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(en) avtonom, Rojava today: anarchist on the situation in autonomy from the scene [machine translation]

Date Wed, 6 Nov 2019 07:51:38 +0200

Salvador Zana is an anarchist from Western Europe. He has been conducting revolutionary work in Kurdistan for several years. He participated in the economic committee of the Rozhavsky canton of Jazir, educational initiatives and a number of other autonomy projects. At the moment, Salvador is in Rojava, in the thick of things. On several pages of the text, he gave an informal overview of the current moment, which is not often found in the current news storm. It is important that the text debunking speculation about the "end of Rojava," which for some time has been running in the left segment of the Internet. ---- What happened ---- On the afternoon of October 9, exactly on the twentieth anniversary of the expulsion of Abdullah Ocalan from Syria, the Turkish state launched the third invasion of Syria since the start of the Syrian civil war. Like the previous attacks in Shahba (2016-2017) and Afrin (2018), it relied on various jihadist groups, which Turkey usually calls the "Syrian National Army." They were used as infantry and supported by aerial bombardment and artillery units of the Turkish army. The attack began on Wednesday afternoon throughout the entire Turkish-Syrian border from Kobani (Ain al-Arab) to Derik (Al-Malikiya). However, the main blow fell on the cities of Tel Abyad and Serekaniye (Ras al-Ain) and the territory between them. This direction was chosen for two reasons: firstly, the occupation of this area would allow to divide the territory controlled by the Forces of Democratic Syria (SDS) in two, cutting off Kobani, Manbij, Raqqa and Tabka from the regions of Jazira and Deir ez-Zora. Secondly, this area is flat and sparsely populated territories, where many residents still have sympathy for the Islamic state and are hostile to the SDS and the autonomous administration of northeast Syria. In addition to this, over the summer, the SDS destroyed part of their fortifications here in accordance with the US proposed "security mechanism." where many residents still have sympathy for the Islamic state and are hostile to the SDS and the autonomous administration of northeast Syria. In addition to this, over the summer, the SDS destroyed part of their fortifications here in accordance with the US proposed "security mechanism." where many residents still have sympathy for the Islamic state and are hostile to the SDS and the autonomous administration of northeast Syria. In addition to this, over the summer, the SDS destroyed part of their fortifications here in accordance with the US proposed "security mechanism."

This part of Ankara's plan was undeniably successful. On Saturday, three days after the start of the invasion, Tel Abyad and Suluk fell into the hands of the invaders after the troops stationed here, who until then were loyal to the SDS, crossed over to the enemy's side and attacked the city's defenders in the back. In most other places, such as Mabruka, Tel Halef and other small settlements, the attack of the invaders was successfully repelled, and the SDS launched a counterattack. On Sunday, October 13th, with the mediation of Russia, an agreement was reached between the SDS and the Syrian army on the deployment of Syrian regime soldiers on the border and along the front line in Manbij and Tel Temir, and in some other cities.

The most fierce battles unfolded in Sarekania and on the outskirts of the city. In the region, the glory of the city could well be compared to Kobani, since it was here that the Self-Defense Units (YPG) and the Women's Self-Defense Units (YPJ) won the first significant victory: over Jabhat al-Nusra in 2013. The city was still continuing resistance when the United States and Turkey announced a five-day ceasefire on October 17. At this point, Sarekania was completely surrounded by the invaders, and about 150 fighters, as well as doctors and wounded remained inside the city. On the whole, hundreds of fighters from both sides were killed, hundreds of civilians died due to Turkish attacks, hundreds of thousands left their homes and fled the combat zone.

SDS were not represented at the ceasefire negotiations, but nevertheless accepted it and respected the agreement, although Turkey continued to attack with ground forces, artillery, combat drones and airplanes, killing dozens more civilians and medical personnel. Except in cases of direct need for self-defense, the SDS did not counterattack and retreated from Sarekania and other areas, in accordance with the terms of the ceasefire.

With the withdrawal of American soldiers from the war zone, Russia rushed to the vacated place. On the last day of the ceasefire, October 22, Erdogan and Putin reached a new agreement: Self-defense units throughout northern Syria will have to retreat 30 km from the border with Turkey, and the sole authority over the region will again transfer to Damascus. The ceasefire was extended for 6 days, and the Turkish military operation officially ended.

What do the different sides of the conflict want?
Washington and Moscow some time ago already agreed on how to divide the Middle East among themselves and now more and more details of this agreement are becoming clear. The United States is concentrating on supporting its presence in Iraq and on protecting economic interests, in particular those related to oil. At the height of the war in northern Syria, the Pentagon approved a proposal to send another 10,000 US Army soldiers to Saudi Arabia. Trump said that Riyadh will pay for the introduction of an additional contingent, and also demanded payment from European states for the deployment of US troops in northern Syria. The White House, having received guarantees from Russia that Iran would withdraw from Israeli borders and leave Syria, gave the political future of this country to Moscow. Conspiracy with Turkey and the subsequent abandonment by the American forces of border areas, however, there was no concession to Moscow - the main stimulus here was the desire to defeat the revolutionary movement, of which Erdogan was able to convince Trump of the need. The situation became clear after a statement issued by the White House two days before the invasion. It is also confirmed by the fact that American soldiers remain in areas of oil fields, but have completely retreated from the zone that Turkey threatened to attack - from the very heart of Rojava.

The Trump administration has significantly changed the vector of US foreign policy, and these changes are likely to consolidate for many years, as they reflect new geopolitical realities and relations. The "war on terror" is now giving priority to the fight against opponents like China and Iran, and purely economic pressure instruments are replacing military forces. Diplomacy becomes a less effective tool in politics while the White House makes impulsive decisions, often initiated by Trump himself without notifying other branches of the administration, which ultimately creates instability and inconsistency of politics within his own American government.

