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A Publication
on The Status of
Adivasi Populations
of India




Introduction To The Political And Social Structures Of Democratic Autonomy In Rojava

By Zanyar Omrani

19 July, 2015

What goes on in Syrian Kurdistan cannot be reduced to the war against
the ISIS, and in order to understand the events in Rojava, one should
look into the newly established institutions which under the title of
the Movement for a Democratic Society (KCK, called MED-VET in Rojava)
are organizing all the events and fields in Rojava. The lack of
research and study resources and the narrow literature of field
studies, has made it difficult to fully define and pathologically
explain the democratic autonomous system of the three cantons.
In this report, the aim is to give a general view of the necessity of
the social and political institutions and how they really function.

The Movement for a Democratic Society

In Rojava, all roads lead to Abdullah Öcalan, so in order to
understand the Rojava experience, it is better to take a look at his
recent ideas.

Abdullah Öcalan; the ideological leader of the Movement for a
Democratic Society (KCK), revisited the past ideas of the Kurdistan
Workers' Party (PKK) in Imrali Prison, and explained his new ideas
under the title of “Democratic Confederalism” in his last recent three

Based on Wallerstein’s, Foucault’s and especially the anarchist
Bookchin’s ideas, Öcalan proposes the idea of a democracy without a
state as an alternative for the capitalistic modernity.

Öcalan by rejecting the 30-year effort for creating “an independent
Kurdish state”, attacks the idea of “state” and regards any attempt
for realizing the project of nation-state as “condemned to defeat and
decadence in fascism.” Öcalan believes that the state is an “organized
form of the governing classes” and thinks that it is the continuation
of the order which leads to the maximum profit and industrialism.
Hence, KCK which is based on three principles of “democratic nation,
ecological industry and socialist economy”, attempts to realize a
society in which everything is carried on with direct partnership. In
Rojava, the Movement for a Democratic Society (Tev-Dem) is responsible
for administering these principles in most cases.


In the entrance of the Rojava cities, a big board is installed on
which besides the smiling face of Abdullah Ocalan, there is a saying
attributed to him in Kurdish and Arabic , which insists on the
necessity of forming a communal life. In order to discover the nature
and the function of communes and other institutions in Rojava, I spent
days and nights in the sessions of the communes, Mala Gels (People's
Houses), courts, Assayish and 22 ministries of the cantons.
Communes are actually the smallest and the most active units of the
communal society. Communes are the places where people gather in to
discuss and resolute the routine problems and all the aspects of life.
DelsouzDeldaar , the Kurdish journalist , who has been present from
the early days of creating the communes, speaks about the effort of
the local people for localizing the word “commune” to Kurdish: “ The
people call communes , “Kumin” which is derived from the Kurdish verb
“Kum” meaning to gather.”

In a detailed interview with A.A, the chief administrator of the
Movement for a Democratic Society, he believed that the first step
toward forming the democratic ecologic society is to create various
communes in the quarters, villages, counties and big and small cities
in Rojava.

Each commune has six separate committees that each committee deals
with the issues related to it. For instance Mala Zhen (Women’s House)
deals with the education, studying and investigation about the women’s
status in each commune.

The social committee, the youth committee, the women committee, the
peace committee , the self-defense committee and the economic
committee are the six committees which currently are active in the

Communes are managed in a co-leadership manner (a man and a woman) and
the age of the commune members must be over 16. These communes hold
weekly sessions and record and discuss their monthly reports.
The monthly reports of the communes are written in Arabic, as the
Kurdish language has not found its official function and position in

The decision that an individual should be used in which commune,
mostly is dependent upon the geographical position of where he lives.
The selection of the co-leaders and the committee formations are done
by means of direct elections among the commune members. So far, three
elections have been held in the commune levels. The time of election,
depends on the need and the situation, not on a written law. The
commune members, rent a house for two to three thousand Syrian pounds
which is called “Komungah”.

Several communes in a certain region gather in another place called
“People’s House” (Mala Gel). The big decisions are made in the
People’s Houses. People’s House is also responsible for supervising
the communes.

In Qamishli City, there are 7 People’s Houses and 97 communes. Each
communes covers about 350 families. The aim is to create more commune
as dividing the society into smaller units can enhance the quality and
the efficiency of their performances.

