During the summer of 2012, the second year of the war in Syria, the Syrian regime was driven out of large parts of northern Syria by forces belonging to the Kurdish dominated opposition party PYD (People's Union Party).
At that time, the Syrian regime was weakened by the attacks of Daesh and other insurgent groups known as the Free Syrian Army.
Kurds refer to this part of Syria as Rojava, meaning ”west” in Kurdish. The takeover was peaceful. The regime forces left, and the people of the region could thereby begin to implement their own system of governing their society, based on their own ideology.
These events occurred more or less unnoticed by the western media. It wasn't until September 2014, when Daesh launched an massive attack on the city of Kobane, that pictures of armed women in military clothes started to appear on the front pages of newspapers in Europe and the US.
For months to come, the world could follow the heroic Kurdish resistance against Daesh's attempts to take the city. The siege lasted for almost half a year. Some months into the siege, Daesh managed to push back the resistance forces until most of the city were in their hands, but in January 2015 the YPG/YPJ, assisted by airstrikes from the US-led coalition, were finally able to kick Daesh out of the city and the surrounding settlements.
This could have happened months earlier, and a lot of lives could have been saved, if it wasn't for the Turkish blockade of Rojava. During this calculated response by Turkey, initiated by it's pro-Islamist government, the Turks wouldn't allow passage of humanitarian aid or voluntary fighters into Kobane from Turkey.
With Daesh kicked out of the area, the YPG/YPJ could begin to expand the Kurdish controlled territory. Under the name SDF (Syrian Democratic Forces), the YPG/YPJ together with Assyrian, Syriac, Turkmen and Arab allies were able to seize the territories around Manbij, thus cutting of the so called Jarablus corridor, which had been a supply route between Daesh and Turkey since the beginning of the war.
This caused a Turkish military intervention in Rojava late summer 2016. Turkish troops assisted by jihadist groups crossed the border, and seized Jarablus and its surrounding settlements.
According to numerous report, there was no clashes between Daesh and the Turkish army. When the Turkish army entered Jarablus, Daesh was already gone. The same pattern of instant defeat and surrender was repeated in other villages and settlements formerly under Daesh control. A strange response and a paradoxical contradiction to their stubborn fighting over every street and block of other held areas when fighting the Kurdish militias and other ground forces.
Instead of fighting Daesh the Turks focused on attacking Kurdish settlements, or Arab settlements controlled by the SDF. These events caused the US to threaten to withdraw their support for the Turkish attack. The Turkish army attacking SDF controlled territory instead of Daesh forces caused strong reaction by the international community condemning the Turkish intervention and the way it was conducting itself.
In November 2016, the SDF began the “Wrath Of Euphrates” offensive. 30 000 soldiers under the lead of commander Rojda Felat are marching towards Daesh's so called capital, Al-Raqqa. At the time of writing, the operation is successful.
The political system of Rojava:
Rojava consists of three cantons; Afrin, Jazeera and Kobane. Afrin is separated from Jazeera and Kobane by the turkish/Daesh controlled Jarablus corridor.
The YPG (People's Protection Units), is the main armed service of Rojava. It was funded back in 2004. YPJ, also known as the Women's Defense Units, is the YPG's female brigade, which was set up in 2012.
A local police force, Asayish, was created soon after the regime as kicked out of Rojava. An estimated 25% of Asayish members are women, and the Asayish organizations of the cantons are co-led by a woman and a man.
The political system of Rojava is based on Democratic Confederalism, an ideology adopted by PKK-leader Abdullah Öcalan after his abandonment of marxist-leninism.
Democratic Confederalism is focused on direct democracy, social ecology and anarchist feminism. It's open towards other political groups and factions. It is flexible, multi-cultural, anti-monopolistic, secular and consensus-orientated.
A key component of the direct democracy model being enacted in Rojava is co-leadership. Every major position in both civil and military institutions are led by a man and a woman. This is to ensure gender balance in power and decision-making, as well as a general level of accountability for the position as it requires two people to reach agreement on decisions made.
A 40% gender quota required of all councils in order for a vote to take place.
The Rojava Cantons are governed through a combination of district and civil councils. District councils consist of 300 members as well as two elected co-presidents- one man and one woman.
Religious freedom, protection of religious minorities and protection of ethnic minorities are emphasized in the Rojava constitution. For the first time in Syrian history, Kurds and Assyrians are now having education in their own languages.
The criminal justice is undergoing significant reforms, moving away from a punitive approach under the Assad government to one based on the principles of restorative justice. Reconciliation Committees have replaced the Syrian government court system in several cities. Committees are representative of the ethnic diversity in their respective area.
In the areas of Syria still under control of the Assad government, women face extreme forms of repression, violence and discrimination. Sexual assault and domestic violence occur at very high rates, with little protection under the law or through the courts. Conservative social norms restricts women's movement and participation in public life.
In Rojava, Jineology (the science of women), is central to the social revolution. Much of the focus of the revolution has been addressing the extreme levels of violence which women in the area have endured, as well as increasing women leadership in all political institutions. All YPG and YPJ fighters and Asayish forces study Jineology as part of their training and is also taught in community centers.
In every town and village under YPG control, a women's house is established. These are community centers run by women, providing services to survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and other forms of harm. These services include counseling, family mediation, legal support, and coordinating safe houses for women and children. Classes on economic independence and social empowerment programs are also held at women's houses.
Efforts are also being made to reduce cases of underage marriage, polygamy and honor killings both socially as well as through legislation forbidding these practices.
For the first time in Syrian history, civil marriage is being allowed and promoted. This is a significant move towards increased tolerance between people of different religious backgrounds.
Why should you support Rojava?
Compared to the surrounding countries and regions, Rojava is unique in its efforts to implement direct democracy, secularism and gender equality. The positive approach to cultural, ethnic and linguistic diversity is also a great contrast to the ethnic conflicts and despotic oppression that has plagued the middle east up until now.
With the right support, Rojava could become a role model for the rest of the middle east. However, few governments are willing to sacrifice their relations with Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Iran and other big players in the region. It's therefor up to us people who believe in democracy and human rights to put pressure on politicians and governments to choose human rights and democracy before dirty money from dirty dictatorships.