AFA Stockholm: Travel report from Rojava

As we write this, it has been a little more than a week since the Rojava cantons defense forces, YPG and YPJ, proclaimed victory in Kobane. 


The victory means a lot to the Kurds. The city’s resistance has become a symbol of resistance against ISIS, which the Kurds call Daesh. Daesh is an abbreviation of ISIS but similar to the Arabic ”Daes” which means trample or crush. It is used in the context disparagingly of ISIS and deprives them the right to name themselves. The fascists in ISIS has banned word in the areas under their control and they take it so seriously that those who use the word are threatened with getting their tongue cut out.

Many wonder how the Kurds could fight back Daesh. The fight against Daesh has been with substandard military equipment. Many are quick to point out that YPG / YPJ have been helped by an international coalition that has carried out air strikes against Daesh. That in itself is not a reasonable explanation as to how the victory was achieved in Kobane as the bombings did not meet expectations. When the bombing began in October, there were many who thought that victory was close but it took almost another four months until before victory could be declared. The answer to the question of how the Kurds could beat Daesh in Kobane must be sought elsewhere.

Before New Year’s AFA Stockholm sent a delegation to Suruc located on the border of Kobane. Partly to show our solidarity through on site help with practical work and partly to establish contacts for the future. The cantons struggle is part of the same anti-capitalist struggles that is being fought all over the world, but they have now been forced into a self-defense war against the fascist Daesh. We also tried to understand the key to the success of the resistance. On site we met one of the female leaders of the Kobane canton. We performed solidarity work and talked to people who had to flee Daesh. One of those we met were Ape Nemir. An old man who has become a symbol of resistance in Kobane. He told me that three of his four sons are in Kobane fighting along YPG.

Ape Nemir had one month earlier been sent to the hospital in Suruc when he was shot for the fourth time. He and his wife and their fourth son lived as we met him in a refugee camp outside Suruc. Ape Nemirs wife was before the war deeply involved in the canton work. When we meet him, Ape Nemir is in a small village four kilometers from Kobane, staring towards the city. ”I just want to return and fight. What am I doing here? I am of no use here. Kobane is ours and we refuse to move!”

rojava afa stockholm

Three years ago a power vacuum was creted in northern Syria as al-Assad’s regime, because of the civil war, could no longer control the areas. The Kurds in the region, with PKKs sister party in Syria, the PYD in the lead, could replace the regime with its own structures and take over power. This led to the fact that the Kurds three years ago at a large conference, proclaimed three autonomous regions. The regions are called cantons. The cantons have jointly agreed to sign a new social contract. It is an ideologically conscious denomination, as They distance themselves against a traditional state-building and do not call it a common constitution. At the same conference the need for the Cantons to be able to defend themselves was also acknowledged. PYD who has a strong connection to the revolutionary PKK, has embraced PKKs approach towards leadership shared between the sexes. This also led to the creation of two branches of the armed forces, a female, YPJ, and a male, YPG. An internal security agency for the cantons was also formed, called Asayish. It is not a police force, as the police is formed to protect the state while Asayish is formed to protect the people. What is unusual is that their training consists not only of both military and police training but also a large part is a gender equality training that aims to raise women’s role in the work. People we talk to in Suruc who interviewed people in the canton Jazeera says that the long term goal of Asayish is to dissolve itself thru the broader education of the population. Even within the Asayish there is a evenly distributed force of men and women.

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The societal organization has also been done differently. The cantons are characterized by a system called ”democratic confederalism” with strong anarchist influences and objects any state-building. The idea comes from PKKs leader Abudulla Ocalan. Instead of, as in capitalist countries, having the market dictating the terms for society, the societal building within the cantons is instead based on grassroots participation and autonomy. The power of the cantons is based on councils which is organized by street, block, city and cantonal level. Work within the cantons is organized partly in form of cooperatives where the managers are replaced with elected representatives. The Rojava cantons work daily to bring power to the people and give people back control of their own lives.

The Rojava experiment that has been in action for three years must be seen as one of the root causes of this victory. The people are not fighting against Daesh simply because of fear and survival instinct, they are fighting for something as well – something they see as their own. The Rojava cantons have quickly made possible for the people to feel their power. They are involved in the decisions, they can influence their own terms, they have taken back control of their lives. This is one of the keys to the resistance, they have created a society that they see as their own and this is what they are fighting for. The women is another key to the resistance. In The Rojava they have fought their way toward rights and freedom that women in the rest of the world is lacking. The women’s position in the Rojava is unique and is one of the driving forces of the revolution. Their struggle is double, they are fighting for gender equality in the Rojava while they struggle against the fascists in Daesh who wants to turn them into slaves. The women in the Rojava do their work efficiently and very successfully. In civil society they hold shared leadership on all levels. In the military struggle they are doing a very effective job as well. The military struggle strengthens the civil struggle. Stereotypical arguments that certain jobs are women’s jobs or that the man is the natural warrior becomes empty rhetorics when studying the Rojava experiment. Daesh is not the biggest threat to the cantons. Capitalist interest threatens the Rojava but so far the advocates of neoliberalism have not been given any influence over the cantons. Rebuilding Kobane will be a strong incentive for neoliberal interests to gain influence over the cantons. This is one of the biggest challenges facing the cantons after the war.


Rebuilding Kobane requires concrete and the only producer of cement in the region is Turkey. The country ruled by Erdogan’s reactionary party, the AKP, views the Kurds as the biggest threat to the Turkish nation state. Erdogan has recently said that Turkey will assist the rebuilding, the question is under what conditions? Rojava is currently under an embargo which is maintained by Turkey. The embargo implies that no goods are to be released into the cantons, but must instead be smuggled in across the Turkish border. Turkey’s resistance against the Rojava has been found in several ways. The embargo is one, but the country has also played a high level game as there is evidence that the Turkish military have helped Daesh around Kobane. Thay have been doing this either by being indulgent with them and have in other cases more directly assisted them by giving them weapons or dropping by Daesh combatants over the Turkish border. Turkish military have even searched for wounded YPG / YPJ warriors in Suruc as they received care and put the wounded soldiers in prison.

When we talk with a representative from Kobane she stresses the importance of solidarity from all over the world. ”We welcome all people who support our project, because it’s really not just ours. The battle we fight here is carried out across the world in various forms. We are grateful for all the solidarity from people around the world, supporting us in various ways both here on sight and at home. We welcome especially female activists because it is especially important that women share experiences and support each other in the struggle. It is also important that female activists come here to Rojava because we have made such progress here that has not been done anywhere else in the world.”

More and more progressive forces in the world has woken up to what is happening in Rojava and many have sent activists to support the fight in Rojava. Now, even a petition has been made to form an international brigade in Rojava. There is room for the brigade to assist in combat as well as in the reconstruction of Kobane. The struggle in Rojava has many faces and there’s a lot to help with, not least to bring the revolution forward.

AFA Stockholm see that the regional struggle in Rojava is part of a global struggle. It’s just one of several front lines in the capitalist world, but it is important because in Rojava there has been a space created that really have paved the way towards building a society free from capitalism. Rojava is an example of how people can take control of their own lives by creating autonomous zones characterized by true democracy.

AFA Stockholm invites all progressive forces to support the struggle of Rojava. Rojava shows that freedom from state and capital terms and conditions gives people the opportunities to create a new society characterized by equality. This society can not be created within the capitalist framework. Therefore, we need to create a new society where we stand today. Wherever you are, we urge you to organize yourself and join the struggle!


//AFA Stockholm

Travel report from Rojava (Text in Swedish) :