Salute to the Martyrs on the Fifth Anniversary of the Rojava Revolution

Today, July 19th marks the fifth anniversary of the Rojava Revolution. In commemoration, we, from the Revolutionary Abolitionist Movement and Rojava Solidarity NYC, would like to extend our insurgent greetings. It is impossible to quantify the importance of the revolution for the Kurdish freedom struggle, for women’s liberation, the anti-state struggle, and for the larger drive for revolution globally. But in the annals of history we are certain that this revolution will be recognized at the forefront of the most important moments in revolutionary history.

Through decisive battles against Daesh in Kobane, the liberation of the Yazidis in Shengal, the eventual liberation of Raqqa, and the coming defeat of the reactionary Turkish state, armed forces have carved out a path for dignity.

The Democratic Confederalist movement, with its roots in feminism, anti-capitalism, anti-state struggle, and multiplicity have constructed the revolutionary paradigm of our day. With these pillars it is of utmost importance for anarchists to participate, learn, and fight.

As you walk, we will walk with you, and as you fight we will fight. It is through the path of shared struggle, that the Rojava Revolution will spread beyond national confines and become truly international as it ushers in a new period for the world. It is here that as anarchists we will begin eradicating borders, overthrowing capitalists regimes, and fighting against all racist, patriarchal and colonial states.

It is in this vein that we offer revolutionary salutes to those we have come to know as comrades through their martyrdom. Today we mourn the recently fallen comrade Shehid Demhat Goldman, also known as Robert Grodt, who was recently martyred in battle. Comrades on the front all spoke highly of Demhat and we here in NYC will make sure his name lives on in history.

Revolutionary salute to the martyrs Paolo Todd. Michael Israel, and Jordan MacTaggart. Through their sacrifice the struggle for revolution continues.

The fallen, from all backgrounds and identities, demonstrates the potential for true international solidarity. From Ivana Hoffman and Abu Layla, to Mehmet Yoldaşh and Arin Mirkan, we must honor their bravery and memorialize the joining of people in this fight for world revolution.

As our objectives unite, our fighters live and die together, and the fate of our struggles become intertwined making international revolution a viable option once again.

We send our greetings to comrades in the IRPGF, the IFB, the YPG, the YPJ, the SDF and all revolutionary forces in Rojava.

Long live the Revolution!
Long live anarchism!
Martyrs are Immortal!

#19Tîrmeh #BijiŞoreşaRojava

Revolutionary Abolitionist Movement

Anarchists Fighting ISIS in Rojava Announce New Formation

Anarchists in Rojava announce IRPGF von gaetano-bresci

Today we announce the formation of the International Revolutionary People’s Guerrilla Forces, an explicitly anarchist, militant group in Rojava seeking to defend the Revolution and advance the cause of anarchism.

The Role of the IRPGF

The International Revolutionary People’s Guerrilla Forces (IRPGF) is a militant armed self-organized and horizontal collective working to defend social revolutions around the world, to directly confront capital and the state, and advance the cause of anarchism. We recognize and affirm that principled action necessitates principled politics. We are not a political party or platform but rather an armed collective comprised of comrades with different anarchist positions. The IRPGF’s collective unity manifests itself in the praxis of militant action which we consider a prerequisite for achieving liberation. Our role is twofold; to be an armed force capable of defending liberatory social revolutions around the world while simultaneously being a force capable of insurrection and struggle against all kyriarchal forms of power wherever they exist.

We do not enter conflict zones with intent to command but rather, while retaining our autonomy as a collective, to fight alongside other armed groups in solidarity with those who are oppressed, exploited and facing annihilation. The IRPGF believes collective action, solidarity and unity are necessary for struggle. International solidarity is the most powerful weapon of the oppressed. At the same time we maintain the need for criticism when and where appropriate. (Self)Criticism is not something to be feared. It is to be embraced as the constant source of energy that drives individuals, communities and revolutionary movements towards realizing liberation.

The Need for Armed Struggle

Within movements for liberation an enormous chasm exists between those who deploy peaceful means to confront the enemy and those who defend both their communities and themselves through armed struggle. These dichotomous positions contain within them an inter-sectional network of social positions and identities that reveal their location, context and content. For the IRPGF, peaceful methods are unable to confront and destroy the state, capitalism and all forms of kyriarchal power. In fact, they do the reverse. They protect, embolden and strengthen the enemy, enhancing the forms of oppression against increasingly isolated individuals and divided societies. We believe that our liberation springs forth from the barrel of a gun.

