[Marxism] Kobanê, Turkey and the Syrian Struggle

Michael Karadjis mkaradjis at gmail.com
Sat Nov 22 01:45:17 MST 2014

Kobanê, Turkey and the Syrian Struggle

Posted on November 19, 2014

Joseph Daher interviewed by Riad Azar   November 18, 2014

An extended interview with Joseph Daher, a member of the Revolutionary 
Left Current in Syria, living in Switzerland, will be published in the 
forthcoming Winter 2015 issue of New Politics. Here we just post the 
questions dealing with Kobanê and Turkey. Daher is the writer and editor 
of Syria Freedom Forever, a blog dedicated to the struggle of the Syrian 
people in their uprising to overthrow the Assad authoritarian regime and 
to build a democratic, secular, socialist, anti-imperialist, and 
pro-resistance Syria. A Ph.D. student in Development, he works as an 
assistant at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland. He was 
interviewed in Geneva on October 22, 2014, by New Politics board member 
Riad Azar, with some email updates.

New Politics. Regarding the recent events in Kobanê, you have reported 
on a statement by the YPG General Command (the acronym for the People’s 
Protection Units, the currently recognized army of Syrian Kurdistan), 
and their fight against Islamic State (IS). The report details their 
determination to see the fight for Kobanê as the struggle for a free and 
democratic Syria. How do you read events in Kobanê and the struggle 
against IS, especially since the United States has not only been 
directly involved in airstrikes against IS, but has been sending 
supplies to Kurdish fighters?

Joseph Daher. Let me begin by saying, as a question of principle, that 
we as the revolutionary left current in Syria support the 
self-determination of the Kurdish people, not only in Syria but also in 
Iraq, Turkey, and Iran as well, where they have been oppressed for 
decades. Further, in Syria we should not forget that the Assad regime 
developed a policy of colonization of northern and northeastern Syria, 
where the Kurds are very much present. We strongly condemn this. At the 
same time, we say also that we would like the Kurdish popular forces to 
become an ally with us, with the democratic and progressive forces of 
Syria, to build, and to struggle for democratic, socialist, and secular 
Syria. We are happy to note that the statement of the YPG Armed Forces 
goes in this direction.

The latest events in Kobanê show once more that even though a U.S.-led 
coalition has recently strengthened its bombardments on IS forces, the 
intervention is still insufficient in many ways in protecting the 
Kurdish forces. The sending of arms is propaganda and solely to avoid a 
complete massacre of the Kurds. I think from the standpoint of the 
imperialist and sub-imperialist states, the issue of Rojava — which is 
the Kurdish autonomous region — is a problem and a challenge. These 
states only favor an autonomous region for Kurdish political forces that 
are submissive to imperialism, like Barzani in Iraq. Turkey does not 
want to see a challenge to the status quo that began with the 2013 peace 
process between the PKK and Turkey. If the PKK had bases in Syria, or 
ties with a sister organization — which is the YPG — it could challenge 
the status quo with Turkey. This is an important framework to think 
about when we speak about the U.S.-led intervention. Only now is the 
intervention taking a more direct form with some assistance given 
directly to the Kurdish forces by the United States. But it is very, 
very light. We will see what will happen. Of course, when Washington 
really wants to support an ally, like Israel — which is a surrogate of 
imperialism in the region — it really does work effectively.

We should put Kobanê into a framework of the U.S.-led coalition, and 
also remind ourselves that the Rojava administration is a direct 
consequence of the Syrian revolutionary process. There is no way Kurdish 
autonomy could have existed without that process. Kurdish autonomy would 
never be given by the Assad regime, which is chauvinist and Arab 
nationalist. The Assad regime has been oppressing Kurdish national 
rights for forty years. It was the Syrian popular uprising that pushed 
the regime to withdraw from regions where the Kurds are a majority. And 
some very good things are happening in these areas, although we should 
not fetishize them; there are also problems. As a principle we support 
the self-determination of the people of an oppressed nation, but we can 
also criticize the political leadership. Just as we support the 
self-determination of the Palestinian people, but we should criticize 
very much the Palestinian Authority or Hamas. This does not stop us from 
supporting the self-determination of both peoples.

