The bloodbath in Syria: class war or ethnic war?

Anarchists join Kurdish fighters in Syria

As the Syrian conflict drags on, Devrim Valerian looks at the fighting, in particular in Syrian Kurdistan which many on the left have hailed as a "social revolution" and asks whether any side deserves workers' support.

The Arab Winter

How long three years seems. In early 2011 it seemed that a fresh wind of revolt was stirring from the East and spreading throughout the Arab world1. Massive protests and workers’ strikes in Tunisia and Egypt had terrified the ruling class to the point where they felt the need to depose their own heads of state. The embers of revolt were being fanned across the Arab world, and eventually even seemed to spread sparks across the world as a whole in the form of the occupy and indignados movements. All of this on the back of mass movements in Iran and Greece just a couple of years previously gave millions across the world the illusion that there was a massive return to struggle within the working class, that once again ordinary people were seizing the possibility of radically transforming their lives.

And yet coming towards the end of 2014, the situation is not looking nearly so optimistic. In the Middle East the conflicts in Syrian and Iraq seem to have merged into one joint ethno-sectarian war, which even today is threatening to spill over into neighbouring countries, Lebanon and Jordan seem to be the most vulnerable. In Eastern Ukraine a low level civil war is continuing despite an initial ceasefire. We have travelled in these three short years from a situation where there seemed to be a return to class struggle to a situation where the working class instead of grasping its chance to struggle in its own interests has plunged headfirst into deeper and deeper ethnic-sectarian struggles.

The Arab winter seemed to have set in almost as soon as the first shoots of spring had emerged. While it may have been difficult for some to see as they were swept along with the enthusiasm of the movement without at all noticing the direction that it was going in, the signs were there from March at the very latest. In Tunisia, and Egypt the working class was mobilised in defence of its own interests. In both countries it was strikes of masses of workers that shook the state. However, in other countries this was not the case. The conflict in Libya never possessed these characteristics even at its very beginning. In Libya, the Arab spring took on the characteristics of a fratricidal tribal war. The intervention of the Western powers on the side of the rebels did nothing but push the conflict further in that direction. Further to the East, however, potentially much more dangerous events were brewing.

While the conflict in Libya was essentially a struggle between rival tribes, the struggle in the Levant and Mesopotamia took on a much deeper sectarian character, which had the potential to spread far beyond the borders of a single state, and engulf the entire region. The struggles in both Syria and Bahrain took on these characteristics. Syria, a country where the majority of the population are Sunni Arab Muslims, is ruled by members of a minority Shia offshoot, who have a tendency to rely upon the country’s other minorities for support. Conversely in tiny Bahrain, a Sunni monarchy rules over a majority Shia population. Worried about the Shia minority in their own countries the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), an organisation of the Gulf oil monarchies led by Saudi Arabia sent in tanks to crush this Shia uprising in mid-March. At this point it became absolutely clear that the conflict had ceased to be a series of 'national' events and was now becoming a sectarian struggle across the entire region, the main protagonists being Saudi Arabia, and the GCC along with Turkey on the Sunni side, and Iran, Syria, and factions in both Iraq and Lebanon on the other.

Of course there were many on the left, who just as they had in Libya, saw a genuine workers’ revolution in Syria. Others, aware of the reactionary sectarian nature of much of the protest movement, defended the Syrian state in the name of secularism, anti-imperialism or whatever ideology they could use in an attempt to cover up the gore of a murderous bloody state. Anarchists in particular, but not alone, were particularly vulnerable to talk of democratic committees and self organisation of the revolt. Many insisted on these characteristics even as it became increasingly obvious that the war was turning into a multi-sided bloodbath where different ethnic/sectarian gangs controlled the populations that they controlled by force. Of course, as communists we too agree that there can be no genuine working class movement without workers' self organisation. However, we also insist that their can be no workers councils without workers' struggle. Local democracy in itself is not a revolutionary thing. In many countries workers can vote for their local representatives who are responsible for running municipal services, and in many countries few of them bother to.

What invests workers' councils with their revolutionary content is not their democratic forms, but the fact that they are representative of workers in struggle. The war in Syria saw an initial burst of enthusiasm in the struggle against the regime. People created various committees and councils, but this was not a workers' struggle. Ultimately as armed gangs took control of what rapidly became a war, enthusiasm and popular involvement died down. Of course some committees remained, but it was armed men giving the orders. Much, but not all of the left, seemed to realise its mistake. As internationalists had stated from the start there was no progressive side in this war. It seemed like some sort of lesson had been learned.

And then came Kobanê...

The Protagonists -The Da'esh, and the PKK

Since the middle of September the small city of Kobane on the Turkish-Syrian border has become the centre of world attention when the Da'esh began a siege aimed at capturing the city. Once again the left has renewed its cheer-leading of what is essentially just another phase of the larger sectarian struggle being waged across the region. This moment, within the larger struggle, is almost being portrayed as a struggle between light and darkness by much of the left. In the corner of good and light we have the PKK, the Kurdistan Workers' Party, and in the corner of darkness and evil we have the Da'esh, now newly renamed as simply the Islamic State.