A.A about the position of people in the communes says: “when you
gather ten people and want them to propose a solution for an issue,
they all take efforts to participate in finding the suitable answer. I
think that the collective reason is useful in most cases and the
collective discussion makes the people partake in the definition and
explanation of macro policies.”

A.A continues to talk about why there is no political committee in the
communes and regards this notion as an effort for avoiding any
tensions among the parties in the communes, as in his opinion, all
parties can take part in the communes.

However, in a short talk that I had with Omar Amr , the chief of staff
of Democratic Party of Syrian Kurdistan in Darbasi city, he talked
about the systematic elimination and dissolution of the members of
this party and the opposition parties in the communal structure, for
the benefit of the ideas of the Democratic Union Party.

Of course in the commune of Martyr Saaleh, the members of the Leading
Democratic Party (Pishgharow) and in the commune of Martyr Sarhad, the
members of the Right Movement Party (TaghgaraRaasti) were presented.
Nevertheless, there have been no communes n the Christian quarters,

I attended the commune sessions in Serikani city, and I was there in
their weekly sessions where the young and the old gathered, witnessing
the commune elections. The sessions started with the speech on the
previous sessions of the communes and then they would ask the people’s
ideas about some local issues. One of the issues discussed was the way
the Kobane refugees were accommodated in Serikani and after two hours
of talk and discussion, the attendants reached some agreements about
the cases. Determining the location for the temporary accommodation,
clarifying the ways to fulfill the food, etc. were the issues that the
attendants decided to be resolved later.

A.A, the chief administrator of the Movement for a Democratic Society,
about the position of the communes said: “The value of the commune
signature is more that the ministry’s signature, as the minister
cannot do anything if the commune does not approve it. This chief
official who is from the Iranian Kurds, adds: “formerly, they said
what clan are you from? Now everyone should ask, which commune do you
belong to?”

A.A about the necessity of communes, speaks about a more rooted issue:
“We are against the system which is from top to base. We want to have
a system that acts from base to top.” I ask him if that means that no
one from the top can pressurize the base and impose his ideas, to
which he answers: “The chief of the commune can apply pressure by
presenting the correct education and this does not mean a negative
pressure or imposition; this extent of authority is inevitable for
keeping the leading role and does not lead to domination. I ask him
what is it that prevents from domination, and he answers: “Ethics, not

Meanwhile talking to this chief official, all the roads lead to the
ambiguous and indefinite concept called “ethics”. Abdullah Öcalan, the
ideological leader of the Movement for a Democratic Society in the
“Fifth Defense”, regards ethics as a form of politics which has become
a historical tradition. He says that while politics performs a routine
creative, protective and feeding role, ethics does the same service in
the society, via the institutionalized and rule-based force of
tradition. One can judge ethic as the political memory of the society.
The societies that have been ethically worn out or are deprived from
the ethics, are the ones whose political memory and hence their
“traditional norms and institutions” have been weakened or ruined.
A.A, by giving an example, emphasizes the impermeable application of
force on the communes: “Suppose that I want to be a minister and I
have all the required qualifications. If the commune which I belong
to, does not verify me, then I cannot become a minister.”

He interprets the relation of an individual with the commune as the
relation of a tree with the forest implying a two-way relation.
Usually, small projects such as creating a park is done by the
communes themselves, but macro projects like road building, because of
the current status of Rojava, are executed either by the autonomy of
the cantons or with the cooperation of cantons and the communes.
For instance, currently shortage of power and electricity is an
essential problem in Rojava. Each commune has bought a generator, by
the money collected from the families to the extent they could afford.
The autonomous cantons have also helped them in repairing the power
cables and in this way, the issue has been solved.

In the talks that I had with the people, I felt a sort of general
misunderstanding about the communes. For instance, when I asked a
rather rich shopkeeper’s idea about the case, he said “Thank God, I
don’t need commune, let it be for the poor.” Since at the moment and
in the current hard economic situation, one of the main tasks done by
the communes has been collecting, exchanging and delivering food,
people think of the communes something as charities like the the
Iranian relief foundation or Justice Shares.

