On Friday, March 9, 2018, Havin Guneser, of the International Initiative for Freedom for Abdullah Öcalan — Peace in Kurdistan, based in Cologne, Germany, came up on the bus from New York City to the Hudson Valley to meet with Michael Taussig, Peter Lamborn Wilson, and me about the current situation in Rojava. Havin has been called “the most important worldwide ambassador for the Kurdish freedom movement.” We had a thousand questions for her, and she answered them all.
I said that I understood that the Turkish military was decimated after the coup in Turkey, with Erdogan jailing many officers. Havin said, yes, the military is depleted and demoralized, and that’s why the fighters in Afrin are mostly paramilitaries and mercenaries. She also said that once they destroy Afrin, Turkey will be ensconced in Afrin and will not leave. She said she’d never seen the level of violence that is happening in Afrin before, and described some of the many atrocities perpetrated by the paramilitaries there.
She assured us that the revolution in Rojava remained strong, and that the people of Rojava were making progress every day.
Her group is trying to organize and agitate for the release of Abdullah Öcalan from Imrali prison, in the middle of the Sea of Marmara, in time for his 70th birthday, in April next year. His lawyers have not been allowed to see him since 2011, and he’s not received mail or, presumably, books since then.
Havin continues to translate Öcalan’s prison writings and brought us the first two volumes of the five-volume work, Manifesto for Democratic Civilization. The first volume is Civilization: The Age of Masked Gods and Disguised Kings, and the second volume is Capitalism: The Age of Unmasked Gods and Naked Kings. These and other writings by Öcalan published by the International Initiative, including Prison Writings: The Roots of Civilization, Prison Writings: The PKK and the Kurdish Question in the 21st Century, and Prison Writings III: The Road Map to Negotiations, are all now available from Amazon, as is the book that Mick Taussig, Peter Lamborn Wilson, Dilar Dirik and I put out in 2016, To Dare Imagining: Rojava Revolution, which was just published in an Italian edition, Rojava: Una democrazia senza stato, by Eleuthera in Milan.
Havin was in New York to secure a U.S. publisher for the five-volume work, so hopefully these works will become more available and visible in the U.S. soon. Öcalan is a major political thinker for our time, and must be recognized as such.
We had hoped to influence the discussion about Öcalan, and about northern Syria and the Rojava Revolution, in the U.S. with our book, but it was mostly ignored (except for the review in DPW by Brooks Johnson (The Poetic of Stateless Democracy), and a few others). Most American leftists missed the transformation that Öcalan underwent in prison, from the PKK nationalist line to a new form of Stateless Democracy, influenced by the writings of the Zapatistas in Mexico, Foucault’s lectures in Society Must Be Defended, Wallerstein’s The Modern World System, Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism, Fernand Braudel’s Civilization and Capitalism: A History of Civilizations, Pierre Clastres’ Society Against the State, Murray Bookchin’s anarchist outlines for Direct Democracy and Democratic Confederalism, and the writings of Walter Benjamin and many others.
As I say in To Dare Imagining, Öcalan “began to advocate for a kind of stateless democracy, built on the three pillars of women’s equality, ecology, and peace—a ‘democratic modernity’ to replace ‘capitalist modernity.’ . . . As he said, ‘One can’t get rid of Capitalism without getting rid of the State. And one can’t get rid of the State without getting rid of Patriarchy.’ He also said, ‘The solutions for all social problems in the Middle East should have woman’s position as focus . . . the role the working class once played must now be taken over by the sisterhood of women.'”
The Rojava Revolution is now five years old, and it is strong and growing, but it is being attacked from all sides, especially now by Erdogan’s goons and by ISIS. As I write, hundreds of civilians are fleeing Afrin, and thousands of others are now traveling from the eastern parts of Rojava to show solidarity with the people of Afrin, as the paramilitaries encircle and bomb the city. So far, the U.S. troops in Rojava are standing down.
The best way to understand what is at stake in this fight is to read the prison writings of Abdullah Öcalan.
March 12, 2018