Not everyone who comes to Rojava picks up a gun, but all of us are here to fight. We are environmentalists, socialists, feminists, and queers, we are people who see in Rojava a radically different system for living that at its very core creates solutions to the social, economic, and environmental malaises that characterise the places we have come from. We see this system as something that both invites our help in forming it and gives us the opportunity to learn how to achieve it on a global scale.
If I had to sum up why I am here it would be because I had lost hope. We learned this week that to have any chance of limiting climate change to a 1.5˚ rise we will need to immediately cancel all planned fossil fuel power plants and decommission those currently operating as soon as possible (there are around a thousand such plants planned or in construction as I write this). Everywhere we look there are these depressing signs of our sleepwalking into hell; Bolsanaro declaring the destruction of a hectare per minute of rainforest as a good thing for ‘development’, the US giving tax breaks to corporations worth more than the entire world’s investment in renewable power, the list is endless. Hand in hand with this disregard for our one habitable planet is a vast and relentless concentration of wealth on a scale never seen before. The system that demands this – neoliberalism – has been so successful in convincing the world it is the natural state of society that to question it is seen as at best deluded or at worst an ‘extremist’.
It’s hard to have any hope for the future when you see how the previous generation will leave this world to us. Having so willingly destroying that which sustains us in the pursuit of wealth, and expecting us to cling on to the laws of free trade, competition and unlimited growth as they drag us into a future of climate breakdown, mass migration and the failure of ecosystems. Having removed from us the very notion that there is more to life than capital growth. Having told us there is no alternative.
The political system in Rojava in one of the few on Earth that utterly rejects these sacred pillars of neoliberalism. It is a system that places at its core an understanding of environmentalism, and enshrines gender equality in its constitution. And this is not an experiment; this system has been working for 5 years despite a devastating war, an invasion and occupation by Turkey and crippling international sanctions. The loss of life experienced by people here is relative to that experienced by the UK during the Second World War.
Unlike Britain in the 1940s, Rojava doesn’t have an empire or allies to fund its rebirth. Yet this place is an oasis. An oasis of co-operation, mutual aid and respect for the natural environment amongst a World-wide desert of capital. Its existence is one of the few things that gives me hope. So the opportunity to come here and fight for this place was one I could not pass up.
I’ve now been here for 6 months, and while in some ways I feel very much at home already, in others I feel like I’ve barely started to scratch the surface. I’ve been documenting some of my experiences privately on social media, but with the recent announcement by Sajid Javid that all British nationals will face up to 10-year prison sentences for being here, regardless of role, I’ve decided to start this public account of life in Rojava so people can see for themselves what a remarkable place this is, and how absurd and sinister it is to outlaw witnessing it.