The Commoner talks to Cris at the Etniko Bandido Infoshop, a radical space bringing anarchism to Pasig, the Philippines.
It is no surprise that leftists see the Rojava territory in Syria as a haven for the cause. While they aren’t a utopia (quite yet), they espouse the ideals of libertarian socialism based on direct democracy, an aim that seems a distant dream within western countries and most of the world. Social causes are embedded in their constitution, particularly feminism, ecology and universal tolerance for diversity on religious and cultural grounds.
The autonomous region has also been the victim of an escalating genocide from Turkey, which has always seen the region as an extension of the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party), a long-time enemy of the Turkish state since 1984, and the target of particular vehemence from Turkey’s nationalist dictator, Erdoğan. The invasion of north-eastern Syria came after Trump announced the US would pull out of Syria, following the almost complete defeat of ISIL, for which we can thank the SDF, Syrian Democratic Forces.
The conflict in Rojava against ISIL was mostly fought by the People’s Protection Units, also known as the YPG, the leading armed force of the SDF. The YPJ, an exclusively female group, fights in unison with them - with the YPG collectively being made up of 40% women. They have suffered the losses of 11,000 lives, with 22,000 being wounded, in the course of the fight. While they are mostly composed of ethnic Kurds, there have been many volunteers from around the world who have joined with them, and some have given their lives for the struggle.
One such volunteer was a British man called Dan Newey, who travelled to Syria in 2017 to lend his hand to Rojava in the fight against ISIL, returning again in October of last year to help them face the Turkish invasion. On December 11th, his father, Paul Newey, was the victim of a police raid. They seized his property, arrested him, and took his other 18-year-old son, Sam, who was also threatened with arrest. They were both questioned for 13 hours about Dan, while his mother, Vikki, was also visited at her home the same day, this time without a warrant. They told her she would be arrested if she did not voluntarily come with them for questioning. They did so for 12 hours before she was released. Paul, however, was held for four days before being released on bail. Paul appeared in court on Friday 14, charged with “funding terrorism”, when all he has been accused of is sending his son Dan £150 over PayPal. He pleaded not guilty to this charge, while Sam Newey was asked not to enter into a plea on a charge of intent to aid his brother in terrorist activties. They were both bailed and are to appear again in the Old Bailey, on 21 February.
These cases are the first time a British person has been investigated for terrorist activity through association with the YPG, with more following since then. It is ironic, as through the conflict with ISIL the UK had provided support to the militia, much like the US did. However, in 2017 Theresa May signed a £100 million fighter jet deal with Erdoğan, following this up with a declaration that the YPG are terrorists in 2019. Since the US has now cut ties with the YPG, along with establishing even better relations with Turkey, the UK has now set about on their own campaign of terror against anyone (and their families) who could be associated with Rojava. This has included raids on British Kurdish homes, as well as harassment and arrests of volunteers. There are even pursuits in the works that may well result in a complete ban of anyone going to the region, backed up by Boris Johnson who has declared that Turkey has “legitimate security concerns” in the region. Turkey is a member of NATO, and due to it’s location in the world, serves as a strong barrier against it’s enemies in the East. Due to their fear of eastern powers gaining influence in the region, the US and UK are only too happy to bend to the will of it’s dictator.
This persecution and effective abandonment of former allies, who gave so much in the fight against one of the most dangerous threats to the free world, cannot stand.
They are one of the only truly progressive regions in the world, and to criminalise support of them is one of another in the many attempts to destroy liberty. If we are to escape the shackles of capitalism, and avoid the rise of far-right nationalism that is rushing to replace it, we must protect the bastions of our vision for the world. Not just for their continued existence and prosperity, but for inspiration to make new free lands of our own.
Photo provided by Willi Effenberger
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