Amazing developments, not least, as these institutions have been established in such a relatively short period of time and in the midst of a destructive war with military and political attacks coming from Turkey and the Syrian regime.
Since the beginning of the Rojava Revolution in 2012, academics around the globe have been following with excitement and inspiration the developments in Rojava, the north and east region of Syria, especially regarding knowledge production and progressive policies of radical democracy, feminism and progressive ecological policies, notable among these academics are names such as Noam Chomsky, David Graeber (sadly deceased), Slavoj Zižek and many others.
One person who knows more than most about how the universities in North and East Syria have developed, and the challenges they face is Kurdish academic Sardar Saadi.
Sardar Saadi is an awardee of the post-doctoral fellowship program of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. He holds his postdoctoral fellowship tenure between 2020 and 2022 at the Rural Sociology Group of the Department of Social Sciences at Wageningen University in Holland. He recently graduated from his doctoral program in Sociocultural Anthropology at the University of Toronto. His PhD research examines the urban dynamics of the Kurdish struggle for self-determination in Diyarbakir, SE Turkey (NW Kurdistan). He has been published in many different journals and online publications, and he has been interviewed by Canadian, Kurdish and International media.
Recently, he has taken up the position of a directorship at the newly established Rojava Institute of Social Sciences at the University of Rojava.
Sardar Saadi is also a founding member of the recently established Centre for Solidarity and Cooperation with Universities of North and East Syria (CSCUNES) which was founded by a constitutive assembly of scholars from diverse backgrounds across the globe on the 24 October 2021. Based in Paris, France, this centre aims to support the 4 universities of Rojava and the north and east region of Syria for their advancement of educational and research programmes.
Scholars from across the globe have offered their support for these universities, and memorandums of agreement between these universities and global academic institutions have been signed. Significant collaborations have been developed.
As an outcome of these collaborations, the Institute of Social Sciences at the University of Rojava was established of which Sardar Saadi is a director.
Saadi gave a summary of how the universities of Rojava evolved amidst a defensive war in North and East Syria, first against ISIS and then Turkey and how he became involved with the universities of Rojava and gave some details about the universities themselves.
The University of Rojava was established in 2016 based in Qamishli (with four campuses including one in Hasakah), the University of Kobani established in 2017, and the University of Al-Sharq, Raqqa established in Oct 2021. There is also a university in Afrin but is at the moment occupied by Turkish forces.
The Centre for Solidarity and Cooperation with Universities of North and East Syria and the Gender and sexuality studies laboratory, of the Paris 8 University recently jointly organised a conference entitled Rethinking University through the Rojava Revolution on the 17 March and Saadi spoke a little about this conference. https://cscunes.com/
He explained how the success of the universities has created a widespread desire for solidarity and joint works. However, he was also keen to stress that the capacity of those involved in the solidarity works is lacking and needs time to catch up with the many requests for joint projects received that involve teaching and scientific research initiatives, student exchanges and solidarity partnerships with the universities of Rojava.
The work of CSCUNES aims to:
1. Introduce the universities of North and East Syria, to the academic and research institutions in France, Europe, and around the world.
2. Recruit staff for scientific research and teaching in these universities.
3. Develop research and teaching collaborations with academic institutions in France, Europe and around the world.
4. Facilitate knowledge and student exchange programs with other universities and institutions in France, Europe, and around the world.
5. Organise academic activities (such as panels, talks, seminars, exhibitions, and conferences) for knowledge exchange.
6. Assist the universities with their digital media platforms.
7. Assist the universities with the translation and interpretation projects and tasks.
8. Provide educational and infrastructural resources to the universities (such as academic books, subscriptions to academic platforms, laptops, and other research and educational materials).
Sardar Saadi pointed to the website of The Centre for Solidarity and Cooperation with Universities of North and East Syria for anybody who would like to take part in the exciting work of helping to build solidarity with the universities of North and East Syria.
“One simple email can begin our work.” He said.
Sardar Saadi is also a Podcaster and his podcast can be found at The Kurdish Edition.
Please listen to the full Podcast for more.