Armed insurrections and rebellions around the world will be carried out to the end. We fight in defense of life and we struggle for total liberation. The nation-state, authority, capital and social hierarchy are the enemies of a liberated world and therefore enemies of us all. While we struggle through self-criticism and collective criticism of our personal and collective internalizations of these oppressive behaviors, attitudes and practices, the external enemies; the bosses, along with their armies and police, must be confronted with bullets, bombs and dynamite. The fires of justice and freedom are cleansing and all consuming. For us, there is no stepping back and no way to achieve liberation except through struggle. Our communities will only be liberated when we destroy those few whose wealth and power depend on the suffering and exploitation of many.

The master does not give the slave freedom simply out of an ethical act of pity, selflessness and love. The slave must achieve their liberation through insurrection, resistance and revolution, using every tool of the master to destroy both the master and their mechanisms and apparatuses of domination and oppression. The yoke of tyranny and its chains of repression cannot withstand the insurrection of the oppressed. We long for the day when swords will be turned into ploughshares, but until that day arrives, if it ever does, we will hold on to our weapons. The IRPGF’s existence is predicated on the necessity of armed struggle. The moment this is no longer necessary, the IRPGF will cease to exist. Our position is against the notion of “standing armies” or ossified revolutionary groups that become insular states unto themselves.

The IRPGF’s International Position

We believe that the third world war has already started and that the conflicts in Syria, Ukraine and in other parts of the world are only the beginning. The capitalist system, nearing its end and having plundered the world and stripped it of its resources, faces its most acute crisis yet. With no surplus labor population to put in its dungeons and assembly lines, the antagonisms and contradictions of the system in crisis are unfolding. With imperialist powers fighting for the last scraps to safeguard their livelihoods and with fascism on the rise, a common struggle is developing against both the domination of capital and the state. The IRPGF will stand with all peoples looking to secure their futures free from ALL forms of oppression, domination and exploitation. We are cognizant and recognize the intersection of unique identities and the particularities that exist within individuals, in communities and between individuals and communities. We support and seek to fully realize the polymorphic nature of human identity and struggle. To this end we join with peoples around the world in their uniqueness, and in ours, to realize our collective liberation.




More : IGD

NYC: Rojava Will Be the Graveyard of Turkey and ISIS

While the world descends into a dark authoritarian nightmare, the guerrilla fighters in Rojava, in northern Syria, have forged a new path for revolutionaries everywhere. With a politic built on feminism, anti-capitalism, anti-state, and communal praxis, Kurdish revolutionaries assisted by anarchist and communist guerrillas are ushering in the most important revolution in the 21st century.

The primary fighting units in Rojava, the YPG and YPJ, have faced insurmountable odds, battling Daesh, Bashar Assad’s forces, and various other counter-revolutionary forces in Syria. Armed with conviction and fighting against some of the most fascist forces in the world their battlefield victories have resonated all over the globe. The YPG/YPJ’s successes are so profound that their political model is the only viable political option for Syria, and has created a viable alternative for revolutionary movements worldwide.

This is the exact reason Turkey’s fascist leader, Erdogan, has chosen to intervene in Syria. He recognizes that Rojava’s anti-state, anti-capitalist, and anti-patriarchal values are a direct threat to his chauvinistic throne. The Turkish state has undermined the revolution since its inception and has supported every reactionary force in the region to crush the revolutions gains: funding and granting political support to Daesh and Al Nusra and recently colluding with Assad’s forces against the movement.

Turkey condoned Daesh’s sex slavery, beheadings, and conquests; it harbored Daesh fighters, provided money and arms, explosives, purchased oil and helped Daesh organize combat operations.

Turkey has ridiculously attempted to claim that it is merely liberating towns from Daesh, while simultaneously naming its invasion Operation Euphrates Shield, since it is shielding the area west of the Euphrates from the Kurdish-led revolution.

Turkey’s goal is clear: destroy the capacity of the liberatory armed forces and put an end to the most promising revolutionary movement in the world. Every day that Turkish troops attack revolutionary operations aimed at liberating towns from Daesh are halted.

For those who have built a new life in liberated territory Turkey promises a return to the reactionary days of the past. But the revolution in Rojava has already faced great odds and excelled.

We, at NYC Anarchist Action, urge all people to increase resistance against Turkey and to support the struggle in Rojava as they carve out a way forward for the liberation of all humanity. We placed this banner in solidarity with the fighters of Rojava and in complicity with their struggle, over the FDR highway during the convening of the UN General Assembly in New York.

