Revolutionary Solidarity: Rojava and the International Struggle

The success of the revolution in Rojava and its political practices have presented international revolutionaries with a unique situation, one many of us didn’t know we could hope for in our lifetimes. This opportunity has not only revitalized those fighting oppression around the world, but also raised the important question: how do revolutionaries in their own cities relate with it. We at Rojava Solidarity NYC, would like to offer a proposal.

Rojava, an autonomous region in Northern Syrian, the largest revolutionary territory of the 21st century, has projected anarchist and communist ideas to the forefront of political discourse and into the pragmatic and messy reality of everyday life. The revolution’s political foundation, democratic confederalism, is an amalgamation of anarchist, communist, and feminists practices, with a focus on ecology and profoundly rooted in the Kurdish liberation struggle. Rojava has been fighting for survival against Daesh (ISIS), while simultaneously rejecting the state formation and implementing decentralized self-governance.

Drawing From Rojava’s Success

For revolutionaries who have not had the chance to witness such massive revolutionary gains as in Rojava, this is a development many thought impossible in their lifetimes. Historical revolutionary situations from Spain to the Ukraine demonstrated examples of projects either crushed or squeezed to the point where they didn’t have any more influence. Krongreya Star, the PYD, TEV-DEM, YPG, and YPJ’s forms of political organization – political bodies that espouse liberatory politics – have succeeded in being the predominant ones in society. Their political and strategic vision has outmaneuvered and consolidated revolutionary gains that many other movements have failed to achieve.

As revolutionaries, we are actively engaged in struggling against hegemonic forms of power and building towards new forms of organization. The success and widespread nature of Rojava is indispensable for our learning process. From communal relationships to the councils and self-defense units, we can assess numerous potential routes by which we can create liberated communities at home, while learning from their possibilities and pitfalls.

For groups struggling inside one of the most imperial and brutally capitalistic states, a large part of our work is convincing our neighbors that self-governance works. Often during the course of a project, people new to our politics have been skeptical of the practicality of anarchism, decentralized decision making, and anti-state organizing. We have been able to explain how these attributes function in Rojava, which, in turn, makes our organizing goals more attainable in their eyes. Rojava’s decentralized model exemplifies what is possible today, and how people can begin establishing these revolutionary processes in their communities.

Every revolution struggles with how to deal with counter-revolutionary elements. The Rojava revolution has dealt reasonably, yet uncompromisingly, with political opponents. They have also been able to keep the objectives of nation-states in flux, despite their continuous attempts to harness Rojava’s resources. Instead, they have been able to leverage the political objectives of other states in order to maintain territorial and revolutionary gains. These are essential lessons for all revolutionaries.

False Binary: The Mindless Cheerleader Versus Critical Solidarity

A false binary has been presented by academics and well-meaning revolutionaries. They argue one can either be a ‘mindless cheerleader’ or engage in what is called ‘critical solidarity.’ By this formulation, the correct way to engage with Rojava, and to some degree all revolutionary projects, is to analyze which aspects we disapprove of and vocally denounce these attributes – ones that presumably don’t line up with our ideologies.

The first problem is that the concept of ’critical solidarity’ attempts to homogenize the region and pretend that it could be evaluated as a uniform entity. If someone is critical of ‘Rojava,’ it reinforces the framework of evaluating a people in the top-down terms of a nation-state rather than a specific commune, region, or group. This practice denies the self-defining nature of disparate groups that comprise society, denies the ground-up organizing structure of the commune, and denies the very basis of self-governance. Essentially it eats away at the very heart of the revolutionary aspects of society we are trying to affirm.

The most devastating effect is that these public denouncements have been exploited by political opponents of the revolutionary project. While Rojava is under attack by ISIS, it also faces shelling, assassination, and embargo by Turkey, and opposition from the Syrian government and the ‘Free Syrian Army.’ The reactionary forces that don’t want to see a liberated region on their borders or, for example, the self-liberation of women, are eager to use the fissures between leftists in the West to undermine support for Rojava.

