A Network of Solidarity between Catalonia and Kurdistan.
On the Recognition of the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria by the Catalan Parliament
Ruben Wagensberg and Eulàlia Reguant, members of the Catalan Parliament
In 2014, in the Catalan parliament, a deputy from the group known as pro-independence spoke out in a debate on foreign missions: "Today, more than ever, we need to focus our attention on the Kurdish people. To all the situations they face in Turkey, Iraq, Syria [and Iran]." These sentences have lost none of their validity to this day; indeed, they have become a necessity in light of the current situation.
Not so long ago, few people could have foreseen or even believed in the outbreak of a revolution in North and East Syria. When the Kurdistan Freedom Movement declared its intention to establish a society based on the concept of Democratic Confederalism in the spring of 2011, few people in the West were aware of the issue. Nor did they follow when the Partiya Yekîtiya Demokrat (PYD; Eng: Democratic Unity Party), which can be regarded as part of the Kurdistan Freedom Movement, founded the People's Council of West Kurdistan as a participatory and democratic umbrella for the population and its various political actors.
Almost no one reported or talked about it when popular uprisings in Rojava (West Kurdistan) in July 2012 ushered in the establishment of a democratic system after towns and villages were liberated from the dictatorship in Syria. These uprisings marked the beginning of a profoundly important contemporary revolution that is too often ignored, repressed and forgotten. In a second step, in January 2014, Rojava's three main regions (cantons) issued a declaration of Democratic Autonomy. In this way, they created autonomous and democratic administrations to ensure that their new system would be inclusive and pluralistic, building a third way in the conflict in the region. But it was not until the defense forces of the revolution put up an impressive resistance against the so-called Islamic State in Kobanê between September 2014 and January 2015 that the world's eyes were finally opened. But this came too late and, to this day, still happens too often in a stigmatizing way.
We discovered the revolutionary forces then, even though they had been around for years, even though feminism had been a reality in this region and in this movement for years, where a system of equality between men and women had been established already. Nevertheless, as mentioned before, this was the time when the world finally looked at this region. And since then, many revolutionary, democratic, socialist, libertarian and human rights groups have known about the existence of a free region in North and East Syria. A free region called Rojava, or a region that is now called the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria, because the project there goes beyond the borders of Kurdistan.
Clearly naming the conflict and the actors as a necessary part of the solution
The so-called Kurdish issue presents itself as one of the most complex and violent conflicts in the Middle East; and it remains a conflict awaiting resolution. Until its dimensions are widely discussed, the conflict will persist, even intensify, and create new, more serious problems. It is a conflict that also requires recognition and condemnation of the Turkish dictatorship and the violence perpetrated by the Turkish state against the Kurdish people.
So we see how the solution or the revolution in North and East Syria creates a violent, virulent reaction from the Erdoğan regime, which occupies Rojava territory in violation of international law and also occupies Syrian territory while the international community looks the other way. We see Erdoğan intensifying violence against the Kurdish population in Turkey, but also in Iraq. Despite all of this, the international community simply looks the other way. In fact, the international community continues to view Turkey as an allied power in the region. And yes, Turkey provides the second largest army in NATO and is a growing international power, but the dictatorship and daily massacre of the Erdoğan regime must be stopped.
Rojava resists because Rojava is much more than the victim of Turkish tyranny. The Kurdish people are the largest stateless people in the world - their continued self-assertion and ability to organize and fight has made them one of the main targets of the Turkish state that wants to oppress and exterminate these people, even commit genocide. In doing so, as we have seen, this state is not exactly known for its respect for human rights and freedoms. It is a state which the European Union should stop supporting - yet the EU uses Turkey as an accomplice to secure the Mediterranean Sea and prevent thousands of people fleeing the war in Syria and other conflicts from reaching European soil.
Therefore, the first step in a resolution process must be the proper recognition and definition of the conflict. This is a region that for many years has experienced how the interests of international powers affect the population living there without taking them into account. It is a geostrategically interesting region that has some of the natural resources that are vital for the survival of Western society. And so we have repeatedly ignored the reality and the situation of the Kurdish people.
The power of organizing
When we talk about the revolution in Rojava, about the self-administration of North and East Syria, it is necessary to recognize that this reality cannot be understood without the existence of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) or without the role of Abdullah Öcalan, who was kidnapped in 1999 and has been isolated in a prison since then.
In the Catalan lands, there have been for many years those who keep alive the flame of solidarity with the Kurdish people. We could not have achieved the recognition of the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria without the forty years of CIEMEN [International Center Escarré for Ethnic Minorities and Nations], which alone has built relations with the Kurdish movement over many years. We would also not be here without platforms or groups like the "Azadî Platform", which in recent years has pointed out the Turkish interests here in Catalonia, the contradictions with the Spanish Foreign Ministry that we also have to live with here. On the one hand, we show our solidarity; on the other hand, we contribute to Erdoğan's bombardments in Kurdistan through defense policies, as seen in the form of arms exports or cooperation with Turkish companies that directly or indirectly contribute to the financing of Erdoğan's military offensives. And of course, we would not be where we are now without the dozens of Catalan internationalists who have spent a long time in Rojava and know, support and learn from the movement.
The manifold meaning of recognition: together from below
The recognition of the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria by the Parliament of Catalonia is an important step for the Kurdish Movement. It is an important step because it is the first parliament to recognize this administration and, implicitly, the political contribution of Democratic Confederalism. A political proposal based on democracy, feminism, a different way of understanding the economy and the recognition of religious and ethnic diversity. At the same time, the recognition is a statement and a positioning against totalitarianism and fascism.
But the recognition is also important for the Catalan people because it expresses the desire to become one of the main actors in cooperation and collaboration with the Kurdish people as well as their support. In the 1990s, after the war in Sarajevo, Catalonia was not only involved in hosting refugees from this conflict, but also actively participated in the reconstruction of the region, especially in Sarajevo, but also throughout Bosnia. All this would have been impossible without an organized network of citizens. Therefore, based on what Catalan society has already done, we want the recognition of the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria to take the form of a communal and organized civil society network that consolidates this movement. This solidarity network between Catalonia and Kurdistan is an opportunity to explore and advance other forms of reconstruction far from cruel capitalism - from below, from the grassroots.
If Kurdish society says that their only friends are the mountains, now they have another friend: the Catalan people.
This article was first published in the March/April2022 edition of the Kurdistan Report.