Rojava’s example will be expanded with action, not words!
Rojava will be the graveyard of Turkey and ISIS.

As they say, ‘Resistance is life, silence is death!’

Long live Rojava!
Long live free life!

It’s Going Down

FBI rejects request for ISIS fighter Jordan MacTaggart’s file on “open investigation” grounds

Question of legality regarding Americans joining Kurdish paramilitary remain unanswered

Jordan MacTaggart has died.

Most people have never heard of MacTaggart, but in the month since his death fighting for the Kurdish paramilitary in Syria, MacTaggart has become an icon for many of the more militant leftists worldwide. He is considered the first American anarchist to die fighting for the Kurds.

FBI files become available to the public upon the death of the relevant person. MacTaggart was killed in early August in the fighting surrounding the city of Manbij. I filed a public records request for his FBI file on August 9th.

While many Americans have joined the Kurdish paramilitaries in fighting ISIS, it’s not clear whether such activity is within the law. The response to my request for MacTaggart’s FBI file won’t shed light on the matter, either.

It was rejected.

This seems to indicate, firstly, that the FBI has kept a file on Jordan MacTaggart. And clearly the FBI is not considering a case post mortem against MacTaggart.

Yet they say the records are necessary to a “pending or prospective” law enforcement investigation.

What that investigation is is anyone’s guess.

Read the full rejection embedded below, or on the request page.


Jordan MacTaggart (Cîwan Firat)

When anarchism was born, it was born as a borderless struggle and as a struggle for a free world. From its inception as a political theory its proponents moved across territories to engage in the struggle, connected with comrades, and fought alongside those who struggled for liberation as virulently as they did.

In New York we struggle on the backs of giants, yet still for a hundred years, against a massive state that never stopped its colonial, imperial incursions. Rojava has pried open the hegemonic monster of the state and illuminated the possibility of liberation in the struggle of anarchists worldwide; not just anarchists but all those who feel the inescapable draw of a free life.

We are here to say goodbye to Jordan MacTaggart (also known as Ciwan Firat). He was an american anarchist and YPG fighter who gave his life for the liberation of Manbij: a key point in the struggle for Rojava and a city under the oppressive rule of Daesh.

We salute you as a comrade who deeply knew the struggle we face here.

We salute you for recognizing the importance of Rojava in our international struggle and for making the ultimate sacrifice to help keep the revolutionary struggle alive.

We will never forget that when you lay on that field injured, you asked those of us who remain to keep the revolution going.

For the sacrifice you have made we deepen our commitments to the struggle here,
to fighting for the revolution in Rojava,
and to acting on all fronts of this battle with the dedication you have set.

Biji Ciwan Firat
Biji Rojava
Long live the anarchist fighters
Long live the revolution

-Anarchists of New York


Anarşist Devrimci Federasyon

I am Avril

I am Avril. I grew up in the countryside. When I was 9 my uncle raped me. Until now – I haven‘t told anyone about this experience. The Moment when he was laying on his back breathing quietly – this discusting moment I will never forget. Although I didn‘t understand what happened at that moment, I was ashamed for my uncle and me.

I am Avrel. Although I am not mannly like Orhan Veli, I feel myself in a world of nothing where feelings dont matter. This is what I feel when I fight at the front against the patriarchal society of Daesh.

I am Avrel. Because I thought that all men are like my uncle I was not able to sleep or go outside at night.

I am Avrel. I dont want the name my father choose for me anymore. I dont want to remember anymore because I dont think that me and my name are important.

I am Avrel. Because of that I feel a paradox in my heart. On the one hand I am a woman and on the other hand I feel ashamed about it. But now I say – I am a WOMAN.

I am Avrel. While I was in love with cloves and cherry juice, I was naive and in the habit of smelling blood.

I write at the front about these experineces while everyone is trying to satisfy their minimal needs. While in the next moment I will fight again, for you, so the atrocities of Daesh can‘t continue. What I want is to not feel ashamed because we are women and to resist against the hierarchy of male domination.

I am Avrel. In the next moment I will kill my uncle, who is fighing with me and I will do it for all women who get raped.

I am Avrel, because I want to show what the free will of women can create in this world and because I want to see in the future that women get their deserved position in society – for this aim I love to live.

The nature of women and their bodies were repressed since Lilith was underfoot of the patriarchal power. They‘ve burned women with witch hunts, we‘ve always been raped and destroyed.
In the kurdish society women experience learned helplessness.

