Neither the regime, nor ‘opposition figures’ who do not live in Syria, are able to produce a solution to the civil war, in which around 150,000 people have died and millions have been displaced. The Geneva II conference which took place in the Swiss city of Montreux last month ended without agreement. Whereas in Rojava the Kurds, Arabs, Assyrians, Armenians, Chechens and Circassians are showing the way to a resolution by declaring Democratic Autonomy.
ANF asked politicians and academics in Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain and Switzerland who are following the Kurdish question and the Democratic Autonomy project in Rojava against the foreign-backed opposition in Syria and the Assad regime for their views.
Sociologist Dr. Joost Jongerden from the Wageningen University in the Netherlands:
Recently Kurdish political parties and civil society organisations in Rojava declared ‘Democratic Autonomy’. Democratic Autonomy means people coming together and directly creating the necessary conditions for life. Another facet of democratic autonomy is democratic confederalism, which may be characterised as ‘self-determination from below’. In my opinion, the ideas behind democratic autonomy and democratic confederalism are important for a variety of reasons. First and foremost, is the fact that people have the priority, not the state. In a way like old socialism; joint decision-making and common ownership reshape the development of a stateless society.
Additionally, Democratic Autonomy and Democratic Confederalism also oppose assimilation policies based on ethnicity, culture or religion, as well as giving people the right to take decisions on important subjects. In this way they appear to be a response that offers hope against ethnic and sectarian disintegration and conflict. This is what is being projected from the canton system proposed for Rojava. Of course, democratic autonomy is not something that is merely declared, it needs to be put into practice. This is a learning process, even if this is in an environment where there is a hostile war. It is therefore a difficult task, that is important for everyone who believes a different world is possible, not just the people of Rojava.
Dr. Jürg Meyer, a member of the Basel canton in Switzerland:
Here in Switzerland we are following news regarding Syria in shock, as there is so much pain being suffered by everyone in the country. However, the fact self-government is being established in autonomous Kurdish cantons makes me hopeful. It is important that the different ethnic and faith communities in the cantons peacefully coexist. Another important factor is the removal of feudal and patriarchal social structures.
Due to globalisation many different cultures live in the same environment. Therefore, a culture of equality and mediation is necessary in all political strata. Rules that are valid for all human kind need to be constantly developed through dialogue. It is unacceptable for rules, whether in the Bible or the Koran, to be turned into unquestionable laws that are then imposed in the name of any holy book. This is an important obligation of our respect for all humankind which is expressed in all religions.
German Left Party MEP Jürgen Klute:
In recent years what the Kurds have accomplished in Syria under harsh conditions deserves great respect. Instead of supporting the democratic opposition in Syria, the West, which has not shown any interest in the democratisation of Syria during recent years, has chosen to support violent efforts at regime change. Ignoring all speculation the Kurds have taken their destiny into their own hands. The autonomy project of the Kurds in Rojava is a great opportunity for the democratisation of Syria, as democracy cannot survive under the monopoly of a central government. Democracy can only thrive in the reconciliation of different social groups pursuing common interests.
In the West, and particularly in the European Union, appeals must be made for the Kurds to play a key role in the construction of a new Syria. In my opinion Rojava is a modern and democratic stem cell in the Middle East and is so precious that it is impossible not to help it and recognise it.
German Federal Parliament Left Party MP and Member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Andrej Hunko:
In Syria in an environment where there is a military rationale, the establishing of self-government in a region where the Kurds are in the majority is a significant experiment that contributes to the search for a peaceful solution in the country. It is necessary to salute in particular the emphasis on structures with a democratic character in these regions. Only in this way can respect be shown to the interests of different communities and armed conflict be marginalised. This democratic initiative for a peaceful and democratic solution in Syria despite the increasingly violent conflict there offers hope.
Member of the Catalonia Regional Parliament Joaquim Arrufat Ibáñez:
While observing the terrible war in Syria in Catalonia we are also following the self-government developed by the Kurds in Rojava. The Kurds are waging a defensive struggle for the freedom and security of their regions. We are delighted that the Kurds declared democratic autonomy and have a social agreement. The fact that Kurdish education has been launched, the setting up of people’s assemblies, women’s participation in political and social activities and women taking part in self-defence are undoubted successes for freedom. In order to see this and to have an exchange of views we are going to Rojava in a delegation at Newroz.
Lawyer Jonan Lekue on behalf of the international representation of the Basque Left Party Sortu:
I salute the establishment of self-government in Rojava on behalf of the Basque Left Party Sortu. The Kurdish political movement is showing the way to all of us for a democracy based on the recognition of the civil, political, social and cultural rights of all the communities in the region. It is a major step towards a peaceful resolution of the conflict in Syria. It is also a tremendous example of the peaceful coexistence of different religions, cultures and peoples. But the most striking point of this new formation is the participation of and leading role played by women.
This development is a beacon of hope for the Middle East. We therefore at Sortu condemn the countries, governments and groups that are implementing an embargo against Rojava. And we call for representatives of Rojava to be included in any talks, efforts at dialogue and negotiations regarding the future of the Middle East.
Antonello Pabis, the president of the Association Against Marginalisation and Restriction in Sardinia:
The social agreement constituted and accepted in Rojava is a serious experiment for the resolution of problems. The West evaluates the Middle East superficially as a region of reaction and feudality without being aware of its rich reality. In truth it is a region where different cultures live side by side. The content and decisions of the Social agreement demolish the prejudicial view of the West. The 40% gender quota in article 87 that covers all institutions documents this democratic participation. I remember the experiment in my country, that is, Italy. Although there were legally established safeguards democratic unity in the regions did not happen. But the development of the agreement in Rojava on the principle of the fraternity and peaceful coexistence of different religious communities and peoples is a noteworthy example.
It is also very important that the agreement adheres to international conventions and is open to development. Its approach to cultural rights and human rights leaves many well known countries behind. In its prohibition of child marriage and its emphasis on the rights of children and its stance on freedom of expression and freedom of religion it constitutes an example. Finally, its separation of the powers of legislature, executive and judiciary and its encouragement of participatory democracy is an indication of progressive democratic culture.
Economist, social researcher and writer Thomas Benedikter from Bolzano in the South Tyrol region of Italy:
Today the PYD has unilaterally declared three autonomous regions. It is important for the Kurds to construct genuine democratic institutions and recognise the human, civil, political and cultural rights of minorities. The regime forces and opposition groups receive support from international forces. This support is not limited to military backing. Forces such as the USA and Russia are actively supporting the two sides in the international arena, whereas the Kurds, Christians and others do not receive this support. The influence of regional forces such as Turkey and Iran means the situation of these groups in the conflict is ignored. If the Syrian opposition groups and the Assad regime do not accept these demands for rights the Kurds should prepare themselves for political and military defence and demand recognition from the international community for their right to self government. The Kurds should raise their voices for their right to self-determination.