The Da'esh's origins lie in Iraq in at the end of the 1990s. It underwent various mergers, and name changes including being known as Al-Qaeda in Iraq, and eventually settled on the name Islamic State of Iraq in late 2006. The thing that really built the Da'esh during these years was the development of the situation in Iraq into open civil war in 2006. Although presented in the West as a struggle against the US occupation, the Iraqi civil war had more of the characteristic of a sectarian struggle between Sunni, and Shia Muslims.

Iraq had traditionally been a state run by members of its Sunni minority ruling over a Shia majority. After the last Iraq war the newly promised American democracy, gave the Shia majority more representation and control of the Iraqi government. Now the boot is on the other foot. The Shia majority is using its power against the Sunni minority. Acts of ethnic cleansing similar to those being committed by the Da'esh are also being committed against the Sunni population further south in Iraq. The Da'esh managed to place itself as a leading Sunni force in the sectarian civil war in Iraq. During this time, they reduced the number of foreign fighters, and professionalised their military structure by bringing in former Ba'athist military and intelligence officers. It was during this time also that they gained the mastership of tribal politics, which has served them so well in the years since.

With the beginning of the war in Syria, one faction within the Da'esh began to infiltrate militants across the border. Again positioning itself as the defender of Sunni Muslims against atrocities perpetuated this time by the Syrian state, and slowly through its use of tribal alliances and divergences,and its struggles and mergers that have been constant within the Syrian opposition, it has manoeuvred itself to the top. Of course, the support, in political financial, and manpower terms came from Saudi Arabia, and certain of its allies in the GCC, not to mention the support received from Turkey. For the Gulf states in particular, the Da'esh was a weapon that could be used in the wider struggle, pointed at the Shia government in Baghdad, and the Alawite government in Damascus, two of the three main allies of their ultimate enemy, Iran.

The Da'esh now seems to have lost the support of its backers in the Gulf2. Turkey though seems to still see them as having some use, as a tool in the struggle to overthrow the Syrian state, and as a hammer to strike a blow against its enemy of thirty years, the PKK.

The Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) has been fighting a war in the South-East of Turkey for the last three decades. Like the Da'esh it is essentially an ethnic militia. Its origins lie not in Syria, but in Turkey. However, during its long war, it has established sections in neighbouring countries with Kurdish populations. Like the Da'esh the PKK has also received support from various foreign states, primarily Syria, but also Iran (until the PKK's Iranian section began to bother the Iranian state), and Russia. It is also suggested that its Iranian section, PJAK, has received aid from the US, and it has certainly tried to deepen whatever contacts it has with America, with PJAK spokesperson Ihsan Warya going as far to declare that “PJAK really does wish it were an agent of the United States”.

The Syria section of the PKK, the Democratic Union Party (PYD) stood apart from the majority of factions at the start of the Syrian war, standing apart from the Kurdish National Council backed by the PKK's rival, Massoud Barzani's Kurdistan Democratic Party, and the Syrian National Council, which it saw as too closely connected to Turkey. In July 2012, the Syrian state made an operational decision to withdraw the majority of its troops from the Kurdish areas of the country in order to enable them to redeploy against an opposition offensive against Aleppo. Shortly after the PYD took control of the vast majority of the Kurdish region. This take-over was accomplished with very little violence, and it has been suggested by many that a deal was done between the PKK/PYD, and the Syrian state. What the PYD has done in Syrian Kurdistan since then, has been seen by many as a social revolution.

Revolution in Rojava

The PKK has been running a massive propaganda offensive in the West. Articles talking about the struggle in Syrian Kurdistan are appearing all over the Western media, from leftist magazines to women's magazine, Marie Claire. What was once seen in the Western mainstream media as an authoritarian Stalinist nationalist group has now repositioned itself as an democratic, ecological, feminist movement, moved by a philosophy called 'democratic confederalism' adapted from that of the anarchist Murray Bookchin. To many in the region, who are familiar with the PKK's mode of operations, this seems very difficult to believe. The PKK is an organisation with a dark past. Even their imprisoned leader Abdullah Öcalan talks about periods of “gangs within our organization and open banditry, arrang[ing] needless, haphazard operations, sending young people to their death in droves”. The history of the PKK is something that has been well documented by internationalist critics3. It is not what we want to engage with here.

For us the problem is not that the PKK has a bloody history of crimes against both its own members and the working class. It does have this history of course. This is no surprise though. Virtually all nationalist gangs have a similar sort of history, and while many on the left who back these gangs may wish that they didn't, it does go with the territory. Even if there were some pristine nationalist movement unstained with the blood of the working class, and its own members, the nationalist logic would still propel it in the same direction, so here we intend not to concentrate on the PKK's bloody past, but to concentrate on its position today.

A lot has been made in the Western media of the female only militia units with pictures of young women in combat fatigues with guns gracing the pages of magazines, and websites. To be cynical it sells. Here we have these brave young women fighting off these 'Islamic barbarians'. The PKK marketing department certainly knows its audience. When you stop to think about it now, it’s not really exactly that radical. The Da'esh also have women only groups of combat troops. You can't imagine them having mixed groups in an ultra-Islamic group, but then neither does the PKK, and nor does the Iranian state, which also has female combat troops. In fact the PKK, has a long history of separating the sexes and sexual relationship between the sexes have long been punished, just like in any other bourgeois army.