Further criticism is leveled against the political bodies and militias that defend and spread the revolution. Such criticism, typically from people who are poorly informed, is in effect, unequivocally counter-revolutionary. Those critics, rather than informing themselves of the revolutionary process, learning about the groups on the ground, the militia movement, or the fluidity and openness of the project, have taken it upon themselves to undermine a fragile movement when it is most important to buttress its gains. For once, a revolutionary territory has been established with calls for expansion around the globe and for revolutionary assistance, and arm chair actors decide to fight back against it with the pen instead of strategizing about how to march forward together. These critics should be thoroughly dismissed.

Finally, and most obviously, the absence of public critique does not equate mindlessness. Quite the opposite is true. As political actors we are more mindful of the conditions that lead to decentralization, and the expansion of revolutionary gains, and we must put our assistance and advocacy to work for those with same goals as us. The most liberatory aspects of society, such as the communes and feminist organizations, are projects we must develop relationships with. As this struggle unfolds at this very moment, there is an active opportunity to aid each other’s successes.

A Shared Struggle: Revolutionary Solidarity

While there are several inherent flaws with the notion of ‘critical solidarity,’ the most egregious problem is that it does not acknowledge the most important type of engagement: revolutionary solidarity.

The connections between small revolutionary groups in different cities rely on the conception that we are part of a shared struggle. We share knowledge, resources, and help propel each others’ objectives, building infrastructure and networks outside state and capitalist relations.
The same applies to a region deeply engaged in a revolution. The notion of ‘solidarity’ itself is perhaps too weak a term to express the relationship between nascent revolutionary groups and a region already practicing and experimenting with revolutionary social organization. In the most concrete terms, as friends and comrades travel to the region, even sometimes giving their lives for its success, our missions become intertwined.

It is our view that the best and most important criticality should be reserved for implementing the struggle in our neighborhoods. We look at how things work in Rojava, make connections with people who are implementing these social practices, learn from them, and evaluate how best they will play out in our own struggles. This is where criticality makes sense. How should these practices be introduced? How can they be most effective here? What practices allow for the most self-direction and participation? This is the very method of self-criticism and reflection practiced within every revolutionary organization in Rojava. In fact, if it hadn’t been so integral, it may never had pivoted over from a Marxist-Leninist struggle to an anarchist-inspired one.

A new way for relating with a decentralized society is necessary, both for appropriately acknowledging the people’s self-governance, but also for the work of propagating and reinforcing people as people, rather than subjects behind a centralized governing body. Groups, such as the women’s organization Kongreya Star or the youth networks, reach out to other such groups around the world, cutting through the unnecessary bureaucracy artificially erected by national borders. Connecting on the basis of interest, identity, and shared revolutionary intentions is an essential way for building movements across borders and undermining the hegemony of nation-states.

As the rise of the far right around the globe threatens to destabilize civil society in it’s turbulent battle for power and exclusionary violence, the more important it becomes to push forward revolutionary solutions around the globe. The more successes anti-authoritarians have on a local level, drawing more power towards the ground, the less power imperialist states can wield and the less momentum fascist tendencies will have.

Many reactionary forces would not like to see the social project in Rojava succeed. Accelerating the struggle back home helps undermine the international reach of nation-states, and the fascist forces they breed. The rise of liberatory social movements simultaneously around the world helps ensure the longevity of all. As international revolutionaries, the borders that separate our landmasses, the languages we were born into, the history of our respective areas are not unbreachable differences that separate us, but things either to be overcome, or understood, in order to push the struggle forward together.

International Engagement

Presently international anarchists, socialists, and communist revolutionaries are actively involved in the struggle in Rojava. They are involved at the civic level, participate in the militias, write reports for those back home, and deliver supplies. At very least there is an alliance between such actors abroad and at home. By traveling to a dangerous location, often to put their lives at risk by participating in combat, these comrades have shown their commitment to the project. When these fighters return home, they will be able to put their knowledge to use, to help further the struggles there.

What has been confirmed many times over by the individuals and groups who have traveled to Rojava, whether to report back about what is happening, to engage in the struggle, or to help with civic projects, is that the goals of international revolutionaries and those participating in this social experiment are the same. The active engagement of anti-authoritarian revolutionaries is key to the success of any revolutionary undertaking. This could mean traveling to the region to participate, or this could mean actively engaging in struggle back home, or it could simply mean spreading accurate knowledge about the practices there.