What is happening in the Kurdish autonomous region is far from perfect. 
There is repression of Kurdish activists and forced conscription — 
people who refuse are imprisoned. Institutions that criticized the PKK 
were closed. The PYD — the Democratic Union Party, a Syrian Kurdish 
political party established in 2003 — like its mother organization the 
PKK, is not democratic in its internal functioning. We must remember for 
example the protest movements in late June 2013 in some cities of 
Rojava, such as Amouda and Derabissyat, against the repression by the 
PYD of Kurdish revolutionary activists.

But at the same time you have some very positive aspects when it comes 
to the protection of religious minorities, strengthening women’s rights, 
and secularism. In comparison with the popular councils that were 
established from below in the liberated areas of Syria by the 
revolutionaries, which are real example of self-administration, in the 
case of Rojava it is more a dynamic from above, led and controlled by 
the PYD. So again, these are the different aspects that you can say 
about this intervention in Kobanê and how I see it.

But I also understand that the fall of Kobanê will not only be a big 
loss for Kurds, but for the Syrian revolution as a whole. Any kind of 
progress towards greater Kurdish self-determination is linked to the 
deepening of the Syrian revolutionary process. If that revolutionary 
process is defeated, you can be sure that the Assad regime and Turkey 
will do everything in their power to undermine any kind of Kurdish 

NP. The latest news speaks to Turkey’s conflicting interests, on the one 
hand bombarding the PKK, while on the other also allowing Iraqi Kurds to 
cross the Syrian border to fight ISIS. How do you read Turkey’s actions?

JD. Turkey’s actions are definitely linked to the peace process with the 
PKK that has been ongoing since 2013, and its will to control the PKK’s 
process and Kurdish autonomy in southern Turkey. We are very far from 
peace, and we can see that curfews have been implemented for the first 
time since 1992 in the southern and eastern regions of Turkey that are 
majority Kurdish. Approximately 30-35 Kurdish protestors have been 
killed and a thousand arrested, so repression is still very much 
present. There is a fear in Turkey that the PKK might get strengthened 
by Kurdish autonomy in areas of Rojava.

The Turks refused the passage of Kurdish PKK fighters to go to Kobanê, 
just as they wanted to kick out people that were affiliated with the 
Syrian PKK, and put them back in Syria. The Turkish government has also 
declared that the PKK are terrorists similar to IS, while saying that it 
did not understand why Kobanê was such a strategic city for the USA, a 
way to criticize the very small assistance given by the Americans to the 

So the solution was, in my view, to allow the passage of a symbolic 
number of 200 Iraqi peshmerga that are linked to Barzani, who is a 
Turkish ally. We should not forget that the biggest investor in northern 
Iraq and Kurdish Iraq is the Turks, and Barzani has been an ally of 
imperialism for decades. To let the Iraqi peshmerga pass was a way to 
deal with the Kobanê issue, because they do not want it to fall 
completely. The Turks wouldn’t like to have IS on their border. But at 
the same time, today the Turkish government said that it was a bad idea 
for the Americans to send weapons through airdrops to the Kurdish forces 
in Kobanê. So we can see the double game. Certainly Turkey is not a 
friend of Kurdish self-determination and Kurdish popular forces. Exactly 
the opposite, they are an enemy and Turkey sees any kind of 
strengthening of Kurdish popular forces and Kurdish autonomy as a threat 
to its own political interests.

NP. What would you like to see happen in Turkey?

JD. I would like to see an uprising against the Turkish government and 
the Turkish army, both of which represent the different interests of the 
multiple factions of the bourgeoisie in Turkey. They both use forms of 
sectarianism and national chauvinism against religious and ethnic 
minorities, with the objective of dividing the popular classes. So I can 
only support my comrades and the left in Turkey to build a large and 
independent, democratic, social justice oriented organization, opposed 
to sectarianism and nationalism. The Turkish left must build a strong 
front, allied with the Kurdish minorities, to challenge the kind of 
bourgeois interests represented by the AKP and the army.

Interview first published on the website of New politics: 

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