However, it is a big propaganda selling point for them. The aim of this campaign in the West is twofold. One aim is to have the PKK removed from lists of terrorist organisations in various states. With the emergence of the Da'esh devil, the PKK line for the mainstream is that these young women are the ones fighting against the terrorists. The line they sell to the left is that this is some kind of social revolution, where relations between the sexes are being overturned. Anarchists have been making comparisons to the Spanish revolution, which we discuss in the accompanying article4. The second goal of this campaign is to get US and European practical support for the fighters in Kobanê, which has so far been successful with the Americans dropping weapons and ammunition to the besieged troops, and providing air support.

To return though, to the question of revolution; for us as communists, a revolution is a creation of the working class in struggle for its own interests. Within the course of this struggle the working class not only transforms society, but also transforms itself. In Syrian Kurdistan, there was no movement of the working class. Control of the towns in Syrian Kurdistan was taken by an armed group filling the power vacuum left after the withdrawal of the Syrian Arab Army. That's not to say that there was no support for the PYD, as everywhere today nationalism in the Kurdish regions is strong. Local committees were thrown up which took control of the necessary tasks usually undertaking by the municipal level of the state. The Da'esh too, has in many cases left local people in charge of local issues, and like the Da'esh, the armed men have maintained power at the top. The supreme ruling body of Rojava, the Kurdish Supreme Committee is a body, not composed of delegates from lower level committees, but an alliance between two political groups, the PYD, and the Barzani backed KDP. Despite all of the democratic pretence, ultimate control is wielded by nationalist gangs with guns.

And a nationalist gang is what the PKK is. As we mentioned before the PKK despite a somewhat patchy history with minority groups in Turkey has now set itself up as the defender of the minorities of Kurdistan. This, however, does not apply, and can not apply to Arabs. On more than one occasion, Salih Muslim, co-leader of the PYD, has talked about 'expelling Arabs', and the possibility of 'war between Kurds and Arabs'. Just to be clear, Muslim is not talking about expelling all Arabs, “One day those Arabs who have been brought to the Kurdish areas will have to be expelled”. The Arabs that he is talking about here are those who were transplanted to the region in the states 1973 Arabisation campaign. Given the demographics of Middle Eastern countries though (Syrian has a median age of just over 22), the majority of “those Arabs who have been brought to the Kurdish areas” will actually have been born there. Muslim himself admits that these Arabs are 'victims' in all of this. This doesn't stop him though from proclaiming that “All the villages where they live now belong to the Kurds”.

Of course these Arabs can no longer be separated from Arabs who were previously there. There are many of them who were born in Kurdistan, who have married with local Arabs, and had children and even grandchildren. How will the PYD discriminate between them, and more importantly how will other Arabs react to this talk of ethnic cleansing? This is the path to ethnic conflict that we have seen across the Middle East, particularly in neighbouring Lebanon, and in places such as ex-Yugoslavia, and Northern Ireland in Europe, all too many times before. Whatever the left talk of some of the protagonists in these struggles, they follow an ever deepening spiral into more and more vicious ethnic/sectarian conflict. At first the worst atrocities might be 'mistakes', shootings of civilians undertaken without direction or permission of the leadership of the various nationalist militias. However, to the families and friends of the victims, this is of secondary importance. They strike back, and murder is followed by atrocity and massacre.

In the midst of a civil war between a Kurdish militia, and what is essentially a Sunni Arab militia, these events will happen. It matters not how progressive the PKK portrays itself. The logic of the situation dictates what will happen. A good example would be the Kingsmill massacre in County Armagh, Northern Ireland in 1976. The IRA, like the PKK, was viewed as a 'progressive, socialist' organisation, but the day after Protestant paramilitaries shot dead five Catholic civilians, Irish Republicans went out and stopped a bus of building workers, and took off the eleven protestants on it, and shot them, killing ten of them. The IRA denied involvement in the attack. However, that didn't stop the Protestant paramilitaries from enacting their revenge, and the tit for tat killings continued.

For communists a revolution cannot be enacted by armed ethnic/sectarian militias and fighting between the militias of different ethnic/sectarian groups will only lead to the working class being divided and being used to massacre itself.

Class War or Sectarian War?

It is this threat of ethnic/sectarian war, which heralds the danger for the future. Ultimately despite the differences between the PKK and the Da'esh, the similarities between the two are what links them. A socialist veneer does not stop an ethnic militia from playing its part in the escalation of the cycle of ethnic conflict, and ethnic cleansing. It is clear in this struggle that the Da'esh is the aggressor, and that the PKK is merely defending its turf. It is also clear that compared to the Da'esh, the PKK looks positively progressive. None of this stops either of them playing their roles in the intensification of ethnic conflict.