Rojava has articulated a new set of tools, proven the efficacy of feminism, and demonstrated how to achieve the highest level of humanization of people through a stateless solution and anti-capitalist practice. This work has not only made massive advances in the region, but brought these forms of organizing to a broader swathe of the population, from the Democratic Federal System of Northern Syria to regions abroad. This new paradigm for revolution has rejuvenated the struggle for smaller groups of anarchists and anti-authoritarians in cities to indigenous resistance at risk from neoliberal or capitalist enterprises, to armed guerrilla armies around the world. The longevity of this model rests on the connection with and success of such struggles around the world.

We propose revolutionary solidarity as the ideal way to engage with the social experiment in Rojava, the new revolutionary paradigm of the 21st century.

New Article, Project, and Resources!

We recently added some new resources for local committees and individuals looking for creative ways to introduce others to the Rojava Revolution. They range from ready-made poster files to a complete zine and can be taken as they are or used as inspiration for something new! Check them out here.

Also, we have been in contact with a great group that has developed a new way to show solidarity with some of those affected most by the Syrian Civil War – displaced families. The American Kurdish Association (AKA) started the Sibling Family Project in April 2016, which helps families in Europe and America sponsor Kurdish families that are in dire need of support. To learn more, visit our updated Solidarity section here.

Lastly, LeftEast has published a new article of ours that provides some much needed context for Turkey’s most recent attack on Rojava, which has included a direct invasion of the region and a slew of political games to force the YPG out of recently liberated areas west of the Euphrates river. In a sea of Western media coverage that consistently reduces the Rojava Revolution and its ideals of feminism, confederalism, and ecology to the term ‘Syrian Kurds’, the article fills a severe void of information, even giving a nuanced history of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and an explanation of how it’s become Erdoğan’s public enemy #1. The article is printed below in full; however, to view it in its original form, visit LeftEast’s publishing of it here.

Turkey’s Attack on Rojava – A Threat to Radical Democracy in Mesopotamia

When the strategic Syrian town of Manbij was liberated from ISIS in August Western media described an atmosphere of jubilance and relief.  More than 250 fighters from the predominantly Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG/YPJ) and their multi-ethnic partners in the Syrian Democratic Forces gave their lives in this American-backed operation. Their sacrifice was offset by the hopeful images that streamed around the globe: women celebrating by tearing off their veils, men laughing while clipping their beards, and militia members and villagers enjoying their first public cigarettes together since the start of ISIS’ occupation. But their joyful reprieve may be short-lived.  In a cruel irony, no sooner had Manbij been freed with the encouragement of American planners, than these same planners demanded that their YPG/YPJ allies abandon the town to another, more politically influential jihadist force, this time in the form of Turkey’s Islamist proxies affiliated with the Free Syrian Army (FSA).  These FSA units are currently occupying towns along the Turkish border and are continuing skirmishes to the south, ostensibly battling ISIS, but in truth acting at the behest of a Turkish government intent on strangling the Kurdish based Democratic Union Party (PYD), the YPG/YPJ, and the revolution they have initiated in the north of Syria, an area known to the Kurds as Rojava. America, holding its breath for the imminent clash, continues to weigh the worth of one piece against the other and to ponder its decision.

When questioned about Turkey’s ongoing cross-border operation, including the bombing and shelling of allied YPG/YPJ positions, Secretary of State John Kerry offered a rather enigmatic remark: “There has been some limited engagement, as everybody knows, with a component of Kurdish fighters on a limited basis…” The statement sounds simple, diplomatic, and measured, and yet contained in the emphasis on the word “limited” there is the intimation of a long-term policy decision of tremendous consequence.  Perversely, the U.S. may be willing to allow the PYD and its People’s Protection Units, the very same “brave combatants fighting ISIS and barbarism,” which the world so admired since the battle of Kobane, to be attacked by a Turkish state, which even Vice President Joe Biden has in the past admitted is a tacit supporter of jihadists factions in Syria, including ISIS.  Deputy Secretary of State Anthony Blinken deepened this impression when he elaborated that the U.S. is “against a connection between Kurdish self-declared cantons.”  American policy makers seem to suggest that they would like to have it both ways, denying backing for the political project in Rojava (the success of which is far more vital to Rojava’s long-term survival than arms or advisors) while advocating for continuing military cooperation.  A signal is sent – after you are of use, you may well be discarded and left to your fate.  For the United States to abandon the Kurds in this fashion would be morally repugnant, the equivalent of stabbing America’s most consistent Syrian ally in the back, but more importantly it would be a grave strategic miscalculation with far reaching ramifications.


