The History and Context of the Rojava Revolution
In Northern Syria, 2.5 million people are living in a stateless, feminist, religiously tolerant, anti-capitalist society of their own creation. They call their territory Rojava, and they defend it fiercely. They’re at war with the extremist group ISIS, and they’re doing better than anyone in the world expected — least of all the Western powers who seek to treat them as pawns.It’s a complicated situation, but we in the rest of the world have much to learn from the Rojava revolution. To that end, we offer this long-form introduction to the history and the present struggle of the Kurdish people.
Long live the Rojava revolution!
Rojava: Facts at a Glance
Geography: Rojava lies in the northern part of Syria and the western part of Kurdistan.The area stretches over 1,437 square miles (making it a bit bigger than Rhode Island), and it is home to a total of 380 cities, towns, and villages.
Population: At the start of the Syrian civil war, Rojava was home to nearly 3.5 million people. Now, it is home to a little over 2.5 million (roughly twice the population of Rhode Island). Nearly a million people have fled, many to refugee camps in Turkey and Iraq. The most populous city in Rojava is Qamişlo (Cizîrê Canton), with more than 400,000 people.
Economics: Rojava’s major economic resource is oil. The region produces about 40,000 barrels of crude oil a day. All Syrian refineries were located in the south of the country, so Rojava has had to build its own DIY refinery. Before the war there were some industries, namely concrete production sites and metal foundries, but the production from these industries has been disrupted by the civil war. Rojava is considered the breadbasket of Syria, cradled where it is between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. The region’s major agricultural products are sheep, grain, and cotton. It was the only agricultural region in Syria to have a thriving export business prior to the war and the resulting embargo.
Military: The main fighting forces of Rojava are volunteer militias (namely the YPG and YPJ). The YPG/YPJ have a combined forced of 40,000 lightly-armed fighters. Most of the weapons are light firearms combined with Russian-made lightweight rocket launchers. They have also repurposed about 40 garbage trucks and other heavy trucks into armored personnel carriers. They have no aircraft.
Political Structure: Rojava is made up of three autonomous but confederated “cantons.” These cantons are not geographically contiguous. The decisionmaking structure is composed of various councils. The average size of neighborhood councils is 30-150 families. A city district / village council is made up of 5-17 neighborhood councils (along with worker, non-profit, and religious councils). City district councils elect two representatives to the city council (one man and one woman). They also elect security and YPG/YPJ militias.
Read more at: The Middle East and Beyond