Dagli intervento su "scala industriale" operati da Ankara in Bakur e Rojava, all'apparente modesta "attività artigianale2 della repressione operata da Teheran, per il popolo curdo è sempre perenne emergenza...
ROJAVA, BAKUR, ROJHILAT...PER I CURDI E' SEMPRE REPRESSIONE
Cantone di Afrin. Chi lo ha visitato ne parlava con entusiasmo.
Una natura magnifica – tra montagne e pianura – varia e suggestiva. Ricchezze inestimabili, sia in superficie che nel sottosuolo. Storicamente agricola, questa regione nel nord della Siria è da sempre anche vivaio di convivenza tra diverse etnie, fedi religiose, culture (Arabi, Curdi, Ezidi, Zoroastriani, Aleviti, Sunniti...). Un esempio di possibile e proficua convivenza tra popoli, se pur in miniatura, .
Quella di Afrin è una delle aree liberate in cui maggiormente si era consolidata l'esperienza del Confederalismo democratico, frutto della rivoluzione – sociale e culturale – del Rojava.
Negli ultimi anni era divenuta anche un rifugio per quanti fuggivano dalle devastazioni operate dagli Stati (in particolare di quello soidisant “islamico”).
Anche sotto assedio, l'amministrazione autonoma ha offerto protezione e assistenza agli sfollati provenienti da ogni angolo della Siria. E soprattutto, diversamente da come la Turchia agisce con i rifugiati (usati come ricatto e moneta di scambio nei confronti dell'Europa) senza contropartite.
L'acuirsi del conflitto aveva alimentato ulteriormente le ondate di fuggitivi, provenienti da Aleppo, Kafrnaha, al-Tabqa, al-Raqqa, Hama...e anche di profughi palestinesi, in parte scappati dall'Iraq.
Aperto nel 2014, il campo profughi di Robar a Basla (distretto di Sherawa) aveva accolto oltre tremila profughi. Un altro centinaio di famiglie venivano ospitate direttamente nella città di Afrin, 25mila persone nel distretto di Rajo, 50mila nella regione di Janders, 10mila a Bulbul e 15mila nel distretto di Shara.
La collaborazione tra il Comitato di gestione delle persone sfollate e l'Autorità per gli affari sociali e del lavoro, ha consentito - nell'ambito dell'Amministrazione democratica autonoma – di affrontare positivamente le questioni vitali (tende, elettricità, acqua, assistenza medica, istruzione...) per gli ospiti dei campi di Shehba e Robar. Garantendo, nei limiti del possibile, anche opportunità lavorative per i rifugiati.
Va comunque stigmatizzato che gli appelli rivolti alle organizzazioni umanitarie, sono stati disattesi.
La situazione era precipitata il 20 gennaio 2017, data dell'attacco turco eufemisticamente denominato “Ramoscello d'olivo” (ma forse “Randello” era più appropriato). Mentre esercito e aviazione di Ankara (con l'accompagnamento dei soliti mercenari) si scatenavano su Afrin e dintorni,
alla furia devastatrice non sfuggivano nemmeno i campi profughi. E non certo come “effetto collaterale”, ma in quanto obiettivi precisi e prestabiliti.
Un gran numero di profughi (in gran parte arabi), tra cui decine di bambini rimasti feriti nei bombardamenti dei primi giorni, hanno dovuto fuggirsene via – terrorizzati –da Robar, rifugiandosi nei villaggi circostanti.
REPRESSIONE NEL ROJHILAT
Se la Turchia opera contro i curdi su scala industriale, non va sottovalutata la gravità della repressione iraniana (su scala artigianale, per ora) nel Rojhilat (Kurdistan orientale, sotto l'amministrazione di Teheran). Dopo la recente ondata di arresti operata da polizia e servizi nelle città di Kamyaran e Sine (Sanandaj), la Piattaforma democratica dei movimenti e dei popoli d'Iran ha diffuso una dichiarazione in cui si rivolge a tutti i movimenti politici chiedendo loro di solidarizzare con gli arrestati.
Nel testo si mette in guardia contro il rischio rappresentato dalle attuali misure di sicurezza adottate dalla Repubblica islamica per la vita stessa (oltre che per la libertà) dei dieci militanti ecologisti curdi. Accusati di “spionaggio e corruzione sulla terra”, potrebbero venir sottoposti a torture per estorcere improbabili “confessioni”.
L'azione repressiva, opera dei servizi del regime, viene definita un “complotto”, deciso e avviato a Teheran per approdare in Rojhilat. Oltre all'arresto dei dieci militanti, vi rientrerebbe a pieno titolo l'uccisione di Kavous Seyed Emami - sociologo ed ecologista - morto in circostanze poco chiare nella prigione di Evin.
Nella dichiarazione si ricorda che il responsabile governativo della sicurezza - in un'intervista concessa all'agenzia Mehr - ha affermato che gli arrestati erano membri del Partito della vita libera del Kurdistan (PJAK) e che agivano sotto la copertura di associazioni ambientaliste. Accusandoli anche della morte del conducente di un'ambulanza dell'organizzazione Kamyaran,
ma senza fornire alcuna prova. Va ricordato che il PJAK, oltre a non rivendicare come propri membri gli arrestati, aveva fornito un'altra versione sulla morte dell'autista che in realtà sarebbe stato ucciso da agenti dei servizi iraniani.
Scrive la Piattaforma democratica dei movimenti e dei popoli d'Iran: “Senza alcun dubbio, l'obiettivo strategico del regime islamico dell'Iran, di complottare contro i militanti dei movimenti sociali e civili così come contro i militanti ambientalisti, i lavoratori, gli insegnanti, gli studenti, le donne etc. - che continua da quattro decenni di potere reazionario e repressivo - non è altro che un capovolgimento del movimento sociale di massa condotto dagli oppressi, dopo la creazione della Repubblica islamica”.
E quindi invita “tutte le organizzazioni socialiste e di sinistra, i partiti e i movimenti politici, i militanti libertari ed ecologisti, i difensori dei dei diritti umani e le comunità oppresse in Iran a sostenere i militanti arrestati in Kurdistan per sconfiggere le denunce e i mandati di arresto del regime”.
The announcement of Trump that the US would immediately stop aerial bombardments and withdraw their diplomatic personnel, while their troops would all withdraw within 3 months, officially signalled the end of the Syrian war, a war which has been portrayed as a “civil war” but one in which all of the world participated. While major powers, such as Russia, France, the UK, and the US, and regional powers such as Iran, Israel and Turkey participated directly, they had their Syrian proxies to fight against one another. The conflict, in the first place, wouldn’t have erupted without the decisive funding and support given by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Turkey and Jordan to a frightful collection of armed jihadist lunatics.
