On the occasion of the World Day of Peace, I want, as someone who has not lost his hope for peace, to address this letter to you. The purpose of this letter is not to describe to you the tragic events that have occurred in Syria over the past three years. However, I hereby appeal to you to take responsibility to make an end to this tragedy: I also want to tell you how we are trying to live up to our responsibilities.
In March 2011, the population of Syria for the first time went to the streets to express their legitimate demands concerning the Assad regime, and we have attempted to revolt against a system that has for decades suppressed and tormented our population. We have driven the regime forces from the Kurdish majority settlement areas in the north of the country and are determined, as an ethnic group, including the young people, the women and the men from Rojava, to shape our future ourselves from now on. Both the regime and various Islamic groups have objections to our decision – because they started attacking us. Against these attacks, we have made use of our legitimate right to self-defence. There was no other choice open to us.
In the last two years, initially Islamists of the Al-Nusra front, and later the ISIS (or the IS) have taken the leading role in the fight against us. We have not only had to deal with Islamists from Syria or Iraq, but with insurgents who have come, and continue to come, not only from regions and countries such as Chechnya and Egypt, but also from Europe or even Australia. They are organised in many countries and often use Turkey as a transit country. We have had to counter the attacks of these people and we have needed, and still need, to defend ourselves.
But for the people of Rojava, one thing is certain, namely that nothing will be as it was before the outbreak of the civil war. But what will the situation be then? To find answers to these questions, we have developed solutions and initiated related projects. And this right to self-determination is to us, the population of Rojava, paramount.
We have always said that we are in a revolutionary phase. Our understanding of revolution, however, is not to do with dividing people and groups, but concerns bringing them together. The result of this understanding is that the revolution has resulted in Rojava with the building of a project of Democratic Autonomy; a project in which the Syriacs, Armenians, Arabs, Turkmen and Kurds from Rojava are all involved and in which they participate equally. But this Democratic Autonomy is also a project, which sees itself as part of a future democratic and pluralist Syria. The hope for a democratic Syria, for which the people took to the streets at the beginning of the Syrian revolution – is today, in northern Syria, in Rojava, an issue that is fully alive.
The structure of the Democratic Autonomy is not, as it is often portrayed in the media, the result of a “going alone” of the PYD. More than 50 parties and organisations involving the Syriacs, Armenians, Arabs, Turkmens and Kurds have come into this system and participate in it on a daily basis. In January 2014, those supporting Democratic Autonomy have decided (with the consent of the population) on the implementation of this model of society in the three cantons of Afrin, Kobanê and Cizîrê and they have adopted the social contract.
Rojava currently seems the last glimmer of hope for the Syrian revolution.. While the rest of the country is dominated by war and violence, resulting in hundreds of thousands of people being forced to flee from their homes, in Rojava at least many of these suffering people from the rest of Syria, are being provided with a safe haven. This is also a result of our conception of revolution. What happens in Rojava, is not a “national revolution”, it is the expression of the constant insistence on the principle of the brotherhood of nations, quite contrary to the philosophy of all of the ethnically and religiously fuelled conflicts in the region.
But I also have to say that we have been abandoned by the international community. We have received neither the necessary political support nor sufficient humanitarian aid.
We currently find ourselves confronted with an even greater flow of refugees into Rojava. For hundreds of thousands of Kurds from Sengal, Turkmens from Tal Afar and Syriacs from Karakos have had to leave their homes in northern Iraq. Also, they were, and are in fact still, exposed to the attacks of the inhuman “Islamic State” organisation. Since these groups had no self-defence units, they had, and have, little chance to oppose their attackers. So they had (and have) no choice but to flee or to expose themselves to the danger of being massacred.
Had the fighters of the YPG and YPJ responsible for the defense of Rojava for two years, not hurried over the Iraqi border into Sengal, possibly as well as thousands of Turkomans and Syriacs, 200,000 Yezidi Kurds from the city would have not survived the advance of the IS.
They only managed this by fleeing on foot over the Sengal mountains so as to get away from the Islamists.
The YPG and YPJ succeeded in rescuing these people, despite dozens of losses in their own ranks, by providing a flight corridor over the mountains and down again so as to bring tens of thousands of them to safety in Rojava.
Although Rojava looks on the map barely larger than a small, inconspicuous spot, the social system that we are putting together in this area currently represents the other face of this region. This little spot on the map has again played in recent days a vital role in that tens of thousands of people have been provided with a refuge and offered protection from inhuman organisations such as the IS.
And we are convinced that with our system we not only give ourselves protection and shelter but also have much to offer the hundreds of thousands who have fled to Rojava – if it were not for this war, if the inhuman and barbaric attacks by the IS were halted and the embargo against Rojava were swept away. But we are currently exposed to a life and death situation. Not a day passes without war, without reports of new deaths, of flight and “ethnic cleansing”.
We call upon the world public to finally completely break down the wall of silence regarding this. For as long as there is silence outside Syria and Iraq, then the murdering and killing within the two countries will steadily increase. While possible aid is being debated in the UN, in the EU and elsewhere, murderous groups of the IS are advancing and destroying the lives of many more people and families. While you remain silent, more chapters of a tragedy are being written, in which the victims are the peoples of the Near and Middle East.
For us it is has long been far too much, that in New York, Geneva, Brussels, London, Berlin, Paris and Istanbul, discussions do not result in more than a show of apparent sympathy for the suffering of the people. If you are in fact genuinely concerned about the sufferings of the people, then we urge you to act. Together, let us help the people who are affected by flight and expulsion. To limit the aid alone to Iraq, stopping at the gates of Rojava, would be fatal. These artificial boundaries have long lost any significance in the region..
And I have reported from Rojava, despite all attacks, there the aspiration for a democratic Syria is still very much alive, as it tries with its very limited resources to provide for tens of thousands of people in need of protection and shelter. The German Bundestag member Jan van Aken, who visited the region early 2014, stated that Rojava provided a glimmer of hope in the Middle East. We share the opinion of Mr. van Aken and are fully convinced that it is high time that the international community recognises the autonomy of Democratic Rojava.
On behalf of the people who live in the cantons of Rojava
Co-chairman of the PYD
Mohamed Saleh Muslim