by Mark Campbell
Turkey has intensified its military attacks on North and East Syria. Now, there are, on an almost daily basis, artillery bombardments and drone strikes that frequently hit civilians causing death, chaos and material destruction.
At other times, Turkish drone strikes carry out what are essentially targeted extra judicial executions against individual members of the Syrian Defence Forces, or SDF, the same force that successfully militarily defeated ISIS/Daesh and continues to fight against the ongoing and re-emerging ISIS threat, alongside the US-led international coalition forces.
After the heady days of the Rojava Revolution and the liberation enjoyed by the Kurdish people, it’s all too easy to forget that before the 2011 Arab Spring and the beginning of the Rojava Revolution, in Syria, Kurds were heavily discriminated against by the Assad regime, with many activists locked away in the darkest dungeons of Assad’s torture chambers. Since the establishment of the modern state of Syria, after the Sykes Picot agreement of 1916, (Mark Sykes being a British diplomatic adviser) the Syrian government did not even recognise the existence of the Kurds. Their culture and language were heavily suppressed. In 1962, 120,000 Kurds in Syria were even stripped of their citizenship, leaving them stateless.
After the Arab Spring, the Kurds took their chance to rise up, taking control of their areas and began an extraordinary revolutionary experiment in radical democracy, placing women’s liberation, communalism and progressive ecological policies at the forefront of their revolution. Inclusive and democratic, what is now called the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria is jointly run by representatives of all religious and ethnic identities in the region and women’s representation is equal to men’s.
It is an ideological, progressive revolution that has inspired thousands of people around the world to travel to North and East Syria to take part. Just as progressive socialists and anarchists joined the Spanish civil war to fight fascism, so too have internationalists taken part in the Rojava Revolution. Hundreds have even given their lives for the cause.
This revolutionary model of radical grassroots democracy is based on the ideas of Kurdish imprisoned leader, Abdullah Öcalan, and has inspired millions of people around the world. It built a new type of egalitarian society, while at the same time fighting all kinds of threats such as ISIS, and more recently, the Turkish state.
One person who was inspired to travel to Rojava to find out for himself about this extraordinary revolution is Carne Ross.
Carne Ross is an ex-British diplomat who worked in the British Foreign Office for 15 years which included responsibilities for the Middle East, who became increasingly disillusioned by the way in which the British government acted solely for the interests of the UK. He saw that in British foreign policy, life and death decisions are made without regard for the interests of the people who actually live in the countries of concern, and without their involvement and participation.
The Iraq War was the final straw for Carne Ross and he resigned with deep misgivings at the way in which the war was started based on lies and ‘dodgy dossiers’ about weapons of mass destruction supposedly held by Saddam Hussain and the catastrophic effect that it had on the people of Iraq and the wider Middle East who still suffer the consequences to this day.
Carne Ross then established a non-governmental organisation called the Independent Diplomat, which offers diplomatic services and advice to countries and people who are excluded from the diplomatic table.
From its own website: Independent Diplomat is rewriting the rules of diplomacy and revolutionising the system and in doing so ensuring that those with most at stake get a seat at the table.
Carne made a film about his creeping disillusionment with the foreign policy of the UK government and indeed the whole ‘capitalist’ system of governance. The film is called “The Accidental Anarchist” and follows his journey of disillusionment and explores different historical and contemporary models of Anarchism which he was increasingly seeing as a better model for governance.
Carne concluded the film by looking at the system of Democratic Confederalism as it was being rolled out in North and East Syria and was deeply touched and impressed by what he witnessed with his own eyes.
When he travelled to Rojava in 2017 he was profoundly moved by the level of direct and communal democracy he witnessed when he was there, and although no longer with the NGO Independent Diplomat, he continues to take a keen interest in developments in North and East Syria.
Carne gave a brief introduction of his journey from a seasoned and enthusiastic UK diplomat of 15 years to his disillusionment with UK foreign policy and spoke of the inspiration he got from the Rojava Revolution in North and East Syria and his conversion to anarchism.
He also commented on recent developments in North and East Syria and some of the diplomatic complexities involved with the conflict and the wider Kurdish question in the Middle East.
Please listen to the podcast for the whole interview.
Link to watch The Accidental Anarchist which I highly recommend.