Of course we have sympathy for Kurds being massacred by the Da'esh. However, unlike others on the left, internationalists recognise that those dying on the side of the Da'esh, also come in the main from the working class and the peasantry. Like amongst the Kurds, there will be many fighting with the Da'esh who have lost loved ones in sectarian massacre performed by Shia militias in Iraq, and by the Alawite run state in Syria. Also on the side of the Da'esh, as with the Kurds, there will be many young workers and peasants who have been conscripted into these gangs.

In a struggle like this where workers and peasants are butchering each other in the name of nationalism and religion, communists do not take sides. Those who take sides in this war will not contribute in the long term to any progressive victory, but merely to the further ethnic division, and increased militarisation of the region, neither of which will be of benefit to the working class. It also seems ironic that many on the left, especially those aligned to the PKK in Turkey, who for so long sided with whichever local imperialist power, or proxy, opposed America is now cheering the US on. Of course, they must know that American intervention in this war is certainly not for the benefit of the people of the Middle East, but they seem to have forgotten it very quickly.

The working class, neither in the Middle East nor in the rest of the world, is not strong enough to stop this war just as in 1914 it was not strong enough to stop World War One or the Armenian genocide a year later. To pretend otherwise is to be prey to illusions. However, that does not mean that revolutionaries should dive headfirst into taking sides in it, and acting in a way which will almost certainly lead to the prolonging and intensification of ethnic/sectarian conflict. It is important to remember that the siege of Kobanê is but a moment in a larger struggle across the entire region being fought out by the proxies of various local imperialist powers. Turkey along with Saudi, and the GCC, will continue to try to overthrow the Syrian state, and Turkey will continue its terrorist war against not only the PKK, but also the civilian population in Turkish Kurdistan. It is almost inevitable that in return other powers opposed to Turkish policy will begin to channel arms to the PKK to continue its fight against Turkey. Recent demonstrations in Turkey in support of the fighters in Kobanê left over thirty people dead, the majority of them murdered by the Turkish state, and some of them by Turkish nationalist gangs, and saw the state using tanks against demonstrators for the first time since the 1980 coup. The Turkish armed forces have also, after a period of ceasefire, renewed their attacks upon the PKK in Turkey. Of course, Turkey is the aggressor here, but when the PKK replies in kind, and kills some Turkish conscripts that won't be the first thing in the minds of grieving mothers, relatives, and friends...and so the spiral of ethnic hatred, which in turn leads, to violence, murder, and massacre will go on.

The alternative that internationalists pose to this is that of class struggle. It may seem far away now, but it is only four years ago that the TEKEL strike in Turkey really seemed to be breaking down barriers between Kurdish, and Turkish workers, and led to a much wider strike wave. 2013 saw massive demonstrations across Turkey sparked by police brutality against protestors in Istanbul's Gezi park. The three years since the Arab spring may seem like a long time now, but in times like these changes can occur very, very quickly. Although the working class seems weak today struggles where the working class is fighting for its own interests will return in the future, and they are the only solution to overcoming the ethnic and sectarian divide by uniting workers as workers, not as Kurds, Turks, Arabs, and Persians, or Sunni, Shia, Christian or Yazidi.

D. Valerian 28/10/14

Glossary: Who’s Who in Kurdistan – A Brief Summary

  • PKK Kurdistan Workers’ Party. A Turkish Kurdish political and military organisation, originally Marxist-Leninist (ie. Stalinist) founded in 1978 by Abdullah Öcalan (in prison in Turkey since 1998). At war with the Turkish state since 1984.
  • PYD Democratic Union Party. Syrian branch of the PKK founded in 2003.
  • YPG People’s Protection Units. Military wing of the PYD.
  • KNCS Kurdish National Council in Syria. A heterogenous grouping of Kurdish political organisations opposed to the PYD and under the patronage of the KDP.
  • KDP Kurdish Democratic Party. Founded in 1946 by Mustafa Barzani and now led by his son, Massoud. It is the ruling power in the KRG.
  • KRG Kurdistan Regional Government formed after the fall of Saddam Hussein in Iraq under Massoud’s KDP it is a staunch ally of the USA.
  • PUK Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. Founded in Iraqi Kurdistan in 1975 after a split within the KDP. It is dominant in the southern part of Iraqi Kurdistan and its leader Jalal Talabani was President of Iraq 2005-14


Posted By

Nov 3 2014 12:54


Attached files


Serge Forward
Nov 12 2014 09:54

I'm neither impressed with kurremkarmerruk's rose-tinted specs which ignore Ocalan's rape admissions and the direness of the PKK nor Mikail Firtinaci's questionable sources which include the Turkish bourgeois press for fuck sake. So I dismiss kurremkarmerruk's crap out of hand; then again, I'm really not impressed with the whole ICC stylee PKK = ISIS and the implication that not to agree that both sides are equally as bad means you're in some way supporting national liberation and failing to take a proper class position. On the contrary, some of us think that ISIS is somewhat more horrible than the PKK but would still not take sides with the PKK. Yes, both sides are undesirable from a revolutionary standpoint and a plague on both their houses, but to portray both sides as more or less the same is piss poor analysis, because the implications are sufficiently diferent for those directly affected by the actions of ISIS and the PKK.

jef costello
Nov 12 2014 10:15

In terms of whether Ocalan is a rapist and a deviant.
You cannot argue that this does not matter if you also accept him as leader of the group and quote his arguments.