Delsouz who lives in Tel Tamer, 100 kilometers south of Qamishli ,
remembers the early days of administering communes and the persistent
effect of the former official thoughts and their transference into the
communes and says:

“In Tel Tamer, 110 communes were founded. At first, people were not
familiar with communes. I remember that there were briberies in the

A.A does not deny these facts and while approving the effect of
previous presuppositions, talks about the necessity of constant
reformations: “it was just some weeks ago, that we changed the commune
chiefs of 9 communes, as they lacked the necessary capacities. The
clan chiefs do not tolerate lacking authority so they can hardly bare
to be in communes equal to other people.”

This administrator of the Movement for a Democratic Society, regards
the “ long lasting presuppositions of the former regimes” as the main
obstacle in the process of institutionalizing the communes in Rojava,
and thinks that the social revolution is more intellectual, rather
than material; hence, he believes that the process of revolution is a
constant rising one which takes time.

The individual and collective discussion, is the intellectual basis of
the nature of the communes. A.A points out the negative consequences
of individualism: “that form of individualism that the capitalism is
developing, is the main cause of the many spiritual and psychological
diseases of a society and we want to put an end to this cause by
creating communes!

I ask him “if anyone, for any reason, does not intend to participate
in the communes, what is your reaction?”

He replies: “That person will continue his normal life. However, the
communes will not help him anymore, as he is not a part of the
commune.” Then this chief administrator adds with certainty that such
cases are rare.

Afterwards, he points out Öcalan’s decision after quitting the prison:
“Our leader says that if I am released from jail, I would return to my
village; I would build a garden and make it a Komungah (The house in
which the commune resides) and I would not let anyone living outside
that commune.”

Here, A.A’s tone becomes coarse and serious: “We are openly against
the individualist concept. Individualism is like a mischievous rat who
chews on the society. If am full and needless, then it is a must that
my neighbor should be full and not hungry. If I am hungry, then my
neighbor should care for me.”

He gives the primitive communes to confirm his sayings, and believes
that the human kind lived in the villages as such. A.A says that they
want to apply and institutionalize that primitive society model in the
modern from. In the simple example that he gives, the equal and just
distribution is emphasized:

“The lands belong to the Democratic Autonomous System. We want to give
the lands to the villagers, and anyone who wants can register. The
service and pain will be villagers’ and the autonomous system will
provide the tools and needs of the farms. At last, a few percentage of
the incomes will go the autonomous system’s pocket and the most will
belong to the suffered. “

In his belief, creating cooperatives would prevent from this issue
that one person gets most of the workers’ wages.

In this regard, A.A thinks that despite the fact that creating cities
had positive results, but this made the profit and capital as the top
issue and by supposing individualism as the principle, the spiritual
and psychological health of the human kind was disturbed.

Abdullah Öcalan, in his Fifth Defense which is a sort of manifesto of
Democratic Confederalism, in the section “The Democratic Commune and
The Free Individual-Citizen Lifestyle in Democratic Nation” says:
“The individual-citizen of the democratic nation, besides being free,
must inevitably be communal as well. The counterfeit and fake “free
individual” of the capitalist individualism which is infused against
the society, essentially suffers from a sort of bondage. However, the
picture or image that the liberal ideology presents, seems as if the
individual has infinite freedom. On the contrary, the reality proves
to be the opposite; the one who is the slave of waging jobs and
realizes the intention toward gaining the maximum profit and turns it
into a hegemonic system ( in a way that is not realized in no historic
era) is the representative of the most developed form of slavery and
bondage.” Öcalan adds that such an individual is formed in the
pragmatics of life and ruthless education of inclination toward
reaching a “nation-state”. Because, such person’s life has become
dependent to the money from the government; and he has succumbed to a
waging system which holds, controls and leads him, as a dog by its

The Peace Committee

During my visit from the commune, I saw that the Peace Committee was
the most active among all others. Ali Sha’ban, a middle-aged man from
the Martyr Khebat Commune in Qamishli, expressed his first experiences
in commune as follows:

“My son left for Europe; a fixer had prepared the papers and when he
took my son to Turkey, my son was arrested in the airport. He was in
jail for three months. After three months when no news came from my
son, I discussed my problem in the commune. I wrote a letter and a
complaint against the fixer guy. The commune dealt with the issue, in
less than three days and via commune, the related officials were
informed soon. The canton officials in Turkey investigated the issue
and after several days, my son came back home, sound and healthy.”
One of the main characteristics of Peace Committee, is to cut the long
official processes of settling small problems, short. In the Peace
Committee, mostly the familial and local disputes, house renting and
buying problems and the social issues are dealt with.

