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‘Make #Rojava Green Again’: Ecology as a path towards an equal society

This month marked the official beginning of the campaign launched by the Internationalist Commune of Rojava under the name ‘Make Rojava Green Again’, which aims to pinpoint the current ecological issues present in Rojava as an aftermath of the civil war in Syria. ‘Make Rojava Green Again’ thus seeks to utilize practical work to contribute to the environmental preservation, as well as it adds to the manifestation of the ideological framework of the Rojava revolution in all aspects of daily life.

Submitted to Enough is Enough. Written by Katarina Pavičić-Ivelja (Biographical Statement: I am a Croatian journalist interested in political topics and various human right’s issues as well as an array of topics concerning feminism with an emphasis on the women’s liberation in Rojava.)

‘Make Rojava Green Again’: Ecology as a path towards an equal society

This month marked the official beginning of the campaign launched by the Internationalist Commune of Rojava under the name ‘Make Rojava Green Again’, which aims to pinpoint the current ecological issues present in Rojava as an aftermath of the civil war in Syria. ‘Make Rojava Green Again’ thus seeks to utilize practical work to contribute to the environmental preservation, as well as it adds to the manifestation of the ideological framework of the Rojava revolution in all aspects of daily life.

According to the Internationalist Commune, the campaign ‘Make Rojava Green Again’ was started in cooperation with the Ecology Committee of the Cizire Canton and consists of three main aspects:

  1. Building up the Internationalist Academy with an ecological ethos, to serve as a working example for comparable projects and concepts for the entire society. The academy will facilitate education for internationalists and for the general population of Rojava, to strengthen awareness and environmental consciousness, pushing to build up an ecological society.
  2. Joining the work of ecological projects for reforestation, and building up a cooperative tree nursery as part of the Internationalist Academy.
  3. Material support for existing and future ecological projects of the Democratic Self-administration, including sharing of knowledge between activists, scientists and experts with committees and structures in Rojava, developing a long-term perspective for an ecological Northern Syria Federation.

According to the statement received from the Internationalist Commune, the need to carry out such a project occurred due to the fact that numerous members of the Internationalist Commune “were also involved in ecological work before [coming] to Rojava, so [they had] a general understanding of the importance of ecology and [saw] the crises that are happening all around the world. The challenges regarding monocultures, the impact of climate change, the lack of waste management, and many more, are all very visible.“

“For us, it was important to contribute to the revolutionary changes in Rojava not only with our minds, but also through practical work. To work the soil on which this revolution is taking place with our own hands was the right project for that. Because trees are really needed in Rojava, from an ecological point of view, we decided to make them our main focus.” The members of the Internationalist Commune further elaborate.

Surely, through further discussion regarding the specific way in which the ideas behind the ‘Make Rojava Green Again’ campaign will be implemented, many questions concerning the daily lives of residents of the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria surfaced. Questions such as: “Where does the water needed for the trees come from? How can the waste water be used for watering? What is the society doing with the used water at the moment?“, and ultimately “What would an ecological society in Rojava look like, and how could it be built?”, need a practical answer. The feats undertaken as a part of this campaign will, therefore, alongside planting trees, include addressing the need to repair the damage caused by the war, proposing ideas for effective recycling of organic waste, advocating for public transportation and finding ways to neutralize the impact of depleted uranium present in the water due to use weaponry containing it within the territory of Rojava.

In spite of the aforementioned, it is impossible to say that the goal of the Internationalist Commune’s campaign is reduced solely to the practical organization of society in Rojava. On the contrary, it can be argued that the ecological work also has its ideological purpose in the context of providing resistance to occupation and colonialism as well as it opposes the class dynamics of a capitalist society. According to the members of the Internationalist Commune: “Until 2012, Rojava was in a colonially dependent relationship with the Syrian Assad regime, which strongly affected the economic and environmental situation in the region. (…) For decades it was forbidden to plant trees or grow vegetable gardens. Even today, the effects of this colonial policy are shaping people’s lives and environment, creating a major contrast between Kurdish-majority and Arab-majority cities and areas. The population was kept dependent by repressive politics and underdevelopment of the region, as well as the prohibition against growing food for their own use, and systematically forced to emigrate and provide cheap labor to surrounding Syrian metropolises, such as Aleppo, Raqqa and Homs.” Bearing in mind the above, the ‘Make Rojava Green Again’ campaign can also be considered an attempt to decentralize Syria by deliberately pushing the development of the previously neglected areas.

