Rojava & Syria’s revolution

November 21, 2014

From the November-December 2014 issue of News & Letters

When the so-called “Islamic State” announced itself, its first act was to declare an end to the Sykes-Picot agreement that drew the border between Iraq and Syria. Originating in al-Qaeda’s Iraq branch, the IS had taken advantage of Assad’s genocide, and sometimes his direct aid, to expand into Syria. The IS came into conflict with the Syrian Revolution, and for the last year there has been an open state of war between the IS and elements of the Free Syrian Army.

Kurdish women fighting in Kobane, October 2014.

Kurdish women fighting in Kobane, October 2014.

Today the heroic struggle of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, along with allies of the Free Syrian Army, to defend Kobane from the IS deserves all support. This means first the support of the people, the workers, women, and all who struggle for a better life. U.S. and coalition air strikes and the provision of some weapons have helped keep the genocidal forces of the “Islamic State” from completely overrunning the city on the Syria/Turkey border. The defenders should receive the arms required to utterly defeat the IS!


It remains to be seen if such help will be forthcoming in retaking the many Rojava villages the IS has occupied and depopulated, creating hundreds of thousands of refugees. A long history of the U.S. betraying both Kurdish self-determination and Syrian revolutionaries gives little to hope in that regard. This living example of Kurdish self-determination has been made possible by the Syrian Revolution, which all major powers have opposed.

Further, while the U.S. and Turkey haven’t seen eye to eye over Kobane, the U.S. isn’t going to risk its alliance with President Erdogan’s government or his free market policies over the support of what the U.S. will likely continue to view as a Kurdish “terrorist” group. In the end, imperialist powers all have their own interests in view, not those of the people.


When the IS rampaged against Syrian revolutionaries—and the FSA and grassroots activists were the first to battle it—the U.S., and the world, paid little attention. It is only since the collapse of the U.S.-supplied Iraqi army and seizure of large swaths of Iraqi territory that intervention has reached the imperialist agenda. It has come with sickening double standards.

While efforts to rescue the thousands of threatened Yazidis in Iraq were relatively successful—although hundreds were killed, and hundreds of women kidnapped—there has been less attention paid to other massacres. For example, nothing was done in support of the 600 mainly Shi’a, Yazidi, and Kurdish Badoosh Prison inmates who were lined up in a ditch and killed in Mosul, Iraq. No help came for the over 300 murdered men, women and children of the Sunni Albu Nimr tribe in Anbar, Iraq, who dared oppose the IS. Nor was U.S. or coalition help there for the over 700 members of the Sunni Shaitat tribe in Deir al-Zour, Syria, as they were beheaded, crucified, mocked and shot with impunity.

Beyond this, the Assad regime has taken advantage of the coalition bombing to intensify its attacks against liberated areas such as Aleppo and Idlib, killing hundreds with barrel bombs, chlorine gas, and more conventional weapons.


As one Kafranbel activist explained, “Coalition airplanes fly over our city along with the regime air force, which means that they and the regime are coordinating. They say they don’t want to coordinate with the Assad regime, but U.S. planes are flying with the regime’s in the same airspace.” The U.S.’s opposition to Assad has always been mainly a facade. Its opposition to the IS rests on a desire for “stability,” and is bringing it to line up more openly with Iranian imperialism, Assad’s main patron.

The nihilistic IS was a marginal force after the Arab Spring uprisings. It has drawn its strength from counter-revolution, particularly as the world powers opted for genocide over humanism in Syria. It intends to succeed by being the most vicious and unprincipled of state powers—through theft, rape, and butchery. None of these things are alien to the existing imperialist powers.

This counter-revolutionary organization must be defeated as an idea as well as on the battlefield. That entails deepening the decades of struggle against all imperialist, oppressive powers by Iraqis, Syrians, Kurds, Palestinians, and Iranian revolutionaries. As Marxist-Humanists we call for support of the ongoing Syrian Revolution. We call for the right of self-determination of the Kurdish people, and we call for military and political support to the heroic defenders of Kobane. We call for support to the revolutionary workers’ and women’s organizations of Iraq. We see these as particular expressions of humanity’s universal struggle for freedom.

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