Jamil Haju, the official in the assembly of Halilia region says:
“there have been many cases where two tribes had disputes on a piece
of land whose legal process would had taken about 15 years, while it
was resolved in less than one months in the communes.”
The interesting point here is the existence of state courts of Bath
Regime in some cities of Rojava, which are being closed down as of
inefficiency and because most of people trust in the newly established
communes more.

The process in the Peace Committee is based on justification and
having direct talks with both parties. Because as Jamil believes, law
is hard and it cannot always be fair, so one should resort to ethics,

However, relying on common sense and collective norms, can also higher
the danger of conservatism and traditionalism. A.A says “our bases are
the social norms which are not against freedom such as robbery,
immoral actions, etc.

In Peace Committee, the principle is that when a problem is settled,
its file must be closed for ever.

Serious cases such as assassination or selling heavy weapons cannot be
discussed in communes and are referred to public courts.

Zozaan Ali, a member of the assembly of inspection and supervision of
courts, says:“one of the commonest problems which makes people go to
courts, are the cases of women being tortured by their husbands or
brothers, and he thinks this matter that more women resort to courts
is a good phenomenon.” Zozaan believes that with having institutions
such as the House of Women’s Welfare in Jazira Canton, the women feel
safer and the guarantee of force, has given them the power to protest.
Zozaan on the process of investigating such cases, says: “firstly, the
issue is investigated in the Peace Committee of the Women’s House, and
then both parties are talked to. In this phase, the best is done to
put an end to the dispute as best as possible. If the torture or
safety issues are concerned, then the Women’s Welfare would summon the
delinquent man. In the next step, the issue is referred to the court.
Since, the women’s law has been approved since last year, then the
court would support the women based on the legal articles.
He adds that, in this very short while, so many men have been called
on courts and have felt remorseful for their actions, and even they
have apologized from their wives in the court. He says that the new
law is not based on the Islamic Sharia, and hence the Kurdish men are
frightful and fear the punishments. For instance, formerly polygamy
was very common, but at the moment any men doing such a crime, would
be sentenced to one year of prison and paying 100,000 Syrian pounds.
Zozaan chuckles and then continues: “some months ago, a woman
complaint of such crime and we summoned the man. He said the Islam
gives me the permission to marry 4 women. We told him that ‘forget
about it! We have changed the law!” Zozaan says that:“just in this
short time after changing this law, many men have accepted it and are
acting accordingly. Of course, there have been some people who have
left Rojava just for the sake of such law. But we have to go on!”
QahramanIssa, the member of the judicial public association of Jazira
Canton, besides giving a general description of the hierarchy of the
judicial law approved by the canton, says: “ it is possible that the
decision made by the court be different from the one made by the
commune. Of course, the communes mostly recommend and suggest rather
than making decisions. Since in some cases such as assassination,
criminal and judicial decisions require expertise, we should
investigate the cases with especial care and accuracy based on the
civil procedures.

He says that the aim is to settle the problems in the communes, and in
the next few years, by making the communes more expert, all the cases
would be assigned to them.

QahramanIssa resorts to statistics and points out that in 2014, in 9
courts of Jazira Canton, 6061 cases were referred to the courts, of
which 4500 cases were settled. Meanwhile and in the same limit of
time, communes could resolve and settle more than 20000 cases.
Also, there is a Justice Bureau in each city, and the cases that are
settled in courts will be resolved by the consultancy of this bureau.
In the urban assembly, the assembly representatives of all People’s
Houses would gather and would select their representatives in the
bigger assembly. The People’s Houses select the co-leaders of cities
and each city would have a 22-people assembly.

The public law would be discussed in the Legislative Parliament in
Amuda, and in which cases that are against ecology or gender freedom,
will be regarded as crime.