Based on Kremlin support, Assad practically won the war in Syria and became completely dependent on Moscow. Putin, to a greater extent than Trump, is currently influencing the alignment of forces in the Middle East, and the future of Syria is now more likely being decided on the sidelines in Astana than at NATO and UN conferences. Moscow would like to return the north of Syria to the control of Damascus and does not encourage any hopes for autonomy, which could damage the center's imperious manners. Putin has already invested too much in Syria and does not want to risk his acquisitions, leaving life to the visible embodiment of what an alternative to Assad's despotism might look like. He is also interested in meeting the interests of Ankara, since both powers have mutual interests in the region (the crushing of Kurdish autonomy is only one of them).

The invasion largely serves the purpose of stabilizing and strengthening the Erdogan regime amid the economic crisis and growing protest sentiments within the country. However, taking this into account, one should not forget about the main goal of aggression - to crush the liberation movement and the society behind it. Some senior Turkish officials have openly stated their desire to change the demographic map of the region, and the recent bombing of Derik, Kamyshlo, Kobani and dozens of other settlements outside the borders of Turkey, which forced hundreds of thousands of residents to flee, clearly demonstrate the seriousness of their intentions. Afrin was just a training ground for the current invasion.

What next?
First of all, it should be said that the situation is not as gloomy as some portray it. Autonomous rule still exists, and until now, the agreement with Damascus was exclusively military, and the deployment of regime soldiers in the territories was symbolic. Despite hundreds of victims, genocide and ethnic cleansing were avoided, and the Turkish war machine was stopped.

The adoption of a ceasefire was a manifestation of force, and was indeed considered as such by many in the region. No one doubts the readiness of the Self-Defense Units and the Women's Self-Defense Units to fight to the end. They managed to demonstrate this readiness in practice countless times. Having ceased fire, the comrades not only won the vital time, but also did not allow Turkey to find an excellent opportunity to launch an even larger-scale massacre, after which for many years the border territory would remain cleared of all those who sympathize with the revolutionary movement. The next two weeks will show with a high degree of probability what the further long-term development of the situation will look like.

The October 13 agreement on the Syrian army occupying key points in northern Syria did not significantly affect the front. This agreement was a tactical decision by the SDS and was intended to show the States that the areas from which their troops would retreat would most likely go not to Ankara, but to Moscow and Damascus, and thus force the Americans to stay. If the peoples of the region are caught between Assad and Erdogan, this will mean the end of autonomy and the phenomenon of Rojava as a social revolution. There is an option that the region will return under the control of the regime, but the revolutionary movement will survive underground, fighting both Turkish and Syrian forces. Or Damascus might want to use revolutionary forces as a tool in the fight against IS and other jihadists fueled by Turkey, so that the status quo regarding autonomy can last until the task is completed. Assad needs foot soldiers to regain control of Idlib, Afrin and Shahba, in addition, he may want to use the popularity of the revolutionaries in order to improve his image in domestic politics. However, to allow them to exist means at the same time to leave open the possibility of rebellion and separatism, which makes a truly lasting agreement between the two parties unlikely.

If Western states retain in one form or another their presence east of the Euphrates, the picture will be somewhat different. Even without recognition at the political level, the conflict between the West and Russia inside Syria increases the likelihood of reaching an agreement between the revolutionaries and Damascus on acceptable conditions that are directly manifested in the level of political and military autonomy. At least right now, US forces are still present in Deir ez-Zor. The Arab League is also interested in undermining Turkey's influence in the region, but is unlikely to send troops or take any action beyond the announcement. The European Union remains a more likely candidate for participation in the struggle. France and Great Britain have already sent special units to the region, and France at some point already lobbied for the idea of recognizing the autonomy of northern Syria, however, without any noticeable result. It is worth adding that the German Minister of Defense this week announced plans to create a "security zone" in northern Syria and requested support for these plans from the UK and France.

The most significant card not yet played on the table is the Islamic State. About 100 thousand members of the organization are held captive by the SDS, among them there are men, women, children who are fanatically committed to the idea of restoring the Caliphate at all costs. The Islamic state has a wide international network with support centers in Libya, Afghanistan and Turkey, has large financial resources and enjoys wide support.

Unlike Trump, Europe still perceives the Islamic State as a deadly threat and is well aware that the continuation of Turkish aggression and the weakening of the Self-Defense Forces will only contribute to the strengthening of the Islamic State.

The strange interdependent relationship between the Islamic State and the apochists (Kurdish revolutionaries) and the geo-political status quo resulting from it allowed the autonomy of the north of Syria to exist to this day and, possibly, will continue to continue this way, but already under the patronage of other forces in Syria. Other options are vague and more vague. One of them is that Damascus will give and immediately break half-hearted promises in order to establish full control over the north of Syria, and Turkey at the same time will deploy full-scale terror, thinning out the ranks of revolutionaries with the help of killer drones and other targeted killings in fear, the population as a whole, while Damascus, Washington and Moscow will turn a blind eye to this. All of the above options mean war.

Now the situation can still be influenced. The attention of the international community is riveted to the events in the north of Syria. There are many political agents acting on this field, whose interests contradict each other or are not yet fully defined, so that their policies can change at any time. Hundreds of comrades gave their lives to gain time and opportunity. The work of our comrades around the world is to use them wisely and without hesitation. Each action is significant now, especially a vivid demonstration of what is at stake and what will be lost if the Nazis manage to defeat. Rojava once gave so rare hope to the world. Now the moment has come when the world needs to fight for it.

Salvador Zana,

Original text in English received by Hevale editorial board from author.
Translation: Artyom Krasin specially for Hevale: revolution in Kurdistan

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