Rojava: Kurdish revolution in Syria

Pin It

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 237 February/March 2014

Rojava is the Western (Syrian) part of Kurdistan with a population of three million. Despite its relatively small size in terms of area and population, Rojava is today under attack by the reactionary and colonial forces in the Middle East. Embargoes are imposed and neighbouring countries try to isolate Rojava by closing borders. Puppet gangs are carrying out massacres.

Between 1920 and 1946, when Syria was occupied by France, the national rights of the Kurds were not recognised. Nothing changed after the withdrawal of the French in 1946. The new Syrian government denied the Kurdish people their rights and they were considered as ‘foreigners living in the region’, without rights to education, property and movement.

In 1963, the Ba’ath Party took the control of the country by a coup d’état and declared Syria an ‘Arab country’. Kurds were considered to be migrants from Turkey and Kurdish identity was banned. Original Kurdish names of villages and cities were changed. Kurds were forced to live as refugees in their own land. However, these Kurds have now taken matters into their own hands.

The first uprising and the revolution

The Kurds in Rojava first rose up in March 2004 but they were brutally suppressed. Despite the defeat, the Kurds continued to organise. There were about 16 Kurdish political organisations in Syria. Many members of these organisations were imprisoned by the Ba’ath regime and some members were forced into exile.

In the current civil war in Syria, which was initiated with the support of the imperialist powers and reactionary regional forces, the Kurds have neither sided with the Ba’ath government nor with the imperialists. They have developed their movement as the alternative to both: the democratic revolutionary path.

The first organisational work to seize power began in Derik. It then spread to other Kurdish cities. Three months before Kurdish people took control of the state institutions in their area, the agricultural lands in Kobane, which were seized by the Syrian state many years ago, were recaptured by the people. This achievement raised the morale of the people and they gained strength. On 19 July 2012, the people in Kobane took control of the Syrian state’s central tobacco sale facility, located just outside the city. The people of Kobane resisted to the death against the intervention of the state security forces. After that day, the armed forces formed by the people – the People’s Protection Units (Yekineyen Parastina Gel (YPG)) – took over all the state institutions and control of the city’s borders.

The Syrian government could not do much to prevent the Kurdish people’s moves as it was engaged in civil war against forces like Jabhat Al Nusra and the Free Syrian Army.

Following the uprising in Kobane the YPG forces, under the leadership of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and the Rojavan Movement of Democratic Society (TEV-DEM), liberated nine cities, dozens of towns and many villages, and reached the Derik district. The status of autonomy was announced and the Kurdish leadership, with the support of the people, started the social construction process. Together with other peoples of the region like Arabs, Yazidis and Assyrians, who also fled the atrocities in other parts of Syria, the Kurdish forces built defence systems.

TEV-DEM consists of PYD, the women’s movement Yekitiya Star, several youth and student movements, cultural institutions, shopkeepers’ associations and representatives of all other sections of society. Other than Kurds, there are also Arabs, Assyrians, Keldanis, Armenians and Christians represented in TEV-DEM and YPG.

The model of administration in Rojava

Rojava consists of three main regions: Cizire, Kobane and Efrin. There are working committees affiliated to the Supreme Kurdish Council, governing the autonomous region. The economy, politics, culture and social life are self-governed by the people. The people in Rojava have developed a structure, which could be an example for the whole of the Middle East: a model of administration from below, wherein people actively participate.  

The YPG is the biggest military force in the region. Women constitute more than half of the YPG forces. Security is provided by an armed force formed by the people themselves. The units responsible for security and traffic in cities are formed outside of the YPG. They are accountable to the People’s Assemblies and academies have been built for their education.

In all the cities of Rojava, there are councils called ‘Mala Gel’; their members are elected. Mala Gel is a sort of local council and most of its activities are directed by People’s Assemblies, which are formed within the structure of Mala Gels and local problems are solved through these Assemblies.

Trade unions and occupational bodies represent another area in the process of institutionalisation in Rojava. The Union of Tailors, the Union of Electricians and the Union of Health Workers are some of the organisations. The importance of unions in the process of democratisation is emphasised in Rojava.

Rojava revolution is the revolution of oppressed peoples

The Rojava Revolution, led by Kurds and supported by Assyrians, many Arab socialists and democrats, Muslims and Christians, Sunnis and Alawites is the revolution of all oppressed classes and peoples.

All other uprisings, resisting dictatorial governments in the Middle East, so far have become open to imperialist interventions because they lacked organisation, a project for the future and self-belief. But the Rojavan revolution has everything that was missing in the other uprisings. Today, Rojava is organised as a state of the oppressed peoples. It is free and not under the control of any regional or imperialist power. All land and properties in Rojava belong to the people and not to individuals. What is being produced is being shared according to everyone’s labour and needs.

60% of Syrian oil is in Rojava. This is why the western imperialists and reactionary forces treat the PYD with one hand as the representative body they would negotiate with in the future. But with the other hand, they try to destroy it.

Massacres, bombings, kidnapping of women and children, rape, plunder and destruction carried out by Jabhat Al Nusra and Free Syrian Army forces continue in Rojava. Sabotage, border closure, embargoes and attempts to divide the Kurds internally are the other type of attacks. Turkey, Syria and Iraqi Kurdistan have imposed a blockade on Rojava. Turkey and Iraqi Kurdistan prevented the passage of humanitarian aid. Under pressure from the people in Iraqi Kurdistan the embargo has been relaxed by the Barzani-led establishment. The forces against the Rojavan revolution are trying to force the people in Rojava to their knees in order to push them into a collaborationist position. The attacks are also intended to prevent international solidarity and to isolate Rojava.

Rojava revolution is a women’s revolution!

Women play an active and crucial part in Rojava and they are involved both in the armed forces and social organisations. The Rojavan revolution is the organised action of women for freedom. Before the revolution the women were oppressed both by the Ba’ath regime and the feudal conditions dominating in the region. Now there are women’s academies and centres everywhere, where the next generation of women cadres and leaders are being educated. The People’s Assemblies also have women’s assemblies within their structure. Women’s Security Units protect women in cities. When women have judicial problems or criminal issues to report, they first go to these units. The number of women at work is high compared with other regions of Kurdistan. The number of women in state institutions is rapidly increasing.

These developments in Rojava scare the regional dictatorships and reactionary forces as well as the imperialist countries. For the people of Rojava have given hope to all the people in the Middle East. The possibility of the Rojavan revolution spreading terrifies the rulers. The Kurdish ruling classes are also frightened because the revolution also threatens their historical rule. That is why Barzani’s Kurdish Regional Government (in northern Iraq) has such enmity for Rojava.

International solidarity

The Kurdish struggle in Rojava is a struggle for all the Kurds in the region. Rojava is the fire of a nation longing for democracy. It is the women resisting slavery and defending their freedom. It is the struggle of workers and labourers for a life in dignity. And that is why solidarity with Rojava is a duty of all revolutionary and progressive people around the world. The countries imposing the blockade on Rojava, supporting the terrorist gangs and the imperialist countries which are covertly involved in attacks on Rojava, have to be opposed.

Serkan Yilmaz

Atilim (socialist weekly newspaper in Turkey)


The RCG will be holding a public meeting about the revolution in Rojava and imperialism in Syria, in association with the MLKP. Imperialism out of the Middle East: Syria, Rojava and Kurdish Revolution - Friday 28th February, 19:30 at the Gik Der centre, 3 Victorian Grove, N16 8EN.

Click the link or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more details.