Behind the frontlines in war-torn Syria, the region of Rojava has established, since July 2012, grassroots democratic structures based on the principles of radical democracy, ecology, and women’s liberation. Led by the political system of Democratic Confederalism, the people created communes, assemblies, academies, and cooperatives to organise their daily lives in a secular, multi-cultural, and gender egalitarian manner. An autonomous women’s movement has established women’s social, political, and economic structures to secure a radical transformation of a society shaped by male domination, patriarchy and violence against women. A wide-ranging legislative programme has banned harmful traditional practices such as polygamy, child marriage and forced marriage. The Social Contract of the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria (DFNS) makes the elimination of discrimination against women in all spheres of life a guiding principle. A women’s quota of 40% is enforced in all governance structures while the co-presidency principle ensures that every institution, from the federal administration to the small neighbourhood communes, is chaired equally by a woman and a man.
Despite its ground-breaking assault on patriarchal structures, Rojava gets very little coverage, perhaps because its commitment to true equality is threatening to Western capitalist powers. This is probably the best place in the Middle East to be a woman. Women’s struggles all over the world can take heart from this truly revolutionary society which has achieved so much so quickly.
This relatively peaceful and totally non-sectarian society is under threat from Turkey. On 20 January 2018, the Turkish army and affiliated jihadist gangs launched a war of aggression on Afrin, one of the cantons of DFNS. This cross-border invasion by the Turkish state, cynically labelled “Operation Olive Branch” is a violation of international law. Since the beginning of the operation, hundreds of civilians have been wounded and killed, dozens of homes, schools, and vital infrastructure have been destroyed in the airstrikes and ground invasion.
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