According to reports on Syria Direct, over the last week or so, the Asayish, the cops who maintain order in the self-managed cantons of Rojava, have launched a wave of arrests against people associated with the Kurdish National Council, which is linked to Masoud Barzani’s administration in Iraqi Kurdistan.
Several people have been arrested for holding demonstrations without a permit, and the co-president of Jazira canton’s Internal Affairs Entity, in classic neoliberal reasonablespeak, said that “any gathering or demonstration in any city must be licensed” and that “the appropriate legal measures will be taken” against anyone not abiding by that law.
I share this information in the hope of prompting some discussion among the wider radical left circles who’ve been paying attention to developments in Rojava, and particularly among those of us who are more or less supportive of the social experiment going on there.
Obviously, the PYD is still a much lesser evil compared to Assad, ISIS, or Jabhat al-Nusra/al-Sham. Just as I’d rather live under a Corbynist social democracy than under the Tories, I’d rather live in Rojava, Asayish and all, than under the rule of any of the main forces that control most of Syria. And opposing the Rojavan proto-state’s repression against political rivals should not stop us from opposing the repression carried out by other states against supporters of Rojava. I’d say that we should still support the de-listing of the PKK, not least because the chilling effect of terror legislation actually makes it harder to have a full critical discussion of Kurdish politics.
But still, this is news that deserves to be properly discussed, especially among supporters of the Rojava project. Do people see these moves as justifiable? (After all, Barzani is undoubtedly a scumbag, and even the most libertarian revolution will have to take some measures to disrupt reactionaries.)
If you don’t see these arrests as justified, how do they change your overall opinion of the PYD and the “democratic self-administration”? If you think the arrests are wrong, but the Rojava experiment as a whole is still worth supporting in some way (which, for what it’s worth, is more or less how I feel), what would it take to make you change your mind – what are your “red lines” that the PYD would have to cross before you felt you couldn’t support it, or its allied forces and projects, at all?
I offer these questions not in the hope of tricking people into giving embarrassing wrong answers, or to demonstrate the correctness of some invariant set of fixed truths, but because I genuinely don’t know the answers for sure. An adequate understanding of the situation in Rojava can only come from open and comradely discussion. But that discussion can’t shy away from addressing the uglier sides of the situation, which is why keeping track of things like Asayish repression of the PYD’s rivals is so important.