If the campaign proves to be successful, its achievements would certainly represent a huge step forward in fabricating the desired society, determined by the theoretical assumptions of Democratic Confederalism as one of the fundamental principles of the Rojava revolution. According to the idea of Democratic Confederalism, a revolution does not just presuppose a ‘violent overturn’ of a certain regime, but also a ‘mental revolution’, thus requiring a whole set of changes in all aspects of life, as well as a non-violent shift in the collective mentality achieved through education. Only in case of an armed offensive carried out by a certain nation-state, is armed resistance considered justified. The ultimate manifestation of Democratic Confederalism thus implies a self-governing, decentralized society devoid of the nation-state mentality and based on the principle of equality of all groups at the international level.

In this context, ‘Make Rojava Green Again’ is not only an attempt at decentralizing Syria, but is also laying the foundations needed for establishing a self-sustaining, self-governing society through both education and agricultural development. However, it seems that the general public has so far not shown too much interest in this aspect of the ideological make-up of the revolution. As the members of the Internationalist Commune continue: “The coverage of the war against the Islamic State drowned out the political nature of this revolution. But it is important to also show other aspects of life and the social changes, but also other challenges, to the people around the world. (…) Through this campaign, we want to report on the urgent challenges concerning people and nature in Rojava, highlight the ecological work here, and engage in an active dialogue with all those interested and in a position to help. In this way, the campaign can be a bridge between different people and struggles, thus helping to develop a communal understanding and a communal struggle [rooted] in solidarity. The fight for a democratic society, overcoming patriarchal oppression of the state and overcoming the suppression of nature can only be successful if it is a global fight.”

For these reasons, it is possible to consider international co-operation in the field of ecology, as well as acquainting the residents of other countries with the campaign, extremely important even in the context of women’s liberation, which, together with ecology and Democratic Confederalism, constitutes the third fundamental principle of revolution in Rojava. It is quite easy to see that the relationship between man and nature is largely reflecting the mentality of capitalist modernity, which is unquestionably based on the dominance of one group over the other (with the dominance of a man over a woman being a ‘core dynamic’). In a certain way, the ecological crisis can be considered a direct consequence of normalizing of the notion of oppression of one at the hands of another. Although the ideological framework present in Rojava considers women’s liberation as a key step towards the elimination of a capitalist, class society, as well as the dynamics involving the subordination of one, and the supremacy of the other social group in general, solving problems only in the context of human interpersonal relationships is by no means sufficient to permanently establish an equal and free society.

In order to establish a society rooted in true equality, no one of its constituents should be found in a subordinate position. Since nature inevitably, in one way or another, is a component of every possible society, it is necessary to eliminate the violence that man exhibits towards nature. Only when the very idea of ‘subjugation’ in any sense is eradicated, the establishment of a balance in all aspects of life becomes possible in the long run, which indirectly guarantees a permanent change in the position of oppressed groups in the context of interpersonal relationships, and accordingly eliminates the ‘submissive female-dominant male’ dynamics.

The importance of the ‘Make Rojava Green Again’ campaign as a way of combating various forms of oppression comes to the fore even through the observation of the Turkish Operation Olive Branch, more precisely the invasion of Afrin, which is currently underway. It is important to emphasize that Afrin, now facing death and destruction at the hands of the Turkish military, is one of the most fertile areas in northern Syria and a canton of exceptional agricultural significance for the entire area of Rojava. The attack on Afrin is an indisputable attempt to weaken the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria, but also an open testimony of colonial ambitions. Without doubt, the attack on Afrin also represents an aggravated assault on women’s liberation. By countering the destruction by re-creating the Rojavan landscapes, the campaign initiators send a message much stronger than it may seem. In a literal sense, this campaign represents a kind of ecological remedy for the damage caused by ISIS, as well as the new environmental issues that will potentially arise during the Turkish invasion. However, at its core this campaign is much more – it represents resistance to oppression, the fight against colonial powers and a struggle for freedom and equality of all, not just in Rojava, but around the entire world.

More about the ‘Make Rojava Green Again’ campaign can be found HERE.

1 thought on “‘Make #Rojava Green Again’: Ecology as a path towards an equal society

  1. […] Internationalist Commune of Rojava, which has recently launched an ecological campaign titled “Make Rojava Green Again”.  As part of the autonomous women’s group inside the Commune, I had the opportunity to […]

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