To be honest I think that any organisation which has someone who has admitted having sex with hundreds of subordinates in an army with strict discipline in a leadership position is in trouble.

Devrim is not making an argument that the Turkish state would make, they would argue that the PKK are dangerous terrorists who create violence. Arguing that the two are in a mutually-beneficial relationship that perpetuates violence is simple observation.

PKK fighters have their own beliefs and suffering, as do individuals in every organisation, but in the same way as the downfall of Mikhail Khodorkovsky doesn't signal that capitalism is collapsing these sufferings do not show that the PKK as an organisation is suffering. In fact like most organisations it is quite happy to allow or even contribute to the suffering of its supporters if it benefits the organisation.

I do think it is good to allow a variety of viewpoints, even if the criticisms of Devrim and other comrades are incorrect and often aggressive.

I thank the comrades that have responded with clear arguments and that have spelt out the situatons with information and examples. Although you are responding to people who do not seem to be listening (judging by their responses) you have a greater audience than them and that audience is reading what you say.

Nov 12 2014 10:44

jef costello

you probably did not write the above comment to me but I would like to point out to something:

To be honest I think that any organisation which has someone who has admitted having sex with hundreds of subordinates in an army with strict discipline in a leadership position is in trouble.

This admission comes from only a quote that is part of a 1992 book. That nobody (here) read it and it is not even available in internet. (I guess the book exists by the way) The same quote is repeated in some texts to prove their claims however yet I never seen someone who read it. I just want to read the where the quote comes from to be sure what Ocalan is admitting. Is it too much to ask? Does this make me a ideologue?

Caiman del Barrio
Nov 12 2014 10:56
Sharkfinn wrote:
Or, y'know, you can wave PKK banners around in public and share 'hype' Facebook updates from PKK mouthpieces.

-who's doing this exactly?

I don't know where you're based, but there have been umpteen demos across the UK, including a number in central London, populated by both members of PKK cells in London and their 'far left' supporters. A couple of weeks ago, there was an international day of action which saw demos across the world. I know this cos a good comrade of mine has gone full fucking Rojava mental and shares approx 10 pro-PYD updates a day. In the threads of discussion here there have been pictures of white English anarchists waving PKK flags (yes, I know), and the solidarity demos generally involve hundreds of 'stately' portraits of Ocalan (who looks unnervingly similar to Stalin's portraits, btw).

If you've been investigating this question and haven't encountered these people and their feckless 'solidarity demos' then I presume you're writing from Antartica. wink

Nov 12 2014 12:04

On a smaller scale the same thing described by Caiman is happening in the Czech Republic.

mikail firtinaci
Jul 23 2020 16:24


Serge Forward
Nov 12 2014 18:04

I was not accusing you of Turkish nationalism but of having dodgy sources, Mikail. However, I believe I am in error because I could have sworn you linked to Hurriyet. Looking back I can't see it and must have mixed you up with someone else*. For that I apologise profusely.

*Possibly with a WSM member... just kidding grin

mikail firtinaci
Jul 23 2020 16:24


Nov 12 2014 20:09
But what is certain is (as Besikci told) PKK did not even try to challenge Turkish nationalism; on the contrary it either collaborated with Turkey openly or helped it indirectly by strengthening the nationalist divide between the Kurdish and Turkish workers through its nationalist war.

Before the double dots that can be an idea of Beşikçi. however after it is your opinion not Besikci's. He is critical of PKK's turn away from establishing a nation-state he is very old-fashioned in this matters. I did not know though you were OK with this argument ( PKK was better in old days)
For example (use here Google translate) he says The Kurdish issue is an issue of state and land. So basically for him Kurds should be nationalists. PKK is officially against nationalism and unified Kurdish state. Even this disagreement between İsmail Beşikçi and PKK can be an example how PKK is transformed from a national marxist leninist organization to something new.

Because of these issues, he was kind of threatened in a media by someone who is reported to be someone from a high rank in PKK. Yeah there were petitions signing and a lecture given by him. I attended all of them. Most of the Kurds still love him. I also think it was not really serious. That issue is behind us.

Only a public appeal by well known leftist intellectuals in support of Besikci saved him from facing PKKs violence.

This is a pure biased anti-propaganda sentence. You can't know that appeal saved him or not (because nothing happened in the end) Moreover I doubt that if PKK wanted to do something to someone I am very doubtful that they could be stopped by a stupid petition.

Congratulations mikail your manipulation skills are limitless you now achieved to show Beşikçi as a sort of communist or something. I guess you like nationalists whenever they are against PKK. Those fighters in PKK who fight for autonomy, federation and non-state solution are just pure nationalists, but Beşikçi who is openly a nationalist is a freedom fighter for you, just because he criticizes PKK for its non-state policies.

Nov 12 2014 21:26

Yes cult of personality is an issue. However there are differences there as well. There is a difference between the cult of personality around Stalin and lets say subcom. Marcos and to an extent even the face of Che. From what I have read about Ocalan and the PKK, it does not appear that Ocalan fits squarely in either of these categories. So yes, as a leader but more specifically the cult of personality and cult or leadership is something worth questioning.