The prospect of the Syrian war and its unspeakable bloodletting to come to an end is good news, no matter what the result. The amount of human suffering it caused by callous foreign interventionism is not justified by any grand discourse of human rights or democracy, which were rendered increasingly hollow and meaningless as the horror progressed. However, the biggest losers in the aftermath of this horrible tragedy will be the party which, at one point, promised the most: the Kurdish. When the US pull out from Syria it will be the Kurdish who will be left exposed to Turkish aggression. Quite possibly, the Syrian regime will push to recover all the territory acquired by the Kurds with US protection over the past few years.
The dependency of the Kurdish from the US, expressed in angry protests outside US military bases demanding that they stay, makes irrelevant their claims of “autonomy”. The SDF reacted to Trump’s announcement claiming that it was a “stab in the back” (didn’t they know that imperialism doesn’t have friends but interests?) and that it would leave “a military and political vacuum” (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-syria...OJ10F
)… oblivious to the fact that they were, indeed, describing the SDF minus US support as a “vacuum”. But what was Trump supposed to do? Prolong a costly war forever? Escalate regional tensions with all countries that border Syria, including a NATO ally? Break with Turkey?
He flirted for some time with the idea of the US forming a Kurdish protectorate in Syria, an idea favoured by the Pentagon, to access the oil fields in Deir ez Zor, to counter Iranian and Russian influence, and to have military bases in a geostrategic region. As a matter of fact, recently the Kurdish were calling in unequivocal terms for the US to permanently occupy the Eastern region of Syria so as to form a protectorate in all but name. However, the big elephant in the room is Turkey, a NATO member. In spite of all the stupid claims that Trump is playing in the hands of Russia or that his decision will benefit the geopolitical rivals of the USA, had he decided to create this protectorate, the results would have been catastrophic for the imperial interests of the USA. This would have caused a crisis in NATO, as Turkey would have likely escalated military actions against the YPG, and it would have thrown Turkey into the arms of Russia, a scenario which Trump wanted to avoid at all costs. Continued support for the Kurds, from the imperial interests of the USA, was too costly.
The first signs of this shift appeared when some weeks ago the USA put a price on the head of the top PKK commanders. Then, some days ago, the USA Syria envoy, James Jeffrey, announced that the USA did not have “permanent relations with sub-state entities” (https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/new-atlanticist/u...syria
). These two moves, coupled with a recognition that regime change in Syria was no longer in the agenda, showed clearly that the USA was moving away from the idea of the protectorate. The last sign, was when two days ago, the USA agreed to sell Patriot missiles to Turkey, after they had agreed a deal with Russia to acquire S-400 missile systems (https://www.defensenews.com/global/europe/2018/12/19/tu...-row/
Now, the end of the protectorate dream means also the end of the “autonomy” project of the Kurdish, who put all of their eggs in the USA basket. The Kurdish will not be able to resist for a second a full-scale Turkish offensive. Afrin was the pilot experience –and then the USA didn’t move a finger to stop the invasion. Without USA military support, the Kurdish proved as an incompetent army as Afrin fell like a house of cards. Eastern Syria will fall even quicker: after all, Afrin was a region with an important Kurdish population. Eastern Syria, on the contrary, is mostly Arabic, except for the Kobane and Cizire cantons. They have gained the animosity of Arabs, who do not welcome them and see them as USA proxies, they have gained the animosity of Christians in Qamishli and Hasaka whom they have antagonised, they have earned the animosity of Syrian nationalists when they have supressed the use of the Syrian flag, they have gained the animosity of the elements of the regime with ambushed and skirmishes against the small pockets of Assadists in Qamishli and Hasaka. They have made enough enemies inside Eastern Syria and outside it to guarantee a quick fall in the likely event of a Turkish invasion. The Kurds overstretched themselves out of the three Kurdish cantons, were they should have stayed all the time. It is unbelievable that they didn’t foresee this possible scenario and that they were too overconfident of their “friends” in Washington. Quite possibly, Assad will let the Turkish deal with the SDF in the north, and take advantage in the south of Eastern Syria. The Kurdish have no capacity to resist: the PKK in Turkey and in Qandil in Northern Iraq is decimated, and when the Syrian rear-guard is annihilated, Erdogan will be able to decree his campaign against the Kurdish liberation movement as a complete success. The world will turn away as they did in Sri Lanka in 2009. After the Kurdish resistance is shattered beyond recovery, Assad and Erdogan will come to an agreement and the Turkish territorial gains will be devolved to Syria, paving a stabilisation on terms acceptable to Erdogan. Turkey failed on their goal of removing Assad, but will manage to end up the Kurdish threat, at least for a very long time.
Could have this been different? In late 2015 and throughout 2016, there was a real chance of a pragmatic agreement between the Russians (who were in a deep crisis with Turkey after the downing of a Russian fighter jet by Turkey), Assad (who was in a much weaker position, and likely to make more concessions than he is now) and the Kurdish who were still in a strong position. This way the war would have finished long time ago, with a more progressive result that could have guaranteed a minimum of direct democracy, and sparing thousands of lives. Instead, the Kurdish overplayed their hand, flirting with the opposition (until Afrin), rejecting any approach to the regime, acting in open hostility and attacking Assad forces in Deir ez Zor, and throwing themselves into the arms of the USA. Now, as the Turkish invasion of northern Syria seems imminent, they call for Assad to defend the lands they declared autonomous, and they enter into quick negotiations to see if they can save anything. But now it is too late. Assad is in a much stronger position and he won’t be willing to make any concessions at all. The Kurdish, indeed, are in no position now to ask for any concessions, and should be thankful if Assad helps them just enough to avoid a full-fledged slaughter. At this stage, however, both the international community and the Syrian people, by and large, seem to agree that the war needs to end at any costs. And the bulk of the cost will be paid by the Kurds.
As the demise of the Rojava project seems imminent, it is important to learn the lessons left by this experience. Blind faith in imperialism can only lead to disastrous results for progressives. But we should also remember the premises of the project, of gender equality, of an ecological society, of direct and participatory democracy. Nothing should obscure the merits of this utopian society that flourished in the middle of an atrocious war, only to become the victim of its own success. In the end, the idea of the protectorate signalled the demise of the utopian Rojava: the USA and Saudi Arabia, two key allied of the Kurdish, would have never allowed such a society to exist. Although Rojava will formally be finished in the coming weeks or months, its demise had already started in 2016 with the strategic partnership formed with the USA. Sooner or later, the USA was to decide between the NATO partner and the "substate entity".
