Rojava revolution: building autonomy in the Middle East

by Sardar Saadi on July 25, 2014

Kurdish rebels are establishing self-rule in war-torn Syria, resembling the Zapatista experience and providing a democratic alternative for the region.

With the rise of jihadist groups in the Middle East, I find myself troubled with the question of how the politics of “insurgency” in this region has shifted so dramatically from a secular leftist tendency that used to challenge political Islam and Islamic rules in the social life to an extremist Islamist tendency that finds its ideal society in the time of Prophet Mohammad centuries ago. It is not that left is not present or without alternative, but one cannot ignore how marginalized they have become.

Not long before, there were many radical and leftist movements throughout the region. From Kabul to Palestine, radical student groups, feminist organizations, national liberation and anti-colonial struggles, labor and peasant movements, and leftist intellectuals were those in the front-line of struggle against authoritarian regimes, regressive religious beliefs, and imperialist powers’ domination in the region. Where are they now? What happened that made jihadist groups the ones who change the geopolitics of the region? How have the politics of the younger generations reversed from criticizing Islam into promoting the most extreme reading of it?

Those are some questions for all of us from the region who wish another future for it. Yet, answering these questions has deep roots in the history of colonialism and imperialism in the region as well. Without doubt, those in the West who excitingly follow the mainstream media’s coverage of the Islamic State’s (generally known by its former acronym ISIS) brutal advance toward major cities in Iraq and Syria do not bother to look at the role of their governments in the current chaos. Not to mention how the mainstream media portrays the people of the region as fanatics who are divided into sectarian religious and ethnic groups that cannot co-exist together and have no respect to humane values.

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