The Role of the Gazîs in the Rojava Revolution
Botan Avaşîn, council member of the Gazî Federation of North and East Syria
The struggle for freedom in Kurdistan is not just a struggle for the freedom of the Kurdish people. It is a struggle for all oppressed and colonized peoples. Knowing this truth, thousands and thousands of young women and men have joined this struggle for freedom in recent decades, even though they were aware of the dangers and challenges such a step would entail. The Rojava Revolution is the fruit of this struggle for freedom. At the same time, this revolution has brought the goals and ideals of the struggle for freedom to an even larger part of the international public. While Rojava has introduced the peoples in the region and the world community at large to the paradigm of the democratic nation based on the brotherhood of ethnic and religious communities, the multiple hostile actors have never stopped attacking the revolution and waging war against the revolution and its ideas.
Defending the Revolution
In this sense, the story of the Rojava revolution is also a story of a defensive war. Over the past years, countless young people have decided to defend their homes and families, but also a democratic and just concept of society. Some 13,000 of these men and women have given their lives in this defensive struggle. They are the ones who have defended the revolution with their lives. They stood in the way of terrorist organizations that threatened the entire world and ultimately defeated them. For us, remembering them means continuing their struggle for a free and just world. We all remember very well how the so-called Islamic State (IS) struck fear into European societies. We remember just as well how this organization committed a genocide against the Ezidi population in Sinjar and abused five thousand Ezidi women and sold them on slave markets. The fact that such an inhuman organization can no longer wreak havoc in the same way in the Middle East and the world today is primarily thanks to the 13,000 people who gave their lives in the fight against IS and similar groups. Precisely because we humans tend to forget quickly, I wanted to remind our readers of this.
Thousands Injured and Fallen in the Fight for Liberation
In addition to the 13,000 killed, about 23,000 people were injured in the fight to defend Rojava. Of these 23,000 people, about 5,000 have suffered permanent physical damage or limitations. For example, these 5,000 people lost an arm, a leg, or their eyesight. Others have suffered irreversible physical damage that significantly affects their lives. We refer to these people as "Gazî" (roughly "war-disabled"). These Gazîs have an important position in the revolution of Rojava. While in other wars many people who suffer physical damage often lose their courage to live, the Gazîs in Rojava must always ask themselves how and in what responsibility they can work for the revolution and society from now on. The mutual support and solidarity among the Gazîs not only gives them the strength to cope with the new, more difficult living conditions. They also draw from this unity their motivation to deepen and implement the paradigm of a democratic, ecological and gender-free society. Their attachment to the ideas of the Kurdish representative Abdullah Öcalan radiates to the entire society and motivates the people to drive forward the construction of a new model of society even more intensively.
Reorganization of Those Injured in the War
Since 2015, the approximately 5,000 Gazîs in Rojava have been actively trying to work according to these principles. But what does their work look like? In the fall of 2015, the "Rojava Gazî Committee" was founded at a congress. This was also where the first decisions were made regarding the work of the Gazîs. The central decisions included advancing their self-organization and carrying out ideological educational work. In addition, it was decided that the Gazîs, most of whom come from military work, must now reorganize themselves in the areas of health, education and at other political and social levels. To advance the intended self-organization, branches of the Gazî Committee were first established in the various cantons of Rojava. Subsequently, additional branches were also established in all areas liberated from IS. This self-organization set itself the goal of spreading Öcalan's ideas throughout society. For this reason, the Gazîs initially attached great importance to their internal educational work. In addition, the self-organization was also intended to help create the means to organize their own medical treatments to a large extent. In addition, three ideological and political academies were established. Long-term training programs in technical and cultural fields were also developed. Education for learning foreign languages such as English or Russian, as well as courses for those who cannot read or write, have also been launched. The purpose of these educational measures is to equip Gazîs with the ideological and practical knowledge they need to enter new fields of work and defend the revolution in this way.
In 2019, the previous work of the "Rojava Gazî Committee" was reflected upon self-critically. One of the central points of criticism was that the previous practice had been too limited to Rojava. The goal from now on was to become even more active in the entire region of North and East Syria and at the same time to make the voices of the Gazîs heard outside Syria's borders. They were to become an important voice of the struggle for freedom throughout the world. These discussions culminated at a congress on June 1, 2019. Here, the decision was made to continue the work from now on under the umbrella of the newly founded "Gazi Federation of North and East Syria". New committees were formed and the previous work was strengthened. Since then, the federation's practices have included diplomacy, education, health, the press, literature, culture and relations with society. The Gazîs have organized themselves in these areas and thus multiplied their work. The committee for relations with society was given the task of also organizing those people who have a physical impairment from birth or as a result of the IS attacks. Thus, these people shall also be recovered for the society.
Their practice has reached a new level with the establishment of the Gazî Federation in 2019. The Gazîs have proven that they will not take a step back despite being physically handicapped. On the contrary, they are defending the revolution as they always have. Their motivation and will, with which they throw themselves into the new areas of work, also infect those around them. Thus, the Gazîs continue to take their place at the forefront of the revolution.
This article was first published in the November/December 2021 edition of the Kurdistan Report.