As everyone watches in horror and disbelief the unparalleled Saudi atrocities in Yemen and the unspeakable barbaric assassination of the journalist Jamal Kashoggi, the Saudi royals are increasingly isolated in the world. However, in the Middle East, they have made new friends: the Kurdish of Syria.
As everyone watches in horror and disbelief the unparalleled Saudi atrocities in Yemen and the unspeakable barbaric assassination of the journalist Jamal Kashoggi, the Saudi royals are increasingly isolated in the world. However, in the Middle East, they have made new friends: the Kurdish of Syria. The relationship is gaining strength of late. Ilham Ehmed, co-chairman of the Syrian Democratic Council spared no words of praise to describe the relationship between Saudi Arabia, and the SDF and the de facto state-in-the-making in north eastern Syria:
“Saudi Arabia is a brother country of Syria and important to Muslims. The SDF is ready to cooperate with countries seeking to end the conflict in Syria and to impose stability by building a democratic Syria away from all sectarian and national projects.” (https://southfront.org/sdf-boosts-relations-saudi-arabi...yria/)
In the curious SDF worldview, Saudi Arabia, a country run by an unelected despot monarchy, where flogging and public executions are an everyday affair, where women are pretty much banned from public life, which handsomely has funded jihadists in Syria for seven years, and which has an appalling human rights record in every single respect, is trying to build a democratic Syria! The butchers of Yemen are now a force for stability!
Of course, we can’t take Ehmed words at face value. It all goes down to money. You never bite the hand that feeds you. Saudi Arabia, after realizing that the Free Syrian Army would never defeat the Syrian Army and depose Assad, shifted, together with the USA, to support for the Kurdish-led SDF as a mechanism to have a say in the ongoing Syrian crisis and weaken the Arab nationalist regime of Assad, a thorn in the side to the growing religious conservatism which has swept the region. They have funded the SDF, together with another “beacon of democracy” in the Middle East, the United Arab Emirates, with over U$150 millions (https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/16/world/middleeast/sau....html
). Progressives and libertarians should not remain silent at these developments, as what once could have been a revolutionary force degenerates into a callous pragmatism.
Strange alliances have happened in the course of the Syrian conflict. The Israel-Saudi Arabia- USA- SDF alliance has been possible because of Iran is a common enemy. The US also wants to prevent further involvement of Russia in the region, which could undermine their own weakened hegemony (http://www.kurdistan24.net/en/news/428560a4-9f7a-487f-8...924dc
). All of the above mentioned countries will support the Kurdish cause because the partition of Syria will weaken Assad and the Hezbolah-Iran axis. And the Kurdish are ready to use this contradiction to their advantage. But to what extent they are being used? Have they started to change their approach? They started demanding a very radical revolution in social, political, gender and environmental terms. Now their best allies are those who deny climate change and do the most to stop any action to save our planet (the US) and petro-monarchies that are structurally misogynist (UAE and Saudi Arabia). How can you commit seriously, in such a scenario, to any real programme of change, particularly on women and on the environment? Unavoidably, the Kurdish practice will eventually come back to narrow nationalism, totally divorced from its discourse as no real revolution will be tolerated by the USA imperialism and by the Saudis. They already started to create the abyss between the revolutionary PKK and the SDF/YPG: the USA put a price on the heads of top PKK commanders and the SDF/YPG are shamefully silent.
The model upon which they seek to build an independent Syria looks, to may Kurdish commentators, just like Israel:
“The Kurds must pressure western allies to develop a policy that takes a clear stance on the Kurds as Israel has so effectively done. Israel has successfully secured a guaranteed pro-Israel policy and stance from the US and major European powers that have yet to disappoint.” (http://www.kurdistan24.net/en/opinion/64b0f9ad-beb2-470...d8a6f)
Israel, at its time, also built its apartheid state while talking about advanced democracy, women’s rights and even of semi-libertarian experiences such as the kibbutzim. But no self-management, no libertarian project can be built on top of the dispossession of the natives and no freedom can be the by-product of colonialism. Unfortunately, the Kurdish project, after covering itself with a multi-cultural lens is becoming increasingly sectarian: clashes have been reported –and they have been violently suppressed by the SDF/YPG- with Christians in Qamishli, and the Arabs in all the territories they are occupying well beyond their own natural areas of influence, are extremely unhappy with what they described as an occupation.
With the Turkish invasion of Afrin, the Kurdish demonstrated that, without US airpower, they are a weak and incompetent fighting force. It also demonstrated that the practical limits of the Kuridsh project are set by the USA: they left Afrin fall like a house of cards because it was no priority to their imperial master. The SDF/YPG difficulties fighting ISIS in Hajin contrasts with the speed by which they seized the oil fields in Deir ez Zor, which was priority for the USA. Unsurprisingly, they are now calling for the USA to establish a permanent military presence in the region (http://www.kurdistan24.net/en/news/d84e262e-0b2a-445a-8...99089
). This presence will have great geostrategic importance in shaping the new Middle East project designed by Bush Jr. and will be paid by the USA plunder of Syrian oil. From a libertarian guerrilla force willing to build a new world, they are turning into a US proxy army with a pragmatic approach in their quest to build a new nation-state in the Middle East.
The gap between Kurdish theory and practice has turned into an unbridgeable abyss. Their rhetorical cry for freedom, autonomy and independence is contrasted by their alliance with imperialism and with the most backward monarchies in the world. That they see themselves into the Israeli mirror –a racist, supremacist and militaristic enclave State- should be enough to send shivers down the spine of progressives.
It is clear, at this stage, that what started as a promising revolution has degenerated. From freedom fighters, the Kurdish have turned into the USA proxy army. While all the world look with horror at Saudi Arabia and their genocidal war in Yemen and the barbaric mutilation and murder of journalist Kashoggi, the silence of the Kurdish speaks louder than words. How can you talk about women’s freedom when your allies, best friends, the forces of stability, are among the worst misogynists in the world and you are silent, completely silent, about their crimes at a time that even conservatives like Macron in France criticise their crimes in Yemen and the horrific Kashoggi affair? A truly revolutionary force would be allying with the Saudi women fighting for change and equality, not with the Prince and the King! How can you talk about autonomy when you are absolutely dependent on the USA and indeed you are calling for a permanent occupation of the region where you claim sovereignty? What type of self-determination comes out of the cannon of a foreign imperialist super-power? These are questions that progressives around the world should legitimately ask to the Kurdish liberation movement –solidarity should not obscure critical thinking. What’s more, our solidarity has been with a libertarian project which was represented at one point by the Kurdish, but we should be no slaves to their terrible decisions and become uncritical accessories to justify the construction of their own sectarian state.
We live in strange times, indeed.
