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Project November 24, 2015

Syria's Unknown Revolution


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Kurdish YPG Fighters. Image by Kurdishstruggle / Flickr

For the past several years, there has been a little-known revolution occurring in Syria. One academic, who recently visited, called it a "social revolution on par with the great democratic experiments of the twentieth century." Specifically, in the same stateless void in which ISIS has created their proto-caliphate, the Kurds of northern Syria and surrounding countries have formed "Rojava," a utopian area that consists of three cantons committed to women's liberation, cooperative economics, and building an "ecological society."

Much of their political inspiration comes from a Vermont-based ecologist named Murray Bookchin. But this is not a marginal effort—Rojava has 4.5 million inhabitants. The Kurds, Arabs, Christians, Syrians, and others who live there are conducting their utopian experiment all whilst simultaneously fighting ISIS. It was Rojava's militias, for example, that defeated ISIS in Kobani last year.

The Obama administration classifies Rojava's Turkish counter-parts, the Kurdish Worker's Party, as terrorists, but the U.S. acknowledged the Syrian Kurds' central role fighting ISIS and extremism in the region when they air-dropped weapons to them. In a region that is rife with Islamist fundamentalism. As Wes Enzinna reports in this project, Rojava is a powerful, peculiar, and little-known alternative to the theocracy sought by ISIS and its allies, and as such, the stakes of the Rojavan revolution are high not only for residents of the region, but for the world.