Rojava, Syria – There are a variety of rebel groups fighting in the Syrian civil war – many only interested in taking power for themselves, instead of actually putting an end to oppressive regimes. Many of the rebel groups in Syria are actually terrorist groups, like ISIS, for example, or The Free Syrian Army, which gets funding and assistance from the US government and has close ties to Al-Qaeda.
However, there is one autonomous region that has developed in Syria where rebels are fighting to develop a new society that is free from ISIS, the Syrian government, and any other organization that may attempt to control their families, friends, and neighbors.
In this region, known as Rojava, or sometimes Western Kurdistan, people of different genders, ethnicities, and religions live in peace and relative prosperity considering the struggles of the region. Even people who have different ideas of how social and economic systems should work are able to live the way that they want to live while allowing their neighbors to choose their own path as well. The economic system is a diverse market where worker-owned cooperatives are thriving, but private property is well respected and widely held.
There are also no taxes and no central bank, which on a political and economic level makes it one of the most revolutionary places in the world. The political and economic culture in Rojava is neither right nor left, but something that is so new and different that words to adequately describe it have not been developed yet. Many commenters on different sides of the political aisle will rush to point out parallels with their philosophy and what is happening in Rojava. However, it is more important to look at this place as an incredible social experiment to be learned from, and perhaps create an entirely new philosophy, instead of using it to justify old ones.
— Doloroso (@Pyrmha108) September 23, 2015
One aspect of life in Rojava that is different than most places on Earth is the fact that any involvement which an individual has with the society is entirely voluntary. This means even when it comes to military support or paying for community projects, people have a choice of whether or not they want to contribute to that specific cause. When there is a need in a community, people pull together and use their unique skills and resources to find a solution. This is possible without taxes or central planning of any kind, and it is a way of life that is a threat to both ISIS and governments all over the world. It gives people proof that a better world is possible if people can find the courage to live without these authoritarian control systems that have governed our lives for centuries.
Since their way of life does pose such a threat to power seeking organizations, Rojava is constantly under siege by ISIS fighters and they have been marked as a terrorist group by the government of bordering Turkey, who has created a blockade that severely limits Rojava’s ability to trade internationally. Many people living in Rojava suspect that the government of Turkey is assisting ISIS for the sake of destroying the autonomous region, so it does not become an example for others to follow.
The fighters in Rojava, known as the YPG, have been defending their own territory from ISIS attacks, but they have also been reaching out and liberating nearby towns and cities. Due to the fact that it is one of the last glimmers of hope in Syria, many refugees continue to pour into Rojava, where they hope to become a part of the solution and start a new way of life. The people of Rojava have done this without any western support, and they have an army that is comprised of large numbers of men and women from various religious and ethnic backgrounds.
Rojava seems much like the historical culture of Zomia, a mountainous region of Southeast Asia the size of Europe that was completely stateless for many generations. In fact, the area was almost entirely inhabited by anarchists who had fled into the mountains to escape the reaches of various governments. Naturally, there was no official name or flag for this area, but it has been thoroughly studied and, in 2002, European historian Willem van Schendel of the University of Amsterdam named the region Zomia. In 2009, Yale Professor James C. Scott expanded on the study of the region with his book The Art of Not Being Governed: An Anarchist History of Upland Southeast Asia.
Zomia was an area of around 2.5 million square kilometers, spanning from the central highlands of Vietnam to northeastern India, covering five Southeast nations including Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Burma. The area contained around one hundred million minority peoples. It was not an actual state, but a collection of many peoples and regions mainly living in the hills and mountainous regions that were largely unwanted or inaccessible to the State. Scott’s argument is that these widely varied peoples came together to trade among each other and developed customs and practices that were inherently anti-state. As evidenced by their agriculture, politics, and spirituality, they sought to live in ways that were not congruent with Statism.
John Vibes is an author and researcher who organizes a number of large events including the Free Your Mind Conference. He also has a publishing company where he offers a censorship free platform for both fiction and non-fiction writers. You can contact him and stay connected to his work at his Facebook page. You can purchase his books, or get your own book published at his website www.JohnVibes.com.