Syria’s war has transformed the country in both shattering and subtle ways. While many evolutions are for the worse, others inspire cautious optimism: Syrians have shown relentless ingenuity in adapting to every stage of a horrendous conflict, salvaging remnants of dignity, solidarity and vitality amid nightmarish circumstances.
They have generally done so on their own terms, grappling with changes ignored by virtually everyone who claims to help or represent them. These transformations are far removed from peace talks and power politics, and rarely considered in aid efforts. They apparently elude the growing pool of outsiders able to visit Syria, who often remark that things are more “normal” than they thought: Damascene cafes are filled with people, shops have begun to reopen in Aleppo, and officials of varying nationalities buzz with over-optimistic plans for the future.
Indeed, Syrian society has been reshaped in ways that will take time to discern. A thorough reassessment is in order if we are to grasp even the most basic realities of Syria as it continues to exist and evolve today. In gauging the magnitude of these changes, accounts from ordinary Syrians provide the most powerful guide.
No country for young men
The decimation of Syria’s male population represents, arguably, the most fundamental shift in the country’s social fabric. As a generation of men has been pared down by death, disability, forced displacement and disappearance, those who remain have largely been sucked into a violent and corrupting system centered around armed factions.
An Alawi family in a coastal village provides a window into the ravaged state of Syria’s male population, even in territory that has remained firmly under government control. Of three brothers, one was killed in battle, a second paralyzed by a bullet to the spine, and a third—an underpaid, 30-year-old civil servant—lives in fear of conscription. Their mother summed up her plight:
We’re tired of war. I gave one martyr, and another son is half-dead. The youngest might be drafted at any moment. I hope for god to end this war; the graveyards are filled with young men.
Their story is typical in their 3,000-person village, which in turn reflects realities across many communities socioeconomically bound up with the military and security apparatus. By the family’s own estimate, matching the information provided by an NGO director active in the area, 80 of the village’s men have been killed and 130 wounded—amounting to a third of the male population aged 18-50. The remaining two-thirds have overwhelmingly been absorbed into the army or militias.
The violence that has consumed so many lives has also generated indispensable sources of income. Within this particular family, the paralyzed brother relies on his veteran’s pension of roughly 60 dollars per month. (All dollar figures are approximate, rounding off to an exchange rate of 500 Syrian pounds to the dollar.) His brother’s widow receives a monthly allowance equivalent to 35 dollars, doled out by the militia for whom he was fighting when killed in battle. Such stipends, however, are far from adequate, and other family members need to spread themselves thin to make ends meet. The 65-year-old father—himself an army veteran—said despondently: “With one son martyred and another broken, my healthy son and I work day and night to feed the family.”
A similar malaise has taken root in areas formerly controlled by opposition factions, and since retaken by pro-Assad forces. While many young men have been killed or forced to flee, those who remain face powerful incentives to cast their lot in with regime-aligned armed groups. Doing so offers the chance to safeguard oneself while earning a living – providing an alternative to conscription into the regular army, which combines dismal pay with the mortal risk of deployment to faraway frontlines.
The eastern half of Aleppo city exemplifies this trend. Devastated by years of government siege and bombardment, it has been left with minimal services, a ravaged economy and the grinding insecurity caused by unregulated militia activity. “If you want to protect yourself and your family, you join a militia,” remarked a middle-aged man in the Jazmati neighborhood. “The area is infested with crime associated with the National Defense militias. Each group has control over a certain quarter, and they sometimes fight each other over the distribution of spoils. Shop owners must pay these militias protection. One owner refused, and they torched his store.”
Against this backdrop, bearing arms carries a natural appeal. A man in the Masakin Hanano neighborhood described this dynamic:
The young people who stayed in East Aleppo have joined militias, which provide solutions to some of the worst problems we face. Fighters get a decent salary, but also other perks—for instance more amps from private generators, because electricity vendors will reduce the price if they know they are dealing with a militiaman.
Another resident of the same area explained that he and his family could scrape by thanks to his two sons’ positioning in the Iran-backed Baqir Brigade—which provides not only monthly salaries, but also opportunities to procure household items through looting.
Across Syria, young men wishing to evade conscription—whether into the regular army or militias—face scant alternatives. Most who can afford to leave the country do so; others benefit from an exemption afforded to university students, while another subset enjoys a reprieve due to their status as the sole male of their generation in their nuclear family. Others may pay exorbitant bribes to skirt the draft, or confine themselves within their homes to avoid being detected—making them invisible both to the army and to broader society. Some endure multiple such ordeals, only to remain in an indefinite state of limbo due to the contingent and precarious nature of these solutions. A man in his late thirties recounted his experience after loyalist forces reclaimed his hometown in the Damascus suburbs in 2016:
I faced two choices: Either pay 3 to 4,000 dollars to be smuggled out to Turkey or Lebanon, or join the army or one of the militias. There were about nine such factions in my city, led by young people connected to the security services. For men not wishing to fight, there’s a tacit agreement that the head of any faction can register you as a fighter and simply leave you to live your life. In exchange, you pay that commander a one-time bribe ranging from 250,000 to one million Syrian pounds [500 to 2,000 dollars], in addition to your monthly militia salary and sometimes a further monthly sum of up to 50,000 pounds [100 dollars].
In my case, the costs of being smuggled out were too high—plus I have a wife and children here. So, I spent more than 500,000 pounds [1,000 dollars] to arrange things with a faction. By simple bad luck, that faction was dissolved, and I lost both my money and my freedom of movement. I’m confined to my house, dependent on savings and help from family. I don’t know what to do.
In other words, even the diminishing cohort of young men who stayed alive and in Syria will long bear scars of their own—if not from the trauma of joining militias, then from the desperate measures taken to avoid doing so.
Inevitably, the devastation of Syria’s male work force will beset efforts to restart the country’s economy. An industrialist in Aleppo put it simply: “I talk with factory owners and they say they want to reopen their factories, but they can’t find male workers. When they do find them, security services or militiamen come and arrest those workers and extort money from the owners for having hired them in the first place.” With no large scale returns on the horizon for local industries, this economic impasse will take years to resolve.
Politically, the war has crippled the very generation of young people that spearheaded Syria’s uprising. Those who remain in Syria have mostly been bludgeoned into submission—or indeed forcibly conscripted into the very apparatus of power against which they rose in the first place. The result is a grim paradox: Although virtually every problem that sparked Syria’s 2011 uprising has been exacerbated, society has been beaten down to the point of almost ensuring that no broad-based reformist movement will be able to coalesce for a generation to come.
