read that when someone from Rojava is asked: «What can we do to support you», they reply: «Don’t send us aid, don’t send us money, do what we do and as soon as there will be enough of us on the planet to achieve municipalism, to find solutions adapted to each country, we will have won.»

Back to the Gilets Jaunes. The movement started because of a tax that the government wanted to levy on fuel. At first everyone thought it was a movement that had nothing ecological about it, a movement of anger, of small French people, of small consumers. But it turned out it wasn’t like that at all. That it is a movement of all those who no longer want this way of life, who can no longer bear this stranglehold of the elite over the ordinary people, this control over the economy of those who finance our world and impose all kinds of lifestyles on us. The Gilets Jaunes challenge everything. We have discovered that we come from all ages, all walks of life, all origins, all social backgrounds. Together on the roundabout, at the demonstrations every Saturday, we meet, we exchange, we share. We see that at the beginning we really came from very different backgrounds, but we have the same goal, which is to find another form of society. So it’s not easy, but I’m optimistic. I think step by step with many difficulties we will manage it. But we have a government that doesn’t want to understand us and oppresses us very harshly. We must also fight against police repression, which is really very harsh. What brings you the most of our experiences on the way to Rojava? Can you compare it with our experiences in the Gilets Jaunes movement?

We met a group of activists who spontaneously organized themselves very quickly by applying methods developed in Rojava, which some knew and taught us. In particular the Tekmil method, which enables to understand each other and to criticise and self-criticise each other for behaviour that is not beneficial for the group. We are all very different, but there has never been a personal attack. Criticism is always constructive.

And compared to the Gilets Jaunes?

With the Gilets Jaunes we had difficulties very quickly because we were very different people and also had a certain machism. There are many women in the Gilets Jaunes and machism is a real problem that can be tackled by applying these methods. Since the Kurds and Arabs of Rojava are also patriarchal and they quickly understood how important it is for the group, for the general interest, to give women back their role.

When we are at our roundabout with the Gilets Jaunes every Saturday morning, when we distribute leaflets every week on a different subject, we stop the cars. Cars stop or do not stop, open the windows or do not open them, honk to express support or do not honk. Eight out of ten cars that open their windows are women. What we perceive most is that women feel so supportive, probably more so than men. And probably more attentive than men and more willing to participate.

That’s true. One question was, will we continue to struggle for Rojava despite the difficulties – including even the question of Rojava’s survival? The answer is yes. We will continue to distribute the Make Rojava Green Again book, which is of interest to many people and will take root. We have seen how people from Africa or Latin America have shown interest and ask us again for these books. We will continue to work, hopefully with this group we met here on the way to Rojava.

I want to conclude with a word from my daughter to whom I expressed my despair about the Turkish war of aggression. I told her: «It is horrible. The dream of Rojava is dying.» And she replied: «A dream never dies. Rojava will make babies and we must help these babies to be born».