Again, could someone provide the sources that confirms Ocalan as a rapist?
(Is he a rapist in the sense that he has admitted to having sex with lower ranked women within the PKK? Are the accusations making a moral or military/professional hierarchical accusation of rape? Is there evidence of him having raped women? Because, I do not know, I would like to read all these allegations and the evidence that exists. Again, the only information I have found has been reported from what appears to be Turkish right-wing nationalists sources. Please, show my the proof, I want to know one way or another.)

Again, he having raped or is a deviant does not really have much barring on what is developing and what is being supported in Rojava. The argument that becuase Ocalan did bad things as an individual really has no barring on Rojava despite his face being on flags. It may say something about allowing/justifying questionable behavior, sure. However, at the end of the day I don't buy the argument that some political project must be pure to its core before partaking or supporting.

Reducing every conclusion and assumption about an entire region down to one simple point that indicates something negative is a sign of complete lacking in analysis and desire to further explore and understand (no matter how critical that understanding is). This type of arguing is about as moot as your once upon a time grade school teacher attempting to stump you and criticize you for wearing and eating products produced under capitalist conditions.

So yes, if we were to have a multiple choice exam question about who is the best and most noble leader in the world of radical revolutionary history I probably would not circle Ocalan. However, I am not all that interested in that one man but instead the recent political developments within the PKK, YPG/J, and the Cantons in Rojava, despite their willingness to be motivated by this one man's writings.

So again, I am not a rape apologist because i do not accuse nor defend Ocalan as a rapist; I think there is more to the situation than some movie good guy/bad by dichotomy; and one negative aspect will not cease my support or general positive view of something (because if that was the case, then no one could support anything because somewhere down the line something bad happened. Orwell's company branded a dog with their militia org.'s initials, I still there are many positive worthwhile things that happened within the Spanish Civil War. Same with CNT-FAI members joined the Republic's government, and I still think some worthwhile things happened during the Spanish Civil War.

Nov 12 2014 21:14


When you fellow commentators who are using purely ideological arguments and any other arguments with the ultimate goal of always concluding that the PKK is bad (morally bad) they will inevitably have strange debatable bed fellows.

mikail firtinaci
Jul 23 2020 16:24


Nov 12 2014 22:49

Another problem is that you fail to see how Kurdish movement is trying to formulate a new social struggle that is not nationalist nor statist and how this new approach causes disagreements with Besikci who is an advocate of national liberation struggle (and has no problems with imperialist powers as long as they do not prevent Kurdish state from emergence. He is now actually optimistic that they could help and fulfill Kurd's right to a state. You read him wrong.). Being ignorant of such non-traditional and non-orthodox ideological foundations of Kurdish movement you quickly throw them to the old category of "nationalism".

Nov 13 2014 02:50


Are we now to discuss FARC?

Nov 13 2014 09:33
Nov 13 2014 15:27

I do think that a study of FARC would be interesting but I suspect that would be next to impossible since we seem to not even be able to discuss Rojava and break apart the various actors, players, and multi-social organizing that is happening.

Though I do not know much about FARC, I am sure there is more to it other than (insert all the horrible things that could happen in any B movie). Not denying it but not going to rely on baseless media like hype conclusions. But again, I do not think that we need to discuss FARC.

Caiman del Barrio
Nov 13 2014 15:41

One difference between FARC and the PYD is that villagers in 'zonas del conflicto' in Colombia have actively mobilised to oppose both the Colombian military and the guerrilla. This sort of space for multiple actors/identities would be good in the debate about the Rojava, ie we need to accept that it's not as simple as saying the PYD is the voice of the people of Rojava and entities coming out of Rojava which reject forced conscription, militarisation and the cranky Maoism of Ocalan et al would be an exciting development.

I'm not closed to the possibility of something positive evolving out of the experience of Rojava, but to do so, the PKK would have to overcome, alongside the FSA, Peshmerga, IS, Turkish state and...oh yeah, the US-led coalition.

Nov 13 2014 15:58


Exactly. I just assume, from how these threads on Kurdish movements have been conducted, that conversation and exchange and discussion would not prove all that useful. Since what interests me here is what the social organizing going on in the cantons more so than the PKK or YPG/J as forces operating within and outside. My view is that the militia's in the area attached or associated with the cantons are in a way defending what is developing within the cantons. But yes, as you, what interests me is the developments by people despite their attachment or not to armed groups. Kind of like how community groups in Mexico have stood up agianst both the mexican state and the cartels...embryo autonomy (albeit apolitical, still interesting as self-activating organizing by "regular people").

Like you said, there is more to it than just group and leaders and arms and fighting, but for whatever reason many people on this thread keep wanting to damn the activity of people by constantly referring to the negative historical and current aspects of one group (PKK). More indepth discussion is what interests me.

