Thoughts on Rojava: An Interview with Janet Biehl

Source: Roar Magazine

Full of admiration, but not without critique: Janet Biehl shares some of her ideas on the Rojava revolution after her recent visits to the region.

In this interview, independent filmmaker and journalist Zanyar Omrani talks to Janet Biehl about her late companion Murray Bookchin, her trips to Rojava and the important question of how to build bottom-up power structures without risking the reversal of the process over time.

Janet Biehl has traveled to Rojava twice in the past year and has written extensively about her experiences and observations while visiting the autonomous cantons in northern Syria. She is the author of the book Ecology or Catastrophe: The Life of Murray Bookchin.

Zanyar Omrani has visited Rojava several times, where he documented life behind the front-lines of the struggle against ISIS. His documentary, Inside Kobane: Keeping Islamic State at Bay,was screened by the BBC.

Zanyar Omrani: Can you tell us about your first encounter with the Kurdish issue, and explain why it caught your attention?

Janet Biehl: After Bookchin died in 2006, several people sent me the PKK’s stunning tribute to him, which said it would “undertake to make Bookchin live in our struggle” and create “the first society which establishes a tangible democratic confederalism.”

Then in 2011 the Kurdish eco-activist Ercan Ayboga invited me to participate in the Mesopotamian Social Forum in Diyarbakir, which he was organizing. He thought the movement and I might have things to say to each other. He was right.

At the MSF I found a full-fledged social and political movement underway, brimming over with activism and ideas about ecology and gender equality and much more. I saw older patriarchal-looking men sitting and listening intently to 20-year-old women speaking on panels about honor killings. I thought, something is going on here.

Since then I’ve helped translate two books on the topic from German to English: Democratic Autonomy in North Kurdistan, written by a group of German-Kurdish solidarity activists who traveled around Bakur [North Kurdistan] to research the institutions of Democratic Autonomy that were being created; and Revolution in Rojava, co-authored by Ercan Ayboga, who invited me to the conference in the first place. This book will be published by Pluto Press sometime in 2016.

In December 2014 I was able to travel to Rojava myself as part of an academic delegation. We were there for about ten days.

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