In the messy, multi-polar context of the Syrian Civil War it is tempting to simplify the conflict by viewing it only through the narrowest of lenses: Assad and ISIS, nation states and their proxy wars.  It is important to remember that the context is, in fact, much broader, with a great deal more at stake.  The PYD represents not only a convenient bulwark against a brutal jihadist enemy, but a rare, positive vision embodied by the ongoing revolution in Rojava.  Remarkably for the region, theirs is a revolution that resists authoritarianism and theocracy, and places at its forefront ethnic pluralism, secularism, direct democracy, ecology, and feminism.  If the international community allows Turkey to destroy this ascendant movement, as it would like to, both a Middle East in dire need of new perspectives and a post-conflict Syria will be so much the poorer for it.  The world has the opportunity now to focus not only on defeating a common enemy who would like to see us dragged into the past, but also on supporting those who could possibly guide us into a more just future.

The ethos of the PYD reveals an extremely unlikely and therefore precious political evolution – one that has rarely taken place throughout history and has given hope to an international left that has struggled to find new forms.  Its origins can be traced back to the decades-long guerrilla struggles of the Cold War, its ideology linked to the Turkish Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and their leader Abdullah Öcalan.  At first, this was an ideology of ethnicity-based national liberation that aligned itself with the socialist block.  A viewpoint that risked being both narrow and dogmatic.  However, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and with the advance of globalization and neo-liberalism into the new century, leaders of the Kurdish movement re-appraised their positions and were, amazingly, able to create a new synthesis stretching far beyond their original aims.  Rather than ossifying, they revitalized their political project, remaining communalists, but scrapping the authoritarian impulses in old 20th-century models and placing in their stead horizontal, local forms of self-management inspired by sources as diverse as ancient Greek democracy, libertarian socialism, Murray Bookchin’s theories on anarchist organization, and their own unique approach to feminism.  The purest expression of this new paradigm can be found in liberated cities like Kobane, where local councils and communes are actively cooperating in the reconstruction of a city nearly demolished by ISIS.  Through these, citizen’s organizations direct representation for all social spheres is ensured.  Councils exist to address the specific concerns of groups ranging from women, to youth, to professional organizations like bakers, etc.  This development marks not only a turn towards democracy, but a turn towards a radical form of autonomous democracy – animated by the belief that each and every individual has a right to participate in the political questions that affect their lives.

It is plainly visible that this is not just a cosmetic change in rhetoric.  Such practices are so deeply ingrained that even the YPG and YPJ carry these democratic principles into their military units, including the election of officers and the representation of women in command positions.  In defiance of long held patriarchal views, women in fact have a mandated place in Rojava’s leadership (including required seats in councils and mandatory presidencies for women in civil organizations). In the field of ecology, the PYD are committed to an economy that does not encourage irreparable harm to the environment, and recognize that societies must contend with the awesome duty of protecting our planet at the systemic level.  Even the once absolute demand for an independent nation state has crumbled under their non-hierarchical analysis.  The PYD has stated time and time again that they do not wish to create a nation state, that they do not believe nation states serve the purpose of progressive social movements, and that all ethnicities and national groups are welcome to participate in their revolutionary process. The PYD and its international sister organizations call this amalgamation of political and philosophical thought “Democratic Confederalism.”  In Rojava we can see the potential that this kind of autonomous democracy has for contemporary, 21st century resistance to both a rapacious capitalist modernity and to its authoritarian correctives, be they fascism, theocracy or totalitarian communism.