Economies of cannibalization
The desperate circumstances facing Syria’s young men feed into and are reinforced by a second fundamental transformation: namely the unraveling of Syria’s productive economy, and its replacement by an economy of systematic cannibalization in which impoverished segments of Syrian society increasingly survive by preying upon one another.
The most visible manifestation of this new economy is a culture of looting so developed and entrenched that Syrian vernacular has incorporated a new term—taafeesh—to describe a practice that goes far beyond stealing furniture to include extremes such as stripping houses, streets and factories of plumbing and electrical wiring.
A recent and particularly spectacular example of such systematic looting came with the return of pro-Assad forces to Yarmouk, a sprawling Palestinian camp south of Damascus, in April 2018. Yarmouk’s fall unleashed a wave of plunder that remained in full force as of June, and which will leave the urban landscape almost irreparably scarred. The scale of predation was such that even some pro-Assad militiamen expressed shock, not least because their own properties proved targets for other factions. “I watched uniformed soldiers using a Syrian army tank to rip out electrical cables from six meters underground,” remarked a fighter with a loyalist Palestinian faction, who was scrambling to retrieve belongings from his apartment before it could be pillaged. “I saw soldiers from elite units looting private hospitals and government offices. This isn’t just looting—it’s sabotage of essential infrastructure.”
Desperate residents reported ruining their own property simply to prevent profiteering by armed groups. One such individual explained:
I returned to my apartment just to retrieve official documents and some hidden pieces of gold. I did so, and then destroyed my own furniture and appliances because I don’t want these people making money at my expense. I was ready to burn down my own apartment, but my wife stopped me—she didn’t want me to cause harm to other apartments in the building.
As this scourge spread across Syria, the spoils have created micro-economies in their own right—from the recycling of rubble to the proliferation of taafeesh markets, where people buy second-hand goods stolen from fellow Syrians. Many have no choice but to use these markets in order to replace their own stolen belongings. A civil servant explained the process of moving back to his home city of Deir Ezzor after two years of displacement in Damascus:
In October 2017, I was ordered back to Deir Ezzor to resume my work for the government. I was shocked to find my apartment building demolished. Everything in it was stolen. My brother helped me find a simple one-bedroom, and bought me some looted goods to furnish it. The people of Deir Ezzor have lost twice: First we lost our kitchen supplies, beds, everything—and then we felt that we lost again, by purchasing looted goods.
In more ways than one, displaced Syrians seeking to return home must navigate a convoluted and costly process of buying back into their own neighborhoods. Beyond the direct costs incurred by damage and theft, such individuals face predation ranging from informal tolls at checkpoints to extortionist fees imposed by various branches of the state, including for nonexistent basic services. An elderly textiles trader in Aleppo’s old city ticked off these costs:
I spent three million Syrian pounds [6,000 dollars] to reopen my damaged shop. On top of that, government agencies demanded that I pay bills for water and electricity—plus taxes on profits—from 2013 through 2017. I argued that my shop was closed, that I was making no money and using no electricity or water—but was forced to pay anyway. I then spent seven million pounds [13,500 dollars] buying new textiles, because my shop had been completely looted.
So, in total, I spent ten million pounds [20,000 dollars] to open my shop. I now make about [6 to 8 dollars] in profit daily, which barely covers food, electricity, water, and taxes. But it’s still better to spend my days in the market rather than sitting at home, thinking too much and getting heart disease.
Syrians also dip into precious resources to pay officials for information, for instance on disappeared relatives or their own status on Syria’s sprawling lists of “wanted” individuals. For those wishing to confirm that they won’t be detained upon crossing the border to Lebanon, the going rate is about 10 dollars—most often paid to an employee in the Department of Migration and Passports.
While much of Syria’s predatory economy is linked directly to violence, the war has spawned countless, subtler forms of predation that will endure and evolve for years to come. This cannibalistic economy, which encompasses all those who have come to rely on extortion for their own livelihoods, extends to the cohort of lawyers, security officials and civil servants who have positioned themselves as “brokers” in the market for official documents such as birth, marriage and death certificates. Untold numbers of Syrians have passed through pivotal life events while in territory outside government control; in order to avoid legal purgatory both inside and outside Syria, they often pay exorbitant sums to intermediaries to facilitate documentation. A Damascus-based lawyer explained how this growth industry has transformed his own profession:
Today, even the most senior lawyers in our practice are working as document brokers. A well-connected broker makes 30 to 40,000 pounds [60 to 80 dollars] per day; this roughly equals the monthly salary of a university-educated civil servant. As a result, many government employees resign and work as brokers to make more money.
And this truly is a business, not a charity: Every broker takes money, even from his own brothers and sisters. Last week a colleague brought me his brother-in-law. I asked him why he needed me, when he could make all the papers himself. He explained that he can’t take money from his own brother-in-law, but I can do so and then give him half.
These cannibalistic dynamics are all the more pernicious for their self-perpetuating quality. Multiplying forms of predation have accelerated the outflow of Syria’s financial and human capital, leaving behind a country largely populated by an underclass that can aspire to little more than subsistence. The demands of survival, in turn, push growing numbers of ordinary Syrians into the vicious circle of predatory industries—if not as predators themselves, then as second-order beneficiaries of predation, through purchasing or receiving looted goods, reliance on extortion-based income of relatives, and so on. In other words, Syria’s predatory wartime economy is slowly but surely turning into a predatory economy of peace.
Walls of fear and fatigue
A less conspicuous but no less profound shift lies in the degree to which Syrian society has been forced into psychological submission after a period of revolutionary awakening. As some Syrians put it, Damascus has been particularly effective in reconstructing one thing amidst the immeasurable destruction: the “wall of fear” which characterized the regime before 2011 and which momentarily broke down at the outset of the uprising.
This transformation relates, obviously, to the resurgence of Syria’s security state across swathes of the country from which it had temporarily retreated. Areas that once overflowed with revolutionary activism have been brought back under the watchful eye of Syria’s political police, or mukhabarat, leaving many afraid to speak openly outside the seclusion of their homes. A researcher from Homs described the weight of this pressure in her home city:
I have a friend who was doing research with a licensed NGO, asking questions in the street. She was pregnant. Security came and took her—no questions asked, they just took her. She was detained overnight and they let her out in the morning—only because she was pregnant.
However, active surveillance, intimidation and repression are not the only contributors to this leaden atmosphere. A pervasive exhaustion has settled over Syrians ground down and immiserated by war, disillusioned with all those who purport to lead or protect them, and largely reduced to striving for day-to-day subsistence. The same researcher from Homs went on:
In 2011, everyone talked politics—even those who didn’t know anything about politics. Today they don’t talk politics anymore, because it doesn’t matter to them. They want to live. They spend their energy trying to find enough to eat, or trying to get their relatives out of prison.