We meet women, who say, that only men continue their family linage.
We meet women, who think to be a women is to feel shame.
They think that all rapes and all the psychological and physical violence they are exposed to, because of the fact that they are women, is the normality.

Kurdish women believe that either the ugliness of Capitalism or a marriage will fill their lives with more beauty and make it more free.
The women were not concious about their power to break the chains around their necks.

The importance of PKK, YPG, YPJ and the Revolution in Rojova starts exactly at this point. The Revolution in Rojova is evidence for the autonomy of women; for their assertiveness, the fact that women dont need Men to be able to exist and that women can also fight against Capitalism, Sexism and the male dominated patriarchal society.

Of Course Avrel, of course Hypatia from Alexandria, of course Artemis, of course Boudicca, the pioneer of the resistance in Boudicca, of course red Rosa, of course Emma, of course Simone who started the second wave of Feminism, of course Ulrike, of course Mother Teresea who healed 1000 people with her hands, of course the pioneer of the black civil rights movement Rosa and of course Sakine, Beritan, Arin, Zilan and many more Names of women, their resistance never to be mentioned, of course we will follow your footsteps. Of course we will go through the thorny and dark path of freedom. Of course they will shake everytime we exclaim our rebellion.

Avrel: Author of the text
Hypatia von Alexandria: Mathematician, astronomer, Philosopher of the late greek antiquity
Boudicca: Britannian Queen and army leader.
Rosa Luxemburg (rote Rosa): Anti-militarist, marxist, Supporter of the labor movement.
Emma Goldman: Anarchist, Anti-militarist, feminist, Atheist
Simone de Beauvoir: French author, feminist, Philosopher
Ulrike Meinhof: Journalist and author
Mother Teresa: Missionary
Rosa Parks: Black Civil-Rights Activist.


Ich bin Avrel

Ich bin Avrel. Ich bin in der Provinz groß geworden. Mit 9 Jahren wurde ich von meinem Onkel vergewaltigt. Bis jetzt habe ich dieses Erlebnis mit niemandem geteilt. Der Moment, wo er auf seinem Rücken liegend beruhigt atmete – diesen ekelhaften Moment. Obwohl ich nicht verstand, was da gerade passierte, musste ich mich für mich und für meinen Onkel schämen.

Ich bin Avrel. Obwohl ich nicht so männlich bin wie Orhan Veli, befinde ich mich in einem Nichts. Gefühle, die nichts bedeuten – das ist das, was ich fühle, wenn ich an der Front kämpfe gegen die patriarchale Gesellschaft der Daesh.

Ich bin Avrel, weil ich dachte, dass alle Männer so sind wie mein Onkel, konnte ich in der Nacht nicht ohne Begleitung rausgehen.

Ich bin Avrel. Ich möchte nicht mehr den Namen haben, den mein Vater für mich ausgesucht hat. Ich möchte mich nicht daran erinnern. Denn ich glaube nicht daran, dass mein Name wichtig ist.

Ich bin Avrel. Deshalb fühle ich das Paradoxe in mir, auf der einen Seite eine Frau zu sein, aber auf der anderen Seite mich ständig für alles schämen zu müssen. Aber jetzt sage ich, dass ich eine FRAU bin.

Ich bin Avrel. Während ich noch vernarrt war in Nelken und Kirschsaft, musste ich mich mit einer Naivität an den Geruch von Blut gewöhnen.

Das alles schreibe ich an der Front, während die Geschütze ruhig sind und alle versuchen sich das Nötigste zu bersorgen. Gleich werde ich weiterkämpfen; für euch, damit der Daesh keine weiteren Grausamkeiten begehen kann. Was ich möchte ist, dass wir uns nicht schämen Frauen zu sein. Leistet Widerstand gegenüber der Hierarchie und der männlichen Herrschaft.

Ich bin Avrel. Gleich werde ich meinen Onkel, der mit mir kämpft, umbringen und das werde ich für alle Frauen machen, die vergewaltigt wurden.

Ich bin Avrel, um zu zeigen, was der freie Wille der Frauen bewirken kann und um eines Tages sehen zu können, wie Frauen als Individuen in einer Gesellschaft ihren verdienten Platz bekommen – dafür liebe ich es zu leben.

Das Wesen der Frau und ihr Körper werden seit Lilith unter den Füßen der patriarchalen Herrschaft unterdrückt. Mit der Hexenjagd wurden sie verbrannt, schon immer wurden sie degradiert, vergewaltigt und letztendlich zerstört.