It is a sad reality that for this same reason the PYD has no true friends in the international community.  Their innovative critique is seen as dangerous and destabilizing to existing regimes when colored by the short-term, realpolitik logic that guides the policy makers waging war in Syria from foreign capitals.  Cynically, at the present moment the U.S., the single actor most likely to sway international opinion and to check Turkey’s aggressive policies, sees more value in Turkey’s military cooperation than it does in new approaches to politics which may offer a way out in a conflict torn region.

But why does Turkey harbor such a deep fear of Democratic Confederalism and the PYD?  Precisely because they recognize that this democratic vision of the future is at risk of spreading and consolidating.  In Bakur (southeastern Turkey), Democratic Confederalism has been developing as both a political concept and practical form of organization pre-dating Rojava.  After decades of repression of the Kurdish people, the banning of the Kurdish language and media, and even the propagation of the idea that Kurds do not exist (derisively calling them “Mountain Turks”), Turkey recognizes that the successful example of radical, autonomous democracy across the border is an incendiary inspiration to the Kurds of Bakur, who share the same political project.  If, as its adherents believe, Democratic Confederalism can appeal across ethnic and regional boundaries, then Rojava’s example becomes a threat not only in the restive southeast of Turkey, but an existential threat to Turkey’s current administration and its misogynistic, nationalist, Islamist agenda.

Turkey’s President Erdoğan has shown that he is willing to resort to dramatically authoritarian measures to suppress dissent.  At this very moment tens of thousands are filling the jails in accordance with his indiscriminate response to the attempted coup, with prisoners ranging from widely respected journalists to apolitical academics.  11,000 teachers have been suspended from their positions for supposed ties to Kurdish movements.  More words of awe than of criticism can be found in the international press.  Clearly, Erdoğan understands how to wield brute force against his enemies.  Turkey cannot, however, so easily suppress the spread of ideas from Kurdistan that defy ethnic and national borders and that have grown to supersede sectarian agendas.  His administration recognizes that if the PYD is allowed to showcase their political reality, the Kurds within Turkey’s own borders may break out of its calculated misrepresentation of their aims (Turkey, for instance, still insists all Kurdish interests represent a form of violent separatism) and reach ever increasing numbers of people across the whole of Turkey.  Myopic views like this produce dangerous unintended consequences. Erdoğan’s, if left unchallenged, may well sink Mesopotamia into even further despair and chaos.

In 2014, as the fighting raged in Kobane, CNN chose the female fighters of the YPJ as the “most inspiring women” of the year.  On September 2nd, 2016, Turkish forces firing across the border at these very same women killed two demonstrators, protesting peacefully against the construction of a massive border wall and the enforced blockade of the very same city.  One of the dead was 17-years-old. No major American news source carried the story.  This is the urgent situation in which we find ourselves.  Can the world move beyond an ugly history of sacrificing just causes on the altar of expediency?  In answer to this question, Rojava demands our solidarity – not out of altruism, but out of a belief in the possibility of an emancipated future.


– Rojava Solidarity NYC

A Rojavan September


In case you missed it, last September we were featured in Strike Magazine! Check out the issue here!

This September we spoke with CrimethInc about the Rojava Revolution in the fiftieth episode of their podcast. The discussion spanned several topics, from commemoration of the American anarchist Jordan MacTaggart, who joined the YPG and was killed during the liberation of Manbij, to the politics of martyrdom within the anarchist movement. It was a great discussion, be sure to check it out!

Also, on September tenth we held a demo at the Turkish consulate in NYC as an immediate and direct response to Turkey’s invasion of N. Syria. As usual and not unlike their savior Erdoğan, the consulate members attempted to bully and intimidate those that showed up to demonstrate against their totalitarian state and its incessant chauvinism. However, all comrades stood their ground and made their voices heard, with chants such as ‘Bijî Rojava!’ and banners that read ‘Turkey out of Syria’. Below is the press release and some pictures from the event.

Rojava Solidarity NYC rallies to defend Kurdish revolutionary democracy, demanding an end to Turkey’s ethnic cleansing and aggression in Syria

Saturday, September 10, at 3pm, outside the Turkish Consulate,

825 3rd Avenue (Entrance on 50th Street), New York, NY 10022

New York, New York – Dozens, perhaps hundreds, of people will rally Saturday at the Turkish consulate to demonstrate their outrage at the latest military aggression in Kurdistan, particularly the deadly Turkish attacks on the democratic revolution in Rojava, a region of Syria.