A North African analyst who lived and worked for decades in Damascus echoed the point, describing his current interactions with friends in and around the capital: “People are lost, frustrated to the extent they don’t care about daily events. Even loyalists will say outright: We don’t know where we are going. Nobody sees a future.”
Just as Syrian society has been beaten down, so too has it been broken apart. As communities settled into the grinding routine of war or exile, they retreated into discrete groups that now know little or nothing about one another—despite often having much in common.
At one level, the war has wrenched open social and economic fractures that existed long before the conflict. The city of Homs stands as perhaps the starkest microcosm of this trend. A Sunni majority city with sizable Christian and Alawi minorities, Homs was the first major urban center to rise up and the first to devolve into bitter sectarian bloodletting. Almost four years after being reconquered by loyalist forces, Homs’ communal divisions remain brutally clear—coloring everything from ordinary social interactions to patterns of rebuilding and civic work. An NGO worker described how Homs’ charitable sphere has become shaped by such divisions: “Charities were not intrinsically sectarian, but the war made them so. People aren’t comfortable working outside their areas.”
In Homs, as across Syria, communal divisions are intimately bound up with the divide between those deemed with the regime and those against it—a binary that is both inadequate and inescapable, having marked whole families, neighbourhoods, towns and cities in ways that will reverberate for decades. While Homs’ Sunni majority overwhelmingly cast its lot with the revolution, the city’s Alawi minority was quick to mobilise against what it perceived as an existential threat. Now, with Damascus resurgent, communal boundaries assume new salience, pitting victor against vanquished.
A man from an Alawi neighborhood in Homs grumbled about even the paltry rehabilitation efforts underway in the city’s Sunni areas: “I don’t know why our government is allowing these reconstruction projects. They should be in our neighborhoods, to thank the families who sacrificed their sons.” While vast swathes of Syria’s Sunni population feel silenced and brutalized, Alawi communities often carry their own narrative of victimhood, which blends legitimate grievances with vindictive impulses vis-à-vis Sunnis whom they regard as having betrayed the country. Sunnis, for their part, frequently express the opposing viewpoint—namely that Alawi neighborhoods have prospered through war profiteering. “Loyalist areas have benefited enormously,” remarked a Sunni merchant in the city. “They’ve become like mini-states run by shabbiha [loyalist thugs]. Even security forces don’t dare to enter an area like [the underclass Alawi neighborhood of] Muhajireen. It’s terrifying, and I don’t think it will go back to normal anytime soon.”
Homs moreover exemplifies the widening chasm between Syria’s rich and poor—a reality that helped lay the groundwork for the uprising and which today has reached unprecedented proportions, with a narrow clique cashing in on the war economy while the majority descends into poverty. A local Sunni trader summed up the situation:
War has ruined commercial activity here. Many respectable traders have emigrated or been killed. Most of those still around are afraid to return to work. You do see some who succeed—by being close to security services, informing on young people with opposition affiliations, or taking huge sums of money from families trying to secure the release of detained children. Those are the businessmen who manage to thrive.
Further divisions across Syria are less visible but no less insidious, flowing from seven years of a brutal, messy war. Indeed, crude divisions based on sect or class fail to describe a complex and fluid landscape. Some fault lines are less dramatic, all but imperceptible except to those who experience them first-hand. Neighbors, colleagues, friends and kin may have come down on opposing sides, despite having every social marker in common. Each part of the country has its own web of tragic events to untangle.
Indeed, the conflict has generated an enormous backlog of resentment which may have been suppressed for now, but will not soon be forgotten. A teacher in Raqqa, for example, voiced a grim perspective on the enduring rifts left by the Islamic State’s rule in that city:
Many Islamic State fighters swapped clothes and joined the [Kurdish-led] Syrian Democratic Forces to protect themselves and their families. But they haven’t changed; those people are bad, and will always be bad. There will be vengeance. Not now, while everyone is busy putting their lives together. But eventually, everyone who suffered under ISIS, whose brother was killed by ISIS, will take revenge.
The legacy of violence is exacerbated by cutthroat competition over meagre resources, generating yet another source of simmering discontent. In Damascus, subtle gradations have emerged between the original inhabitants and a mosaic of displaced communities, who all contend for employment and charitable handouts. A displaced woman from Deir Ezzor explained her guilt at taking jobs from individuals known colloquially as nazihin—Syrians who were displaced, in 1973, by the Israeli occupation of the Golan Heights, and who have for decades occupied lowly positions within Syria’s social hierarchy:
I work for a woman who used to hire her cleaning lady from the Wafideen Camp [populated by nazihin], but she got old and started breaking things. She told me I’m younger and better suited to the position. Another woman used to hire someone also from Wafideen, but she no longer sees them as displaced. She feels that newly displaced, like me, deserve more.
Similar anecdotes are commonplace among those struggling to survive in and around the capital. A woman from rural Aleppo described her experience changing places within Damascus’ hierarchy of deprivation: “We came to Damascus a year ago, and signed up for assistance with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent. They gave us three blankets, a mattress, and eventually three food baskets. But now they’ve stopped, saying they can’t give us anything anymore—now it’s the turn of people from Ghouta.” A woman from Deraa pointed the finger elsewhere: “People from Deir Ezzor are taking all the food baskets. They’re very good at convincing charity workers to help them.” Needy locals, for their part, often feel overlooked. A native of a Damascus suburb remarked: “Charities typically want to help those who fled from elsewhere. So, when I go to a charity, I say I’m displaced.”
While less poisonous than the schism between those who lined up on opposite sides of the war, such divisions nonetheless capture the extent to which violence has broken Syria down into its constituent parts. And the list goes on: The divide between conservative and more secular Sunnis has calcified, manifesting itself even in differential treatment at checkpoints. “I have an easier time driving around because I don’t wear the hijab,” remarked a woman from the Damascus suburbs. “If you veil, security assumes you’re with the opposition.” Splits between Syrians inside and outside the country, between urban and rural communities, and between the capital and the periphery have deepened, too—with the former groups often blaming the latter for the uprising and ensuing destruction.
This fragmentation seems to give rise to a growing array of Western-funded “dialogue” efforts—between one communal group and another, between host communities and the displaced, between state institutions and opposition actors. While dialogue is sorely needed, some Syrians warn against emphasising dialogue for its own sake—even at the cost of burying the most substantive issues at stake. A businessman from Damascus described his own abortive experience with talks proposing to link disparate elements of Syria’s private sector: “There’s this whole industry around ‘mediation,’ including between sides that don’t actually disagree on anything. Meanwhile, all the problems that caused the uprising have gotten worse.”