In der kurdischen Gesellschaft erfahren Frauen die gelernte Hilfslosigkeit.

Wir treffen auf Frauen, die sagen, dass „Männer die Linie der Familie weiterführen“.
Wir treffen auf Frauen, die es als beleidigend empfinden, wenn man sie als Frau bezeichnet.
Sie denken, dass die Vergewaltigungen, die physische und psychische Gewalt, denen sie ausgesetzt sind, weil sie Frauen sind, der Normalität (!) entsprechen.

Kurdische Frauen glauben entweder, dass die Hässlichkeit des Kapitalismus oder eine Heirat sie schöner und freier machen werden.
Die Frauen waren sich nicht bewusst darüber, dass sie die Kraft haben, die ihnen um den Hals angelegte Kette zu durchbrechen.

Die Bedeutung der PKK, YPG, YPJ und der Revolution in Rojava fängt genau an diesem Punkt an: Die Revolution in Rojava ist der Beweis für die Autonomie der Frauen, das Durchsetzungsvermögen der Frauen, die Tatsache, dass Frauen keine Männer brauchen, um existieren zu können, dass Frauen gegen die Machthabenden, den Kapitalismus, den Sexismus und die männlich-patriarchale Herrschaft ankommen können.

Selbstverständlich Avrel, selbstverständlich Hypatia von Alexandria, selbstverständlich Artemis, selbstverständlich Boudicca, die Pionierin für den Widerstand in Boudicca, selbstverständlich die rote Rosa, selbstverständlich Emma, selbstverständlich Simone, die die Zweite Welle des Feminismus begann, selbstverständlich Ulrike, selbstverständlich die Mutter Theresa, die 1000 Menschen mit ihren Händen heilte, selbstverständlich die Pionierin der schwarzen Bürgerrechtsbewegung Rosa und selbstverständlich Sakine, Beritan, Arin, Zilan und viele andere Namen von Frauen, deren Kampf und Leid bis heute nicht erwähnt wurden: selbstverständlich werden wir in euren Fußstapfen treten! Selbstverständlich werden wir – wie ihr – auf dem dornigen und dunklen Weg der Freiheit gehen. Und selbstverständlich werden sie, jedes mal, wenn wir unsere Rebellion ausrufen, zittern vor Angst.

Avrel: Die Autorin des Textes.
Hypatia von Alexandria: Mathematikerin, Astronomin, Philosophin in der griechischen Spätantike.
Boudicca: Britannische Königin und Heerführerin.
Rosa Luxemburg (rote Rosa): Vertreterin der europäischen Arbeiterbewegung, Marxistin, Antimilitaristin, Theoretikerin
Emma Goldman: US-amerikanische Anarchistin, Friedensaktivistin, Antimilitaristin, feministische Theoretikerin, Atheistin.
Simone de Beauvoir: Französische Schriftstellerin, Feministin, Philosophin
Ulrike Meinhof: Journalistin und Publizistin
Mutter Theresa: Ordensschwester und Missionarin
Rosa Parks: US-amerikanische Bürgerrechtlerin


Proudhon in Kobane „The Philosophy of Poverty.“

From Chiapas to Rojava – more than just coincidences

Autonomy brings together two revolutions on the left and from below

“Power to the people‘ can only
be put into practice when the power exercised by social elites is
dissolved into the people.”

―Murray Bookchin

The largely unknown until recently Kurdish city of Kobane managed to attract the attention of the world with its fierce resistance[i] against the invasion of the Islamic State and became an international symbol, compared to the defence of Madrid and Stalingrad. The bravery and heroism of the People’s Defence Units and the Women’s Defence Units (YPG and YPJ) were praised by a large spectrum of groups and individuals – anarchists, leftist, liberals and even right-wingers expressed sympathy and admiration for the men and women of Kobane in their historical battle against what was often seen as IS “fascism”. The mainstream media was forced to break the silence over the Kurdish autonomy and soon numerous articles and news stories were broadcasted and published, often depicting the “toughness” and determination of the Kurdish fighters with a certain dose of exotisation, of course. However, this attention was very often selective and partial – the very essence of the political project in Rojava (Western Kurdistan) was left aside and the media preferred to present the resistance in Kobane as some weird exception to the supposed barbarism of the Middle East. Without surprise, the red star, shining on the victorious flags of the YPG/J was not a pleasing image in the eyes of the Western powers and their media. The autonomous cantons of Rojava represent a home-grown solution to the conflicts in the Middle East, encompassing grassroots democracy, ethnic, social and gender rights and all this in rejection both of IS terror but also of liberal democracy and capitalist economy . Although the West preferred to stay silent on this issue, this ideological foundation is the key for understanding the spirit that wrote the Kobane epopee and fascinated the world, as the Kurdish activist and academic, Dilar Dirik, claimed recently[ii].

