Defend Rojava

One of the few positive outcomes of the civil war in Syria has been the Rojava revolution, the establishment in the northeast of the country sinvce 2011 of a de facto autonomous region widely known as Rojava.

Many see Rojava as a model for the future of Syria at the end of the civil conflict, though it is perhaps increasingly unlikely that President Assad and his Russian backers will see things that way rather than continuing until they establish total control over the whole of the country.

Rojava, which has a considerable Kurdish population is also seen by Kurds as Wstern Kurdistan, but the region is multi-ethnic, with considerable Arab and Assyrians as well as smaller numbers of Turkmen, Armenians and Chechens.

Turkey sees Rojava as a threat, largely because of the strong presence there of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, PKK, which they regard as a terrorist group and as being behind the struggles inside Turkey which have resulted from their attempts to eliminate the Kurds and their culture. Turkey has already invaded and conquered Afrin, the closest area of the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria which was founded in 2016.

The DFNS was founded with a constitution that was designed to overcome the problems of a multi-ethnic society, and – as Wikipedia puts it, to:

“constitute a social revolution with a prominent role played by women both on the battlefield and within the newly formed political system, as well as the implementation of democratic confederalism, a form of libertarian socialism that emphasizes decentralization, gender equality and the need for local governance through semi-direct democracy.”

Despite its socialist nature, the USA has shown some support for Rojava as its armed groups, the YPG and the YPJ,  relatively lightly armed men and women fighters, have been the decisive force – with the help of US air power – in the military defeat of ISIS.  However since that end has been acheived they seem unlikely to stand in the way of their NATO ally Turkey and the future of Rojava is at best uncertain.

The event was organised by Kurdish groups and a number of UK left-wing groups came along to speak in support at the rally before the march. Unfortunately the rain started to pour down, and taking pictures became difficult. It got even heavier as the march started, but the marchers were not deterred, though this photographer was struggling a little.

As well as contending with the weather, the marchers also had to contend with the police. The UK followed the lead of its NATO ally in proscribing the  PKK, and showing their flag – as some marchers did – is an offence under out terrorism laws. Under the latest of these I may be committing an offence by publishing the pictures that show these flags on the web, though I’m sure my union would fight the case as the ridiculous attack on freedom of speech this represents.

A police snatch squad made an attempt to grab one of those carrying the PKK flag as they marched down Regent St, but the person was instantly surrounded by a crowd of other marchers and the police had to retreat back onto the pavement empty-handed.  From then on their were large squads of police looking at the march poised to pounce, until the march,  which halted for some time, went on slowly to stop again at Piccadilly Circus.

Mark Campbell spoke there at length condemning the police for attacking Kurds who were fighting, telling them they should be ashamed of themselves for attacking people who were supporting forces who had dedicated themselves to fighting ISIS, and, as some of the banners reminded us,  that included many who had lost their lives in the fight.

Despite the power of his arguments, I rather doubt if it was that speech which persuaded the police to abandon their close surveillance of the protest. More likely that they realised that the few individuals they were trying to arrest were no longer on the march, having slipped away in the crowds around Piccadilly Circus.

More about the protest and more pictures: Defend Rojava from Turkish invasion


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