Nov 13 2014 23:10

I am neither a troll nor a fanatic. I got really suprised about your thoughts and tried to make some comments. Maybe it was a little bit rude, but i just want to try again to explain myself. (sorry my English is not much good). I just tried to say that revolution can be made by taking the streets, making war and making politics. It cannot be made with just 'rationally' thinking and if you are really practically making something for the revolution then everything can not go smooth as if it in rational thinking. Gender relationships of guerillas is just an example. Another example is making tactical collaborations with U.S.A when your acquisitions and lives of your people are under a real threat.
Lastly I can say that the Kurdish movement and Rojava Revolution are very important for those peole living in a region surrounded by modern Nazis (ISIS) and fascists states. There are Turkish members here, It makes me suprised more. You should at least see the situation in Turkey. The only opposition group capable of making the government draw back in some issues is Kurdish Movement and their power's resource is not bourgiois but their peoples' struggle.

Nov 13 2014 23:40

Due to my English writing level i cannot make deep analysis here but i can say one thing more. In its publications for the members and supporters PKK still call socialism, communalism as the final aim of the organization, but in its publications or speech to the international world it uses the more light words like 'democracy' human rights' . It is the politics. But, it indeed shows the truth that the supporters and militacnts of the PKK have a socialist vision. It is why the inside organization arguments are about socialism etc.

Nov 14 2014 14:23
If you've been investigating this question and haven't encountered these people and their feckless 'solidarity demos' then I presume you're writing from Antartica. wink

I am writing from Arctic in fact. I see your point but I'm still not emotionally attuned with the thread. British anarchos, tankies, trots, posadists and the rest of the usual suspects might be doing that. It sounds like something they would do.

But in the grand view of things, is what's happening in the London left schene such a big deal? Committed class struggle anarchist in Britain are what, 1000-2000 people? Meanwhile the population is about 64 million. So outside of the red and black population, common forms of working class false consciousness have to do with: xenophobia, blaming people on wellfare, daily mailism, and so fort.. -Whereas jingoistic support for the PKK is fairly small issue by comparison.

But when looking at Libcom, Devrims article is the first thing my search engine offers under libcom. The thread is fairly long and as its main motive is counteracting British leftist, this time, libcom is surely out of touch with kurds or anyone outside the libertarian schene. When kurdish posters come here, understandaby angry or baffled about emphasis that's foreign to them, the reception from some of the posters is cold, blaming them of slander or fanatism and finally completed with a racist joke about not speaking english very well. Not very internationalist. And then discussion moves on Paris commune and things in our comfort zone. I would imagine that to Kurds this conversation comes out as alienating.

Certainly, I'm having problems finding anything meaningful from this thread. Perhaps when I'll arrive to Gatwick in two days, and I meet the Anarchists giving me pro-PKK leaflets at the terminal I'll finally get what this is about

Nov 15 2014 00:53

Isn't the sectarianism that the article is positioned against inherent in anarchism? The end of the first international, the makhnovshchina, Catalonia, Paris commune etc...

It's too easy to discount the importance of everything but class. Who are the "internationalists" supposed to support? just themselves it seems by the non- interventionist standpoint. What makes this sort of internationalism international at all? Don't know the answers but it seems like an interesting article (to a know nothing) flavoured with a bit of typical anarchist hot air, liberal moralism and no practical nothing. Sorry
(Don't waste your time getting angry with that last bit any of you, it's mostly true)

Nov 15 2014 01:24
But when looking at Libcom, Devrims article is the first thing my search engine offers under libcom. The thread is fairly long and as its main motive is counteracting British leftist, this time, libcom is surely out of touch with kurds or anyone outside the libertarian schene. When kurdish posters come here, understandaby angry or baffled about emphasis that's foreign to them, the reception from some of the posters is cold, blaming them of slander or fanatism and finally completed with a racist joke about not speaking english very well. Not very internationalist. And then discussion moves on Paris commune and things in our comfort zone. I would imagine that to Kurds this conversation comes out as alienating.

Not all the Kurds who post here support the PKK. Internationalist Kurds, that is Kurds who are opposed to the PKK as well as all sorts of nationlism do exist. Neither are all the posters here defending the PKK are Kurds. My impression is that most though perhaps not all are in fact leftist Turkish supporters of the PKK.

Nov 24 2014 20:50

The discussion on whether or not to support imperialist war has, in my opinion, been well-relegated behind a thread like "Isis News", where links can be made one after the other with no comment.

Here and there,in related discussions, there are references to how "bad" Isis is, a true and definable "lesser evil" that, critically of course, has to be fought against. Indeed to counter the international brigades of the jihadis, there are now elements of an anti-Isis international brigade appearing (a couple of ex-British soldiers going to fight for the PKK this week, with the government's apparent blessing.

Now that Isis is gaining more and more support and adherents, not only from the likes of al-Nusra and other jihadi groups, but also from many elements of the FSA as well as civilians pushed into its arms from western, mainly US, air attacks and the "resistance" of Shia militias and other forces on the ground, then confronting Isis must mean the mass bombings and slaughter of civilians - unless you buy into the lie of "surgical strikes" that only take out the "evildoers".

