“The July 19 Revolution is based on the legacy of a long struggle”
Deputy Co-Chairman of the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria, Hesen Koçer, speaks about the significance of the July 19 Revolution. He sees the revolution of Rojava as the result of a long struggle.
July 19 marks the anniversary of the beginning of the Rojava revolution. On July 19, 2012, the uprising in Kobanê gave birth to an emancipatory, social project that is drawing the hopes of people worldwide. ANF interviewed Hesen Koçer, the deputy co-chair of the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria, about the significance and development of the revolution.
Can you explain the circumstances under which the Rojava revolution took place and the reasons that led to the July 19 developments?
Every revolution arises under specific conditions, and so did the Rojava revolution. If we look at the pre-revolutionary conditions, the Baath regime's oppression and repression against society, the denial policy and the ban on the Kurdish language and culture in particular gave rise to it.
In addition, the Arab people, who were oppressed in the Baath system and needed democracy, also raised their voices against this system. Naturally, the stronger the pressure, the greater the intensity of the reaction. Revolutions occur under such circumstances, and this is how the Rojava Revolution began.
The revolution of Rojava was developed on the basis of the legacy of many years of experience. The Kurdish freedom movement had made a great contribution to patriotism and the creation of a national spirit. All of this was the basis for the revolution in northern and eastern Syria to take place on a solid foundation.
A wave of change had begun in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Syria. What was this wave of change? People rose up against dictatorial regimes and systems. This wave, which began with popular protest, broke the silence that prevailed in the Middle East with its demonstrations. The people realized that these systems needed to be changed. These systems could no longer provide answers for society; on the contrary, they ignored the peoples and denied their language and culture. The Arab people were ignored as well. The state had fallen into the hands of a very small class and they dominated society. This was the reason for the revolution in Syria.
The first sparks of the Syrian revolution ignited the events of March 15, 2011, so what distinguished the July 19 revolution from the March 15 uprising?
We can view the events that began on March 15, 2011, not as a revolution for democracy and freedom, but rather as a popular uprising that called for a change in the ruling elite. The existing opposition and protests did not represent an answer to the needs of society. The main problem was the lack of a democratic opposition. Most thought from a state-fixated perspective. It was more about removing the president and putting themselves in his place. This would not have produced any change in society.
The mindset of letting the president of the regime go and taking his place did not produce a change of perspective for society. Because of this approach, the revolution went astray and its line became an exclusively military one. Thus, people's expectations were not met.
The fact that the Baath regime did not change, did not reform, and that the existing opposition was carried by forces from outside, disappointed social expectations, plunged Syria into deep chaos and created a political vacuum.
At the beginning of the revolution, demonstrations and rallies began in front of mosques. This created an image as if the Muslim Brotherhood was leading the protest. These demonstrations took place with the support of the Arab states and corresponding transfers of money.
These circles only gathered in front of mosques on Fridays and said they were against the Baath regime, but they had no clear strategy. They said, "The Baath regime must go because the regime is oppressing the people," but they had no alternative. The Syrian revolution has failed so far because it offered no hope to the people.
However, what happened in northern Syria was very different from what happened in Dara. The people may be the same, but the strategy of the revolution was different. The strategy that was developed here was based on the people. Their goal was not to overthrow the state or to take the place of the regime. The goal was to build a democratic, ethical and political society and to develop personalities that would advance the democratic culture.
These goals were realized through the establishment of autonomous self-government. The developing revolution in northern and eastern Syria had a clear strategy, even the demonstrations that took place in Rojava when the revolution started in 2011 had a different character. They were based on organizing and empowering society. With institution building and the establishment of municipalities and councils, the revolution became a new model from the beginning. At the same time, this revolution was not only to serve as a model for northern and eastern Syria, but also for the entire Middle East. It was the first time that such a revolution developed in the Middle East, and continues to do so. Of course, there are shortcomings, but the autonomous administration is mainly based on the power of the people and democratic society. Our model of revolution is based on an ecological, gender-free and democratic society in which all peoples can live together. In this sense, the strategy of the Rojava Revolution was quite different.
Was there a particular reason why the July 19 revolution began in Kobanê? And why was the Ba'ath regime driven out of the city first, is there a particular reason for this?
The forces from outside and their armed groups did not want a new model and a revolution in northern Syria that was not aligned with their interests. From the beginning of the revolution, their approach was: either you are on the side of the regime or the opposition. On this basis, they attacked us. They spread propaganda saying that we were agents of the regime. We see the result they achieved with their demand that Assad leave the country. The regime is still there and they are the ones who left Syria. Some of them became profiteers of the war.
They made money from the blood of the Syrian people in the name of revolution. At that time, they all declared themselves revolutionaries and said they would carry out a revolution. They attacked Kobanê, Rimêlan, Dêrik and Qamişlo in the name of war with the Baath regime. To prevent these attacks, we removed the Ba'ath regime from our areas. Because we knew that they would attack our cities as they used the war with the regime as a pretext. We prevented the attack and started the revolution in our own cities.
I would say the July 19 Rojava Revolution happened overnight. After the state institutions were removed from Kobanê, the people were supposed to govern themselves. We did not destroy the state institutions, we developed them. We built institutions that belong to society. Dozens of institutions, especially economic ones, were established, developed and put at the service of the people.
And I would like to add that the July 19 Revolution started at exactly the right time. If it had been later or earlier, we would not have been able to create a stable result. The place, the time and the conditions were right and it proceeded accordingly. Our politics and strategic foresight allowed us to begin at that moment. July 19 began in Kobanê and continued in Cizîrê.
The first schools were built in Afrin and the first municipalities in Kobanê. Our first municipal administration was established in Qamişlo. With all of this, we created a democratic and social system. The July 19 Revolution is based on the legacy of a long struggle.