In December 2017 I had the chance to be one of the few internationalists to be sent to Afrin to work in a society that has been under embargo for more than 6 years
In December 2017 I had the chance to be one of the few internationalists to be sent to Afrin to work in society, a society that has been under embargo for more than 6 years, surrounded by the reactionary Syrian Arab Army, the fascist Turkish Armed Forces and a wide constellation of islamist factions. When I arrived in Afrin across the Sherawa mountains, I expected to meet a demoralized and frightened population that had been living for half a decade under continuous threats of an invasion; but the reality was pretty different, I can say after a year spent in Rojava and Northern Syria that I never saw a society organized like our people in Afrin. Ezidis, Turkmens, Arabs, Kurmanc and even ENKS working in the communes, and in the different committees of the autonomous democratic structures. The people there had, despite their geographically critical position, a really positive approach, saying to me that the land of Afrin was fertile enough to resist against years of embargo, and in comparison to the rest of Syria and Rojava, Afrin was a safe haven thanks to our children who sacrifice their lives and their youth on the frontlines of Shehba, Idlib and Castel Gindo. I was also so surprised by the lack of information and knowledge that people in Rojava and across the world had about the situation in Afrin, and we decided as militants – but also as Internationalists – to reinforce the bridge between this victorious revolutionary achievement and our comrades and our people in Kurdistan, in Syria, in Europe and all over the world.
As part of the Youth Movement I was staying in a center where the youth of villages on the Bakur-Rojava border use to organize their activities. Of course my Kurmanci accent and my non existent knowledge of the Afrin dialect was really funny to them, it took me some time and funny situations to understand what the word “gendi” –a typical Afrin dialect word meaning: him, her, he and she – did stand for.
Those were beautiful times, the soft winter in the Afrin mountains garnished by these countless lines of olive and pistachios trees gave me another reason to understand the fervor in the voice of Afrin’s people : “Em Afrin bernadin”. Plenty of houses in those villages didn’t had an under-earth water system, they were completely relying on “Sarinc”, a deep well collecting rain water flowing from the roof through one or two pipes and in that way preserving the phreatic groundwater. At this moment I really understood better what some comrades of the cooperatives committees use to tell me in Cizire : “ecology is not something that we have to create but to rediscover in the places where capitalist modernity didn’t have the time to completely dismantle it.”
Every village was organized in a commune, every Navceya (town) has it’s own communal bakery that was producing bread in accordance with the population living there, with a little add-on for unforeseen. We started to discuss in different assemblies what were the needs of the youth, their problems and of course their projects, after long debates on where to start all the youth agreed themselves to organize a sports competition, and self-defense courses. Both educations took place and the volley-ball tournament relinquished it’s place to medical education the day when the Turkish Invasion started.
Really quickly the youth structure of every region was put into action, the Turkish strikes were surprisingly intensive, but on the other hand we were sure that war was coming but we couldn’t say when. All of society, teachers, medics, workers adapted really fast to the war situation, seminars of medical first aid that were already being given were intensified, the communes organized food and water stocks, many people fleeing from the villages on the border were welcomed into the houses of families of other towns, villages and in Afrin city itself, many people stopped their work and began asking the comrades how they could help – creating, with all those small actions the historical popular resistance of Afrin. Some people would come with their bulldozers to help us to build a barricade, others would lend us their motorcycles, and so many would offer us tea and food while we were building fortifications in the valley of their villages. The Youth Movement played an essential role in this resistance by it’s flexibility and it’s ability to diversify it’s works.
There are countless heroic behaviors that I witnessed, but just to mention one, Heval Kawa, a young man, 18 years old in the space of two weeks defended his village alongside the YPG and YPJ facing air-strikes, shelling, encirclement, worked at night in the bakery that was under pressure due to the continuous and increasing flow of displaced persons, and one night drove more than 4 kilometers through the fields on a tractor to reach the frontline and to evacuate two wounded civilians, under a heavy artillery shelling while most people that night would not have dared to leave their shelters. Or Heval Hevin, following a YPJ team in really critical situations with her camera.
How can we forget our Internationalist Sehids who gave their lives in Raco, Jindrese and Afrin, we’ll need long articles for each of them to relate how each one of them made the difference in this heroic struggle. Sehid Heilin from the United-Kingdom, Sehid Kendal from France, Sehid Baran from Galicia and Sehid Hakur from Iceland and many other freedom fighters who fell defending Rojava’s population against the fascist offensive.
We came as Internationalists to Afrin to send a clear message to all the enemies of that revolution, we wanted to make them understand that whatever they’ll try or do, they’ll not succeed in isolating the people of Rojava. We also believe that in the face of all the support brought by NATO, Russia and so many other states to Turkey, it was our duty as Internationalist militants to join this fight to support Rojava’s people. To say it briefly: the battle of Afrin wasn’t only opposing Rojava to Turkish fascism but in reality it was the struggle of the people against the very concept of a state.
We always believed that the NATO-accomplice silence in the face of Turkish fascist policies wasn’t representative of the population of those countries, but in the case of Afrin, the truth had a bitter taste, till the last moment we expected much more indignation, much more refusal from our people in front of the criminal silence of their governments. Not taking side when Daesh and the Turkish Army are slaughtering an encircled population is de facto taking the side of the oppressors.
Where is the anti-war movement of the 60’s in the USA, where are the French “passeurs de valises”, where is the student movement led by Rudi Dutschke?
Comrades, what happens in Afrin, is not limited to Rojava, to Syria or Kurdistan. The nation-states are testing the resilience of the Internationalist Revolutionary Movement, the absence of reaction, or the softness of our opposition to Turkish Fascism is an invitation to the States all over the world to crush all the movements who decide to stand up against Capitalism and Imperialism. After Afrin and Gaza they know that they can slaughter hundreds of children, displace millions of people, hire paramilitary groups and reactionary factions and only face a few small demonstrations, or isolated actions in their metropoles.
Today this indifference to the chauvinism of the state is devastating the Middle East (Yemen, Palestine. Kurdistan, Morocco) but if we don’t stop them here and now, tomorrow they’ll reproduce those methods all over the world. And no, the liberal concept of democracy and our constitutional rights in our good old Europe will not protect us from the fascist’s policies when a serious opposition to the oppression of the state takes place.
Comrades, let’s, as revolutionaries, face our responsibilities and reconnect with our history. Let’s show the states that we did not forget the Internationalist Brigades in Spain, that we identify ourselves with the 500,000 internationalist Cuban fighters fighting the south-African Apartheid regime, that we salute the common resistance of the PKK and the PFLP guerillas in Lebanon, that we will unite from everywhere to fight fascism wherever it will rise.
Biji Berxwedana Afrin,
Biji Berxwedana Kurdistan,
Biji Birati ya Gelan
Published in: Internationalist Commune of Rojava
Posted on April 28, 2018
Billboards in Rojava, December 2014
By, Janet Biehl
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