Last week Turkey began cross border operations in Syria—bombing, shelling, and assaulting the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and People’s Protection Units (YPG/YPJ). In the city of Kobane, two peaceful demonstrators were killed by Turkish forces firing across the border. While Turkey claims to be fighting terrorists in the form of ISIS, their real objective is to strangle the autonomous, pluralistic, and feminist revolution which has been taking place in the predominantly Kurdish area of northern Syria known as Rojava. This revolution stands in stark opposition to the Islamist, authoritarian, and misogynistic tendencies of both Turkey, and the factions in the Syrian War associated with it.


The international community must support Rojava in the face of this aggression, lest the best hope for freedom and democracy in the region will be destroyed. The United States government in particular has been complicit in this blatant betrayal of their allies in Rojava, who have been the only consistent leaders in the fight against ISIS (Daesh).

“We stand with Rojava against Turkish brutality, and demand the immediate withdrawal of Turkish forces and their proxies,” said Rojava Solidarity spokesperson Thomas Gerhardt. “Anyone who values secularism and liberation in the Middle East—particularly the liberation of women—must support the people of Rojava fighting for their lives against the Turkish dictator Erdogan and ISIS, who are working together. People who stand against fundamentalist terror must support the Peoples Protection Units, the YPJ and YPG, who are the freedom fighters of northern Syria. YPG are the greatest enemy of ISIS, not only because of their military commitment, but because their libertarian project is the antidote to the Islamists’ fascistic doctrine.”

On August 28, Turkey began unilaterally building a border wall through Kobane in Syria. Speaking to ARA News, director of the Kobane Health Commission, Hikmat Ahmed, said: “Turkey has been training and funding ISIS terrorists for years, and after its agenda has failed it started to invade our region with tanks and warplanes. At 05:00 AM this morning the Turkish forces bombed the Amarna village and injured innocent civilians who are now being treated in Amal hospital in Kobane. And now building this barrier wall shows the Turkish attempt to separate our people.” [1]


Local leaders across the region are watching the situation closely and see through the Turkish propaganda. “Turkey shamelessly and openly backs IS and al-Qaeda terrorists against Kurdish freedom fighters,” Sadi Pria, a top Iraqi Kurdish official in Irbil, told the BBC on August 23. [2]

When America needed the YPG, Western outlets like CNN wrote avidly about the militia, their bold women fighters, and the non-sectarian society they were helping to build. “Al-Qamishli [in Rojava] is one of the few places in Syria where different groups — Kurds, Arabs, Christians, Turkmen — seem to live together in relative harmony,” CNN reported last year. They, along with US officials, called the YPG “the most effective force on the ground fighting ISIS.” [3]

Today US officials talk out of both sides of their mouth. Last month John Kerry endorsed the Turkish invasion at an appearance with Erdogan, and told YPG to retreat. In the past few days, US leaders have finally denounced some of the Turkish actions—but this resembles the empty criticism they sometimes make of their other partners Saudi Arabia and Israel. If Turkey does not end its occupation of northern Syria immediately, it must be considered both a US and Turkish enterprise. [4]

ISIS won’t be stopped by a foreign ground invasion any more than the Taliban (who still haunt Afghanistan) have. Fundamentalist terror can only be stopped by an indigenous movement that offers an inspiring alternative. The authoritarianism of the Turkish state cannot inspire the people of Syria, but the participatory democracy of Rojava can.


– Rojava Solidarity NYC

[1] “Turkey building barrier wall on border with Kobane, Syrian Kurds protest” ARANews, August 28, 2016 –

[2] “Turkey v. Syria’s Kurds v. Islamic State” BBC Monitoring, August 23, 2016 –

[3] Ben Wedeman, “This is a story about Syria at war, but it’s not a war story”,, January 11, 2016 –

[4] Richard Sisk, “US Will Continue to Back Kurdish Group Opposed by Turkey: Votel” Miltary.com