This essay by Michael Löwy was written as a preface for the multiauthor collection La Commune du Rojava, and published online at Entre les lignes entre les mots. Thanks to Éditions Syllepse for their permission to republish. Translated by David Broder.
Detail from the cover of La Commune du Rojava.
Western public opinion became aware of Rojava’s existence in 2014 with the battle of Kobane, when the combatants of the YPG-YPJ succeeded in doing what the armies of Assad’s dictatorial regime or the Iraqi government could not do, even with Russian and American backing: namely, they inflicted a military and political defeat on Da’esh. The photos of Kurdish militiawomen, arms in hand, in the front rank of the fight against "Islamist" fascism, circulated around the world. They revealed to surprised, astonished readers a singular experience: libertarian Rojava.
"We know that the work for the left now is long and slow and that it requires force and numbers and commitment at a grassroots, community level. We must also recognise that the challenge for the left in 2017 is one of transnational solidarity: figuring out how to join up, link up and learn from global struggles." - Rachel Shabi looks back at a year of many challenges, and what we can do to build solidarity and resistance in 2017.
Of course it wasn’t the worst year, ever. Those bewailing the myriad awfulness of 2016 know history has dealt worse than the year of Brexit and Donald Trump’s election, the year of deadly terror attacks around the world, a desperate refugee crisis and an alarming rise in far-right forces across Europe. Even ignoring swathes of history, recent years have been awful, too: the five since the Arab Uprisings have seen grotesque war in Syria, a deadly assault on Yemen, repression and human rights abuses in Egypt and Bahrain – as well as a harsh crackdown in Turkey, once considered to be a ‘model’ for the region. Egyptian analysts might well say the “worst year ever” was 2013, when a military coup put their authoritarian, Abdel Fatah el-Sisi in charge.
An agreement has been reached to evacuate civilians and opposition fighters from the besieged eastern districts of the city of Aleppo, a senior Turkish official and rebel officials have told the Guardian.
The agreement has capped weeks of horrific suffering and violence that have left many dead and others in total despair, raising serious questions at the lack of response from the international community.
People in east Aleppo have issued desperate pleas for rescue, posting farewell messages on Monday night and into Tuesday morning, predicting they would either die in the ongoing bombardment or be tortured and killed if they surrendered.
As events continue to unfold, we present a reading list of key books which — through investigative journalism, graphic storytelling, and critical analysis – shed light on the unfolding crisis in the Middle East.
Syrians leave a rebel-held area of Aleppo to go to the government-held side.
"The 5 or 6 million people living in ISIS-controlled territory exist in a world full of prohibitions and regulations. Breach of these divinely inspired rules is savagely punished."
In this extract from The Age of Jihad: Islamic State and the Great War for the Middle East, Patrick Cockburn brings us an insight into life in the caliphate, through a series of interviews with those living within its walls. The Age of Jihad is 50% off as part of our end of year sale until Jan 1.
Heaven Crawley responds to the eviction of 'The Jungle' camp at Calais, arguing that it is largely a symbolic attempt by the British government to reassert 'control' over borders in the context of Europe's political crisis. The eviction, and the reinforcement of the wall alongside the port of Calais, does not address the refugee crisis and the diverse reasons for why people move. Professor Heaven Crawley leads research on migration and human security at the Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations at Coventry University. She specialises in aspects of international migration, including policy, public attitudes and the experience of refugees and asylum-seekers.
Violent Borders: Refugees and the Right to Move, Reece Jones' exploration of the refugee crisis, focusing on how borders are formed and policed, is 40% off until Sunday, 30th of October at midnight (UTC).
Yesterday, the UNHCR announced 2016 has become the deadliest year on record for people trying to cross the Mediterranean seas to Italy and Greece, with more than 3,800 men, women and children died or were reported missing. Borders kill, of that there can be no doubt.
The violent borders of which Reece Jones speaks so powerfully in his excellent book are now so much a feature of our everyday lives that it’s difficult to be shocked by what we see and hear. Images of bodies washing up on European beaches would engender a sense of horror and outrage a year ago, yet they now pass us by. Today we see desperate people waiting to be rescued in rubber dinghies that have taken in water, creating an oily chemical sludge, in which some of their fellow travellers lie lifeless. A human soup of bodies rotting in the heat of the sun. Still no one seems to care, much less do anything.