At the moment, there are 9 courts and 9 judges in Jazira Canton. In
each court, three attorneys, three commissions, and three panels of
appeal are active.

The limit of presence of women must not be below 40 percent, which
means that if the Justice Bureau consists of 7 people, at least 3 of
them must be women. In the judicial laws, execution is abolished and
everyone has the right to defend themselves in the court in their own
languages. The court is responsible to hire an interpreter and an
attorney for them.


Cantons are a model of social and political governing which besides
decentralism, insists on the empowerment of public decision-making and
expanding direct democracy.

In cantons, there are Legislative assembly and public council. There
are twelve cities in Jazira Canton and the cities representatives are
elected based on the proportions of the population. Each commune holds
election for choosing its representatives for higher levels and the
city councils are to decide which ones can get into the Canton Public

Cantons have their own constitution, government, parliament,
municipal, and courts whose tasks and duties are defined in the Social
Contract. In Jazira Canton, there are an executive council with 22
related ministries which are not concentrated in one city. The
internal, foreign affairs, financial, defense, healthcare, natural
environment are some of those ministries. There is also an assembly
for coordinating the three cantons of Jazira, Kobani and Afrin.
Most of the cantons’ incomes are from selling the petroleum, customs,
and large farms products, and huge projects of Rojava are executed by
them. Of course at the moment, because of the war situation, about 70
percent of the entire budgets of the cantons, are spent on the
military cases and other public services.

One of the biggest challenges that the Rojava Cantons administrators
and chiefs face with is the economic blockade of the Rojava and also
this issue that the three cantons are not recognized in the regional
and international level.

The difference of the Rojava Cantons with the Swiss and German
cantons, is that the Rojava Cantons, do not have a federal structure
in contrast to Swiss and German ones, and are mostly council-based and
revolutionary states.

The Social Contract of Rojava Cantons consists of nine sections which
are general principles, basic principles, executive council, the
higher commission of elections, the supreme constitutional court, etc.
In the preamble of this social contract, it is written:

We, the people of the Democratic Autonomous Regions of Afrin, Jazira
and Kobane, a confederation of Kurds, Arabs, Syrics, Arameans,
Turkmen, Armenians and Chechens, freely and solemnly declare and
establish this Charter.

In pursuit of freedom, justice, dignity and democracy and led by
principles of equality and environmental sustainability, the Charter
proclaims a new social contract, based upon mutual and peaceful
coexistence and understanding between all strands of society. It
protects fundamental human rights and liberties and reaffirms the
peoples’ right to self-determination.

Öcalan by proposing the idea of democratic confederalism and
formalizing it, speaks about the communal society and cantons
structures, in details. For instance, on the economic autonomy, while
insisting on “preserving land, forestation, ecology and commune”, he
declares that:

“Depriving the Kurdish society of their relief and welfare, is caused
by confiscating the economic tools of the Kurdish society and
controlling its economic life, rather than by the pressure and wrongs
imposed by the nation-state against them. A society cannot continue to
survive, after it has lost its grips on the production tools and its
market. Kurds not only have lost their control on the production
tools and relations in vast measures, but also they have been deprived
of controlling production, consumption and trading… In economic
autonomy, there is not room for urban/rural industry, technology,
development and construction, ownership and residence against the
natural environment and in contrast with the democratic society.
Economy cannot be left on its own as other fields, so that the profit
and capital accumulation are realized in it. The autonomous economy is
a model in which the profit and accumulated capital are reduced to the
minimum level.”

A.A at the end of our long interview insists that the democratic
autonomy is not an idea that can be practices in one day; rather, it
is a process which goes on with reason and education; it is a lifelong
revolution which will linger on.

The approved laws in the cantons are filtered in the communes. Which
means that the lowest levels are taking part in the macro level of
making decisions, and the decision-making design is a bottom-up one.
This is a developed effort in order to eliminate the governance and
the role of the state, which requires the institutionalization of
democracy not only among the masses, but also in the movement itself
which guards the idea of communes. What would be the reaction of the
Movement for a Democratic Society- whose duty is to coordinate and
incite the people for participating in the communes- toward the public
requests which are in contrast with the needs of the movement?

Zanyar Omrani is a filmmaker and Kurdish human rights activist.


Zanyar Omrani












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