As the battles for every street and corner of the city were intensifying, Kobane managed to captivate the imagination of the left and specifically of the libertarian left as a symbol of resistance and struggle and soon it was placed on the pantheon of some of the most emblematic battles for humanity, such as the defence of Madrid against the fascists in the 1930s. It was not by accident that the Turkish Marxist-Leninist group MLKP, which joined the YPG/J in/on the battlefield, raised the flag of the Spanish republic over the ruins of the city in the day of its liberation and called for the formation of International Brigades[iii], following the example of the Spanish revolution. It was not the battle for Kobane itself, but the libertarian essence of the cantons of Rojava, the implementation of grassroots direct democracy, the participation of women and different ethnic groups into the autonomous government that gave ground to the comparisons with the Spanish revolution. Another association was mentioned briefly in several articles – the revolution in Rojava and its autonomous government were compared to the Zapatistas and their autonomy in the south of Mexico. The importance of this comparison might be crucial in order to understand the paradigm of the revolutionary struggle in Kurdistan and what it means for those who believe another world is possible.

The Zapatista movement is probably one of the most symbolic and influential elements of the revolutionary imaginary in the world after the fall of the state-socialist regimes in the late 1980s and early 1990s. In the morning of January 1, 1994, an unknown guerrilla force, composed of indigenous Mayas, took over the main towns of the southern-most Mexican state – Chiapas. The military operation was carried out with strategic brilliance and combined with the innovative back then use of the internet to spread the message of the revolutionaries, it echoed around the globe to inspire international solidarity and the emergence of the Alter-Globalisation movement. The Zapatistas rebelled against neoliberal capitalism and the social and cultural genocide of the indigenous population in Mexico. Ya Basta, Enough is enough, was their war cry that emerged from the night of “500 years of oppression”, as the First Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle stated. The Zapatistas rose up in arms when global capital was celebrating the “end of history” and the idea of social revolution seemed to be a romantic anachronism that belonged to the past. The Zapatista Army for National Liberation was forced out of the cities in twelve days of intense battles with the federal army but it turned out that the deep horizontal organisation in the indigenous communities could not be eradicated by any military intervention or terror. The masked spokesperson of the rebel army, Subcomandante Marcos, challenged the notion of historical vanguard as opposed to revolution from below, which does not aim to take power but to abolish it and this concept became central to the most mass anti-capitalist movements since – from Seattle and Genoa to the Syntagma and Puerta del Sol occupations and even the Occupy Movement.

Where are the similarities with the Rojavan revolution?

From Marxism-Leninism to Autonomy – a shared historical trajectory

The roots of the democratic autonomy in Rojava can be understood only through the history of the Workers’ Party of Kurdistan (PKK), the organisation, which has been central to the Kurdish liberation movement since its creation in 1978. The PKK was established as a Marxist-Leninist guerrilla organisation in Northern Kurdistan, part of the Turkish state, combining the ideologies of national and social liberation. It grew to a substantial guerrilla force under the leadership of Abdullah Ocalan and managed to challenge the second biggest army in NATO in a conflict that claimed the lives of more than forty thousand people. The Turkish state displaced hundreds of thousands and reportedly used torture, assassination and rape against the civilian population but did not manage to break the backbone of the Kurdish resistance. Since its inception, PKK has expanded its influence both in Turkey and in the other parts of Kurdistan. The leading political force in the Rojavan revolution – the Democratic Union Party (PYD) is affiliated with it through the Kurdistan Communities’ Union, KCK, the umbrella organisation that encompasses various revolutionary and political groups sharing the ideas of the PKK. The ideology, which unites the different civil and revolutionary groups in the KCK is called democratic confederalism and is based on the ideas of the US anarchist Murray Bookchin, who argued in favour of a non-hierarchal society based on social-ecology, libertarian municipalism and direct democracy.

Although the Zapatistas are famous for their autonomous government and rejection of the notion of historical vanguard, the roots of the organisation were also related to Marxism-Leninism and just like in the case of the PKK, the idea of self-governance and revolution from below were a product of a long historical evolution. The EZLN was founded in 1983 by a group of urban guerrillas, predominantly Marxist-Leninists, who decided to start a revolutionary cell among the indigenous population in Chiapas, organise a guerrilla force and take power through guerrilla warfare. Soon they realised that their ideological dogma was not applicable to the indigenous realities and started learning from the communal traditions of governance of the indigenous people. Thus, Zapatismo was born as a fusion between Marxism and the experience and knowledge of the native population that has been resisting both against the Spanish and later the Mexican state.

