Meeting given an inspiring glimpse of Rojava’s revolution

[By Dave Holmes] An August 11 meeting at the Melbourne Trades Hall heard a truly inspiring report on the rebuilding of Kobanê and the progress and problems of the Rojava Revolution. Hawzhin Azeez, a former University of Newcastle academic and now a central figure on the Kobanê Reconstruction Board, spoke for almost an hour outlining the significance of Kobanê to the Kurdish freedom struggle and the importance of the rebuilding effort.

From September 2014 to January 2015 Kobanê was besieged by the Islamic State gangs. But against all odds the epic resistance prevailed. Women played a key role alongside the male defenders, electrifying people around the world. The human and material cost was enormous: thousands died and some 80 percent of the city was destroyed (mostly by the US airstrikes).

Kobanê must be rebuilt

It would have been simpler to build a new city some kilometres away. But Azeez explained that given the great sacrifices made it was felt that Kobanê had to be rebuilt where it was. Making the reconstruction immeasurably more difficult is the total Turkish blockade; in addition, access from Iraqi Kurdistan is intermittent at best. And south of Rojava lies the territory of the Islamic State.

The positive side of this confronting situation is that it has forced the people of the city to be extremely creative. For instance, US experts said it would take three years and a lot of money just to clear the rubble but it was mostly done by an army of volunteers in six months. And despite an absence of trained technicians, volunteers learned by trial and error to operate complex brick-making machinery. And so on and so on.

Revolution a lot more than military struggle

Azeez explained that the military struggle was forced on them. But the Rojava Revolution is far more than that; it is an attempt to develop new, more social and cooperative ways of living. And in an extremely conservative and patriarchal society, the revolution is trying to empower women to step forward and play a more equal role in society. For example, the traditional view is that it is shameful for women to step outside the family and the house and go to work. But progress is being made.

The meeting was chaired by NTEU state secretary Colin Long. Also speaking was John Tully from Australians for Kurdistan who outlined the work of the committee. A key project of AfK is to build support to have the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) removed from Australia’s list of terrorist organisations. (You can add your endorsement to an open letter to the Australian government at Lift the Ban on the PKK.)

A key focus of the meeting was to raise funds for the construction of a school for some of Kobanê’s orphaned children (of which there are some 600). Over $300 was collected on the night. (This project is also crowdfunding at Support the Kobanê war orphans school; please consider making a donation.)