We spoke to the Internationalist Commune of Rojava about“the struggle for life” in the heart of Syrian Kurdistan.
The land is dry. Temperatures reach 40ªC (104,ºF) and it’s not even July. A small town with three houses, all of them built following the local traditional way in this region – adobe and stone.
A group of youths work in a ditch, marking the future location of the Internationalist Academy of Rojava. They greet us, shovel in hand, and invite us into one of the homes to give us shelter from the heat. Tea is on the kettle and we’re offered halaw, a candy made up of essentially sugar. They feel exhausted but happy, joking about the rich and diverse wildlife with which they share the land, so different from the one they are used to back in their European cities from where most of them have come. Baz Sor, born and raised in Germany and Bêritan Tolhildan, from the Spanish State have been chosen to answer our questions.
What is the Internationalist Commune of Rojava? How did the project start?
Baz Sor: The Project was originally an idea that some comrades, who had been working in civil structures for some time, came up with. They felt that there was a need to pave the way for other internationalists to come to Rojava to educate themselves and carry out civil work, and not only in the military structures of the YPG (People’s Protection Units) and the YPJ (Women’s Protection Units). In order to fulfill this task we got in touch with the youth organizations YCR (Youth Movement of Rojava) and YJC (Young Women’s Movement), with whom we have worked from the start and proposed creating an Internationalist Academy. In this Academy we offer perweder (education) for three months, in language, culture, ideology, history, etc. To prepare the internationalists for their integration into the civil structures.
Bêrîtan Tolhildan: We are a coordinated project that works in the self-administration. Therefore we are a part of the Rojavan society. Some structures in which we have worked as internationalists are Kongreya Star, the movement of free women of Rojava; the Economy Commission , the Zinema Komuna, the Academy of Arts and Culture, the town of free women Jinwar and the Jineoloji Academy. We do not come here to impose a European centered culture nor to teach anyone of the northern Syrian society how do to do a revolution, we come here to be part of society so we can one day get to be part of the revolution.
What skills and knowledge are required to be part of the commune and work in this society?
Baz Sor: Our priority is obviously to learn one of the languages spoken in the region; mainly we learn Kurdish as its the easiest language to learn considering that Arab is more complicated and distant for people that come from Indo-European languages. Secondly we must try to cover the basic needs that are pressing at these complicated times such as lack of doctors, engineers, teachers, energy experts, etc. But we don’t only seek people with a professional background, what we most want is people that are committed to the revolution and come with a political consciousness, as we emphasize in our website, we are not an NGO nor are we tourists. We are revolutionaries and activists from all over the world that consider Rojava a place a place to learn and develop the culture of resistance.
What are your main goals?
Bêrîtan Tolhildan: Our main goal is to build the Internationalist Academy, which is to be located here. When we finish we propose to carry out three month perweders.. We will teach Kurdish in intensive courses in order to acquire the capacity to read basic texts and to be able to have conversations. We will also study and debate Ocalan’s theories and those of other universal thinkers to strengthen our knowledge regarding revolutionary theory. On top of that we will study the history of resistance and learn from past and present revolutions such as the Zapatista movement in México. Another important aspect is to develop a communal life, share our time and resources, we have assemblies of criticism and self-criticism (Tekmil) to further develop and enhance our revolutionary personality.
Perweder is an unknown concept in Europe. Could you explain what it entails?
Bêrîtan Tolhildan: Education is the basis of the revolutionary movement and more so in the Kurdish Liberation Movement. Perweder means giving a thorough, critical and analytical education about the social reality and history of peoples, ideology, politics, ethics and aesthetics; in such a way that individuals can develop a militant personality that will help them play a role in the struggles against capitalism and imperialism of nation-states. As well we will provide a critical approach to the mainstream history we have been forced fed therefore helping us understand the reality of the capitalist modernity and to generate tools to fight against it.
What is your relation to the self administration and self-defense in the region?
Baz Roj: We have a direct relation with the Youth Movement of Rojava YCR. With them we developed the idea of the academy and it is they who are giving us their support to take it forward. We also work, as we have said before, with different centers and organisms within society. But we wish to highlight that we are not part of the YPG or YPJ. Self-defense is not only picking up a weapon and fighting against enemies of the revolution, self-defense is the struggle against the capitalist way of life and against patriarchal and authoritarian behavior that we all have inside us. Self-defense is also to educate ourselves collectively and to learn and develop a free and egalitarian way of life. All of this is done in order to support the reconstruction of life in the region, being a part of the society that lives in the region.
Bêrîtan Tolhildan: Ideological self-defense in this revolution is for us very important, because the attacks on the revolution and society in Rojava are not only physical. For example, Turkey is trying to bring drugs to the youth and you can see it clearly in the city of Kobane. Also the KDP, the political party of the KRG (Kurdistan Regional Government) in the hands of Mustafá Barzani, is imposing an embargo that has caused scarcity in the region trying to gain political leverage. The neoliberal imperialism of the USA is trying to introduce the capitalist way of life through its military presence meanwhile the Assad regime pretends to keep its reactionary and feudal ideology trying to spark hatred between ethnicities.
What’s the main message you wish to deliver to European societies?
Baz Sor: That the revolution in Rojava is not an isolated case, it is part of humanity’s culture of resistance and we must feel part of it and spread it. That the struggle against capitalist modernity is a long term struggle that requires organization, commitment and hard work. And that, only if we remain united, will we be able to win.
Bêrîtan Tolhildan: We are in a fight of life against destruction. The capitalist system has entered a permanent crisis that will lead to the destruction of life as we know it today. We must dedicate our efforts to organize and fight against it. We must generate alternatives in the societies in which we live and regain the hope that another world is possible.