This shared ideological trajectory demonstrates a historical turn in the understanding of revolutionary process. The Zapatista uprising and establishment of the autonomy in Chiapas marked a break with traditional guerrilla strategies, inspired predominantly by the Cuban revolution, this was made more than clear in the letter EZLN spokesman, Subcomandante Marcos wrote to the Basque liberation organisation ETA:

“I shit on all revolutionary vanguards on this planet.[iv]”

It was not the vanguard to lead the people now; it was the people themselves to build the revolution from below and sustain it as such. This is the logic PKK has been shifting towards in the last decade under the influence of Murray Bookchin and this shift demonstrates an evolution of the organisation from movement for the people to a movement of the people.

Cantons and Caracoles – freedom here and now

Probably the most important similarity between the revolution in Rojava and the one in Chiapas is the social and political reorganisation that is taking place in both places that is based on the libertarian ideology of the two organisations.

The Zapatista autonomy in its current form originates from the failure of the peace negotiations with the Mexican government after the uprising in 1994. During the peace negotiations the rebels demanded the government to adhere to the accords of San Andres, which give the indigenous people the right to autonomy, self-determination, education, justice and political organisation, based on their tradition as well as communal control over the land and the resources of the areas that belong to them. These accords were never implemented by the government and in 2001 president Fox backed an edited version that was voted for in congress but did not meet the demands of the Zapatistas and the other groups in resistance. This event was labelled as “treason” and it provoked the EZLN to declare two years later the creation of the five rebel zones, centred in five Caracoles (or snails in English) that serve as administrative centres. The name Caracoles came to show the revolutionary concept of the Zapatistas – we are doing it ourselves, we learn in the process and we advance, slowly, but we advance. The Caracoles[v] include three levels of autonomous government – community, municipality and Council of the Good Government. The first two are based on grassroots assemblies whereas the Councils of the Good Government are elected but with the intention to get as many people as possible to participate in the Government over the years through a principle of rotation. The autonomy has its own educational system, healthcare and justice, as well as cooperatives, producing coffee, cattle, handcrafts etc.

We learn as we make things, we did not know about autonomy and that we were going to build something like it. But we learn and improve things and learn from the struggle – told me my Zapatista guardian Armando, when I visited the autonomous territory at the end of 2013. Freedom could only be practiced here and now and revolution was a process of constantly challenging the status-quo and building alternatives to it.

The Rojavan cantons indeed resemble the autonomy in Chiapas. They were proclaimed by the dominant PYD in 2013 and function through the established popular assemblies and democratic councils. Women participate equally in the decision-making and are represented in all elected positions, which are always shared by a man and a woman. All ethnic groups are represented in the government and its institutions. Healthcare and education are also guaranteed by the system of democratic confederalism and recently the first Rojavan university, the Masepotamia Academy, opened it’s doors with plans to challenge the hierarchical structure of education, and to provide a different approach to learning.

Just as it is in the case with the Zapatistas, the Revolution in Rojava envisions itself as a solution to the problems in the whole country, not as an expression of separatist tendencies. This genuine democratic system, as claimed by the delegation of academics from Europe and North America[vi], that visited Rojava recently, points to a different future of the Middle East, based on direct participation, women’s emancipation and ethnic peace.

Women’s revolution

Gender has always been central to the Zapatista revolution. The situation of women before the spread of the organization and the adoption of women’s liberation as central to the struggle, was marked by exploitation, marginalization, forced marriages, physical violence and discrimination. This is why Marcos claims that the first uprising was not the one in 1994 but the adoption of the Womens’ Revolutionary Law in 1993, setting the framework for gender equality and justice and guaranteeing the rights of the women in the rebel territory to personal autonomy, emancipation and dignity. Today women participate in all levels of government and have their own cooperatives and economic structures to guarantee their economic independence. Women were and still form a large part of the ranks of the Zapatista guerilla force and take high positions in its commandment. The takeover of San Cristobal de las Casas, the most important city the Zapatista troops captured during the uprising in 1994, was also commanded by women, headed by comandanta Ramona, who was also the first Zapatista to be sent to Mexico city to represent the movement.