The risk of papering over Syria’s worst ills is all the more acute at a time when Damascus is increasingly able to impose its version of events nationwide—empowering the country’s most aggressive loyalists while silencing both those who oppose it and those who, ambivalent, stand somewhere in between.
Given the magnitude of Syria’s disintegration, it is all the more striking to note the ingenuity with which ordinary Syrians continue to muddle through—relying on a mixture of grit, patience and lifesaving forms of solidarity.
For many, this amounts to simply waiting and enduring for as long as it takes until they can restart their lives in earnest.
A government-employed teacher in Deir Ezzor described a typical experience of returning to the city, after several years of displacement in Hasakah province:
I was happy to find my apartment intact—it’s been entirely looted, but at least it has walls and a roof. I need about two million pounds [4,000 dollars] to fix it. I have some savings, and my son is a physician in Saudi Arabia, so he’s going to send me the funds I need for the apartment and to pay for a way out of conscription into a Kurdish militia for my other sons.
Life in Deir Ezzor isn’t good. There are no basic services whatsoever. But at least I have my apartment, and I expect in a few months the government will bring back water and electricity, and next year some schools will open. I’m tired of being displaced. I want to rest in my own community. Here I can go to the coffee shop and meet my friends, smoke argileh and drink tea and play cards every day.
Often, the ever-changing circumstances demand a high degree of adaptability simply in order to survive. Another, less optimistic native of Deir Ezzor explained the lengths to which he has gone to maintain his job in a state-run health clinic while allowing his family to continue living in the relative safety of displacement in Damascus:
Three months ago, I was required to come back to Deir Ezzor to resume work, or lose my job. But I have three teenaged daughters and two sons, and I’m afraid to bring them with me because of the militias and criminal gangs. The city has become a place for shabbiha, not for civilians. So, I stay with my brother in Deir Ezzor one week every month, and spend three weeks in Damascus with my family. I used to own a two-story house and a big pharmacy in Deir Ezzor; both have been destroyed.
My government salary pays about 45,000 pounds [85 dollars] per month, which is only enough to cover my rent in Damascus. I make another 60,000 pounds [120 dollars] per month working long hours in a private pharmacy. Just traveling to and from Deir Ezzor costs more than my government salary—about 45 to 50,000 pounds [90-100 dollars] per trip.
Just as Syrians are forced to be more self-reliant, they have also come to depend evermore on vital social support structures. Indeed, extreme circumstances have created a paradox: Even as society has splintered in countless ways, the scale of deprivation arguably renders Syrians more closely interdependent than ever before.
Perhaps the most fundamental and ubiquitous support mechanism is remittances from relatives who live abroad. A displaced woman from Homs, now in Damascus, explained how aid from her family allows her to survive:
I worked as a live-in maid with an old woman, and got an advance payment so my husband could open a small shop. My husband then had a stroke, so I left my work and took over the shop. But between rent, bills, food, treatment for my husband and school for my daughter, I spend more than I make. I have three sisters—two in the Gulf and one in Homs—who are in a better situation than me, so they send me a monthly allowance.
Other forms of support are more organized, but no less genuine—flowing not from any financial or political interest but rather from the simple urge to help one another. Such grassroots efforts are often triggered by immediate, urgent needs, and hinge on goodwill from locals who can afford it. A retired army officer living in the Damascus suburbs described how he and a group of friends decided to take action outside of any formal relief initiatives:
In 2013, huge numbers of displaced people came to our town in need of shelter and food. Some people gave them food and blankets, or found empty apartments, shops and schools for them to sleep in. Myself and six friends started discussing how we could gather donations. We went around town asking residents to donate whatever extra food, blankets or cash they had. Some volunteered to make hot meals. Doctors offered to check on the displaced, while pharmacists provided free medicine.
We visited the industrial zone and asked factory owners to give materials to equip a shelter. Some garment factories agreed to donate clothes twice a year, while food factories provided basic foodstuffs on a monthly basis. We also get cash from Syrian expatriates.
Such informal methods of support have deep roots within Syrian society. The country’s middle and upper classes have long extended vital forms of solidarity to their needier compatriots, with Syria’s merchant and religious networks playing a leading role. What is unique, today, is the scale of hardship across the country, which is so vast as to have changed the way that Syrians conceptualize the act of receiving charity. A businessman from central Syria noted the extent to which dependency, which once demanded some degree of discretion, has become a straightforward fact of life. “People used to hide it when they were reliant on charity. Not anymore. Today you might hear workers in a factory wondering, ‘Where is the manager?’ And someone will say that he’s out waiting for his food basket. The whole country is living on handouts.”
As needs have skyrocketed, ordinary Syrians have risen collectively to meet seemingly insurmountable challenges—a feat which, for this businessman, suggests a silver lining:
People still do charity the Islamic way, based on the premise that you must assist those closest to you. If there’s someone you should help—say, a neighbor—but you’re unable, then it’s your responsibility to find someone else who can. These circles remain very much intact, and the entire society lives on this. Seven years of war didn’t destroy that aspect of Syrian culture, and that’s something Syrians are proud of.
* * *
Syria’s war is moving toward a conclusion without any sense of closure. As large-scale violence subsides, essential questions will remain unanswered: How many were killed? By whom, and for what reason? Countless tragedies will remain obscured by competing narratives, evidence that has been destroyed, and the sheer scale of the country’s devastation.
Other questions have long been exhausted, and yet spur an endless and pointless cycle of commentary. The regime has won, on the maximalist terms it laid out from the beginning, and with no appetite for compromise moving forward. In the wake of its victory, Damascus’ allies will not rebuild the country. Nor, however, will Western states, which will continue to offer humanitarian support while balking at the notion of bankrolling a fully-fledged, Assad-led reconstruction. There will be no nationwide recovery, no serious reform, no meaningful reconciliation for the foreseeable future.
But that does not mean there are no questions worth asking. Rather, the most pressing issues are those too often overlooked as the wider world focuses on geopolitics and hollow peace processes. They relate to how Syrian society has struggled, transformed and, ultimately, survived—what Syria has become, how Syrians organize, and what they need to create a future for themselves. Answers won’t be found in Geneva, Astana or the corridors of power in Damascus. They will be whispered by people on the ground.
The so-called Syrian Civil War is Syrian in name only. It has seen combatants from scores of countries flooding into the jihadist fanatic armies, while Israel, Turkey, the US, France, the UK, Iran, Russia, the Arab monarchies, they all have meddled, bombarded, funded their own armed proxies and contributed in many ways to destroy the country. Syria is a shame on humanity, seen by everyone as an opportunity to flex their muscles and test each other’s red lines, limits and capacities. And we’ve been surprised to see the Russian emperor come out absolutely naked in this power-game.