During the war in ex-Yugoslavia, British military placements and British government policy was directly complicit in the mass rape of Bosnian women and the mass murder of Bosnian men and boys. The role of the major democratic powers in the Democratic Republic of Congo, has directly and indirectly resulted in the horrible deaths and rapes of millions and millions of innocent civilians from the very young to the very old. These are just two small examples and, while I don't want to relatavise them, the crimes of Isis are insignificant compared to the crimes of British democracy say.

Isis is not just a reflection of the growing and spreading decay of capitalism and its flight into irrational warfare, it is a product of it concretely manipulated and maneuvered by the major powers in the imperialist war of the Middle East..

Nov 27 2014 06:08

I think the issue has been discussed quite a lot actually and again, I dont buy the black or white argument.

What I find interesting is the seemingly yet hesitant slow realignment of middle eastern geopolitical strategy by the US. It seems the US is beginning to get comfortable with the idea of backing more political motivated shia islam as opposed to Sunni political islam. I could see this as a result of the failure to easily implement the Bush Doctrine full out in the Middle East and by circumstance the US is now re-align itself with political Shai instead of political Sunni.

Dec 17 2014 15:47

Not sure if this is the correct thread for this but another one bites the dust, this time Film Maker and blogger Adam Curtis is bigging up 'Anarchy in Kurdistan'. The short video clips he makes available in his blogs are interesting as ever. Didn't know Kurds were paid by Turkey to fight PKK much like in India where poor villages are armed by the state to fight any Naxalites.

Guerre de Classe
Dec 25 2014 16:23

Here is our last contribution about this issue:

Feb 23 2016 10:57

TDA conducted a field survey that included 2498 respondents,1424 men and 1074 women. Substantial research on the matter of sectarianism has been nearly impossible as the subject was considered a taboo, prior to the 2011 uprising.

The survey represents a significant and indicative snapshot of Syrian attitudes toward sectarianism, in a manner never before achieved in Syria. The circumstances induced by the war in Syria make it impossible to pull a fully representative sample of the Syrian population, given that there are many inaccessible areas either because of active violence or because of the control imposed by the armed forces. Thus, researchers have worked within these limits to create indicative yet not necessarily comprehensive samples, nevertheless providing valuable field data intended to enable a better understanding of Syrian society. The survey takes into account the different demographic and social factors in Syria and compares the results among various population groups.

The study aims to improve key groups’ knowledge about sectarianism, including the Syrian population, current policy makers, academics and researchers, and future Syrian policy makers. Subsequently, this study will help future decision-makers in Syria formulate new policies to overcome sectarianism and build a state based on equal citizenship and civic responsibility.

The 105 paged survey study takes a comprehensive approach toward understanding attitudes towards sectarianism in Syria, covering such issues as: the extent to which various groups in Syria believe there is a sectarianism problem the source of sectarianism; inter-sectarian relations; manifestation of sectarianism; the prevalence of sectarianism in state institutions; the main actors driving sectarianism; a comparison of beliefs about sectarianism before and after the 2011 Syrian uprising; and finally recommendations for overcoming the sectarian problem.

The findings present some key implications about the current political context and future considerations for Syria.

Key Findings:

Most respondents recognized the seriousness of the sectarian situation in Syria and are aware that its causes are linked to the state and political authority. Most respondents (65.3%) still call for a State based on citizenship and equality and deem it the optimal solution to overcome the sectarian problem. This study also demonstrates that the Syrian government and its institutions constitute an essential source of sectarian discrimination, spread and development of feelings of injustice, and distrust among individuals of different sects.

The Syrian Arab Army ranked first in being responsible for sectarian discrimination, 60% of respondents mentioned it, followed by the intelligence services (55.3%) and government departments (52.8%). The least mentioned contribute to sectarianism was the FSA (14%).

The majority of respondents, which amounts to 67.6%, said there is one or more particular sect that benefits from the political authority than others. Nearly all respondents referred to the Alawites and Shiites.

The answers provided by Sunni respondents demonstrate a near-consensus on supporting the 2011 demonstrations of the opposition, whereas Alawites’ and Shi’a’s answers demonstrated a position against them. More than half of Christian respondents and the largest proportion of Murshidis support them (48.4%) whereas a very considerable proportion of Druze and Ismaili respondents opposed them.

About three-quarters of respondents said they had been subjected to sectarian discrimination (personally or a family member or relatives), and only 28.5% said they have never been exposed to it.

Only 13.6% said they do not approve of the following statement: “Sectarian discrimination was a main impediment to the achievement of my most important aspirations” and Sunnis’ responses formed the highest approval percentages (93.8%) while it hit its lowest level at the responses of Alawites and Shiites.

The study demonstrates overwhelming support for measures to eradicate institutional sectarianism. Survey respondents agreed with all the proposed solutions, with the exception of ““dissolving intelligence services” which a majority of Alawites and Shiites rejected. The other proposed measures were: dissolving all armed groups and rebuilding the army in Syria on national bases; dissolving intelligence services; restructuring government institutions on the basis of equal opportunity; inclusion of materials for citizenship and equality-based education in school curricula; prohibiting entities that resort to sectarian incitement; a comprehensive national dialogue among the various sects in Syria; training preachers in mosques to disseminate a tolerant discourse that is not based on compulsion.