It is not difficult to compare the mass involvement of indigenous women in Chiapas in the Zapatista ranks to the participation of women in the defense of Kobane and in the YPJ – the Women’s Protection Units, both depicted in a sensationalist manner[vii] by the Western media in the last months. However, their bravery and determination in the war against ISIS is a product of a long tradition of women participation in the armed struggle for social liberation in Kurdistan. Women have played a central role in the PKK and this is undoubtedly connected with the importance of gender in the Kurdish struggle. The Rojava revolution has a strong emphasis on women’s liberation as indispensable for the true liberation of society. The theoretical framework that puts the dismantling of patriarchy at the heart of the struggle is called “jineology”, a concept developed by Abdullah Ocalan. The application of this concept has resulted in an unseen empowerment of women not only in the context of the Middle East but also in the context of western liberal feminism. The women’s assemblies, cooperative structures and women’s militias are the heart of the revolution, which is considered incomplete if it does not destroy the patriarchal structure of society, which is one of the fundamentals of capitalism. Janet Biehl, an independent writer and artist, wrote after her recent visit to Rojava that women in the Kurdish revolution have the ideological role of the proletariat in the XXth century revolutions.

The ecology of freedom

The Ecology of Freedom is probably the most important among Bookchin’s works and his concept of social ecology has been adopted by the revolutionaries in Rojava. His idea that “the very notion of the domination of nature by man stems from the very real domination of human by human” links patriarchy, environmental destruction and capitalism and points at their abolition as the only way to a just society. Such a holistic approach has been advocated and implemented by the Zapatistas as well. Sustainability has also been an important point of emphasis, especially after the creation of the caracoles in 2003. The autonomous government has been trying to recuperate ancestral knowledge, related to the sustainable use of the land and combine it with other agro-ecological practices. This logic is not only a matter of improving the living conditions in the communities and avoiding the use of agrochemicals, it is a rejection of the whole notion that large-scale industrial agriculture is superior to the ‘primitive’ way the indigenous people work the land and as such it is a powerful defiance of the logic of neoliberalism.

The road to Autonomy – the new revolutionary paradigm

The similarities between the system of democratic confederalism that is being developed in Western Kurdistan and the Autonomy in Chiapas go far beyond the few points I have stressed in this article. From slogans such as Ya Basta, adapted in Kurdish as êdî bes e to the grassroots democracy, communal economic structures and participation of women, the similar path the Kurdish movement and the Zapatistas have taken demonstrates a decisive break with the vanguardist notion of Marxism-Leninism and a new approach to revolution, which comes from below and aims at the creation of a free and non-hierarchal society.

Although both movements have received some bitter criticism[viii] from sectarian elements on the left, the very fact that the only major and successful experiments in radical social change originate from non-western, marginalised and colonised groups, comes as a slap in the face to the white and privileged dogmatic “revolutionaries” of the global north who have hardly been successful on challenging oppression in their own countries but tend to believe it is their judgement what is and what is not a real revolution.

The revolutions in Rojava and Chiapas are a powerful example for the world, demonstrating the enormous capacity of grassroots organisation and the importance of communal links as opposed to capitalist social atomisation. Last but not least, Chiapas and Rojava should make many on the left, including some anarchists, trash their colonial mindset and ideological dogmatism.

A world without hierarchy, domination, capitalism and environmental destruction or as the Zapatistas say, the world where many worlds fit, has often been depicted as “utopian” and “unrealistic” by the mainstream media, education and political structures. However, this world is not some future mirage that comes from the books – it is happening here and now and the examples of Zapatistas and Kurds are a powerful weapon to reignite our capacity to imagine a real radical change in society as well as a model we can learn from in our struggles. The red stars that shine over Chiapas and Rojava shed light on the way to liberation and if we need to summarize in one word what brings these two struggles together, it would definitely be Autonomy.

[i] Dicle, Amed (2015) Kobane Victory, How it Unfolded. URL:

[ii] Dirik, Dilar (2015) Whi Kobane Did Not Fall. URL:

[iii] International Brigades Form in Rojava (2014) URL:

[iv] Marcos (2003) I Shit on All Revolutionary Vanguards on This Planet. URL:

[v] Oikonomakis, Leonidas (2013) Zapatistas Celebrate 10 Years of Autonomy With Escuelita.

[vi] Joint Statement of the Academic Delagation to Rojava. URL:

[vii] Dirik, Dilar (2014) Western Fascination With “Badass” Kurdish Women. URL:

[viii] Anarchist Federation Statement on Rojava (2014) URL:

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