For anyone who cares about the Kurdish struggle, how to raise awareness of what is happening must be a central concern.
Rojava Information Centre has been able to make an important contribution to increasing the spread of Kurdish news. In this Podcast Matt Broomfield, one of its co-founders, talks to Sarah Glynn about how it works, and the difficulties involved.
He explains that the Information Centre acts as a press agency and a hub, facilitating the flow of information from the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria into the mainstream mass media. Its primary function is not to publish its own articles – though they do also produce background reports on key issues – but to ensure that mainstream media journalists have access to information and local sources for their stories, and are attracted to use this and to report on the region’s news. Key to the success of the Centre’s work, is professionalism and objectivity. They need to be, and be seen to be, reliable and honest.
As a result, they have been able to get well-sourced stories into a wide range of media, from the BBC to Fox News. Mainstream reporting, as Broomfield explains, helps to build the wider support needed for the resistance to survive and for the Autonomous Administration to gain recognition. Through these mainstream links, the Information Centre is able to make people aware of facts on the ground, while also discussing more revolutionary aspects with leftist journalists.
Broomfield stresses the importance of not hiding criticism of the Autonomous Administration where this is relevant, but also of setting this in the context of the huge difficulties that they are under. In fact, he observes that one of the most inspiring moments of his time in the region was seeing local politicians open themselves up to criticism as they discussed problems in Raqqa with local women and local sheikhs, and then being able to report on this. He also talks about the general freedom of the press in North and East Syria, and the often-criticized lapses from this, and the hope that he gets from the fact that people are ready to engage in serous and critical conversations.
The Rojava Information Centre, and Kurdish media more generally, has to contend with Turkey’s huge PR machine, and also with Turkey’s political maneuverings to hide the truth of what is happening. At Turkey’s request, when Broomfield went on holiday to Greece last year, he was held for two months in a refugee detention center and then given a ten-year ban on travel in the Schengen Area. He explains that, despite him having done nothing illegal, there was no opportunity to appeal. And he comments that, although there is now a general good will towards the Kurds, state actors will still stand together, and there are a lot of interests that don’t want to see success for an alternative system such as that in North and East Syria.
As well as his journalism, Matt Broomfield is raising awareness of the Kurdish struggle through poetry. A book of poems written during his time in Rojava will be published in July.