The conflict in Syria has, above all, demonstrated the limits of the military power of Russia. All the jingoistic rhetoric of Putin-loving elements about Russia’s military might have been exposed to the world for what it is: a sham. The emperor is naked –Russia is nothing but a rundown state with pretentions of being a super-power, which may be able to bully the Georgians, but south of the Caucasus, it is others who run the show. And the war in Syria has proved just that. Despite the massive success of the operations to defeat jihadists in Syria and to boost the government of Assad –the only leader of the only country who would be willing to give them a military base in the Mediterranean-, Russia has clashed against a formidable military force which tests the limits of its hard power. This was demonstrated by Erdogan time and again, but particularly with the Sochi meeting which made partition of Syria official, showed that Turkey wouldn’t back down to Russia’s threats and showed its willingness to protect the most back-warded jihadists imaginable. It is Erdogan, not Putin who sets the agenda and who determines what is acceptable and what is not in Syria. Russia was humiliated, proving that getting into a course of conflict with a NATO country is no option for them. Their limits were exposed for everyone to see.
It is not the first time that Turkey slaps Russia in the face. They downed a Russian fighter; their ambassador Andrei Karlov was assassinated in Turkey by a policeman whom jihadists in Idlib parade as a hero; and what does Russia do? Some economic measures against Turkey only to be back a couple of months later with a stronger than ever relationship. They drum-beat like King Kong and then do nothing. Not because they are sensible, or hold the higher moral ground, or because they try not to escalate things. They don’t do anything because they can’t. Simple as that. The outdated Russian army is efficient enough to carpet bomb –they lack capacity for precision targeting- gangs of armed jihadists who spend most of their time reading the Q’uran as opposed to military theory anyway. But confronted to a real army, such as Turkey, they will back. Sergey Lavrov, their minister of foreign affairs, yelled from the top of his lungs that the territorial integrity of Syria was out of question and they would bomb the terrorists in Idlib. In Tehran Putin was saying that a cease-fire was out of question. But Turkey only needed to move its military forces into the region to convince Putin to sit in the negotiating table one week later and accept a de-militarised zone; indeed more than what Erdogan had originally asked for. And what about the territorial integrity of Syria and the fight against Al-Qaeda? Well, now Syria has been officially partitioned and the Al-Qaeda gangs will be well looked after by their Turkish sponsors.
To add injury to insult, that very night a number of targets in Syria, including Latakia where Russia has its military base, came under attack by Israeli fighters. The highly inefficient Russian air-defences not only didn’t manage to stop most of the bombs to hit target, but they actually managed to down a cargo place with 15 Russian soldiers behind which the Israeli fighter jets had taken shelter to attack Syria. The Russian Minister of Defence comes out to say that Russia reserves the right to take appropriate measures against hostile Israeli actions… and what will happen? Guessed right. Nothing. This is just bluffing. Putin already came out to say that the Israelis didn’t mean it and in a couple of days everything will be back to business as usual. Israel will keep bombarding Syria as the please, and Putin will declare that his love for Netanyahu is eternal and that a dozen dead Russians are not that big a deal at all. They will come out of this with a relationship stronger than ever. The harder you hit Putin, the stronger the relationship will be after the blow.
But if you give him what he wants, then he will trample all over you. Look at Assad, renewing the Russian military base until 2049, when Putin accepts the partition of Syria, and actually coordinates with Israel their bombardments so they don’t hit Russians but ‘kill as many Syrians as you like, sir’ –what kind of strange alliance is that? But it is not only that Russians will not stop Israel from bombing their supposed ally –they actually can’t do anything about it. The Latakia bombings demonstrated that Russia can’t even defend the surroundings of their military bases. Let’s see if anyone would dare to bombard jihadists even miles away from the Al-Tanf US military base in Southern Syria! If Russia can’t protect even its own bases and their own military personnel, what can Assad expect in terms of protection from future bombardments and interventions?
As for poor Syria, its future looks grim as hell. Assad has been left with a partitioned country and nothing much of a say in the future of it. The Kurdish have been increasingly turned into a proxy army for the US and their dependence on them was tested with the Turkish invasion of Afrin: it fell like a house of cards. Their enclave will be turned into a US protectorate in exchange of oil and military bases –which sooner rather than later will be officially sanctioned by the US, which will never allow a Turkish military incursion where their military bases are. Erdogan’s limits are not set by Russia, but by the US and Israel. Thus, all the transformative and emancipatory potential of the experience of Rojava, the only honourable page written in this senseless conflict, will come to nothing. The US will never allow any serious challenge to ‘capitalist modernity’ in their protectorate. They will possibly allow women co-chairs all over the place to prove the world how progressive Rojava is, same as Israel and their gay parade marches, proof that they are a “progressive” country, nevermind the plight of Palestinians. But to question class relations and imperialism in Rojava? To be serious about self-government? That is really difficult to happen under US sponsorship. Possibly far more pressure will be put on them to distance from the PKK which is getting shattered in Turkey and Northern Iraq. The Kurdish are prisoners now of US presence in Syria, and no amount of PR exercises will change the fact that if your autonomy depends on the presence of a foreign empire, it is empty chatter.
Was there another possible outcome? Yes. A pragmatic alliance between Assad and the Kurds, which would have allowed for Assad to remain as president and the Kurdish to get a degree of autonomy, stood a real chance of defeating Turkey and its proxies, while keeping a certain autonomy from their foreign patrons. A far cry from the scenario every party would have wished for, but no doubt the best possible scenario that could have come out of this absolute humanitarian disaster called Syrian Civil War. But precisely the proxy nature of the conflict didn’t allow anyone to see this chance. The Kurdish thought, and still think (surprisingly, even after Afrin), that the US is their friend. The Assadists thought that Russia was their friend. Imperialism has no friends, only interests. Whether it is the proper US imperialism, or the pathetically hallucinatory Russian imperialism, they only looked for their interests. Israel has won a weak neighbour unable to defend itself and under constant threat from the jihadists pockets kept live by Turkey. Turkey will manage to keep the Kurdish at bay and annex new territories in Idlib, Al-Bab, Jarabulus, and Afrin through proxies to feed the neo-Ottomanists dreams of its caliph. The US won oil and 14 military bases Russia keep their only military base in the Mediterranean, one which they can’t even defend. But there it is. And the Arab or Kurdish Syrians? Irrevocably partitioned into protectorates and unable to have a say in their own future. What a prospect!
Welcome to the New Middle East that Bush foresaw back in 2001.
#Nobastan3Causales: seguimos luchando por aborto libre en Chile