INTERVIEW

16/05/2017 - 09:00 0
The story of three friends: Rojava's anti fascist internationalists

by Heval Carlo and Heval Siya

“The Revolution is coming from the mountains. It might never have begun if it wasnt for them.’’ says Heval Çiya. Originally from the Basque region of Spain, he is a rock climber who had been living in Berlin before he arrived in Rojava four months ago. Hes planning to stay for another four, and then return to his family whos waiting for him. Like comrade Marcello from Italy says, it truly is a privilege to meet him. And so is seeing the revolutionary light shining in his big eyes. We have met up with Antifa-International hevalen (friends) Marcelo, Çiya & Botan nearby Til Temir in the Cizîrê Canton, and talked about their reasons to be in Rojava, the foundation of the battalion, about hevalty, love, and the politics of the daily life.

Heval Marcelo has joined the Resistance of Kobanê, and wrote a book about it afterwards. Heval Çiya, on the other hand, had arrived in Kobanê to work in a hospital project. Marcelo kept in touch with the International Freedom Battalion after returning to Europe for a while. Then, when once again he went back to Rojava, he and Çiya have met in a training group, and decided to form the Antifa Battalion. The dominance of some Turkish organisations - 3 predominant ones, to be more precise - has made them feel quite uncomfortable. They say that Anarchists were not so much welcome, and that one would need to have a grasp of Marxist theory, and follow it, in order to be accepted or appreciated. “They don’t have connections with Europe, and they don’t make an effort to build any. Most importantly, all meetings are held in Turkish, which is the predominantly used language. These were some of the disturbing issues that made us think.” Meanwhile, all three of them have learned Kurdish, and are planning to include it in the training process after finding someone to teach the newcomers. “During the resistance in Kobanê, we have experienced how crucial language is for coordination. We’ve lost some comrades simply because we couldn’t talk to each other. Our lingua franca is English, but learning Kurdish is also essential”.

“We don’t make a distinction between those who are ‘political’ and those who aren’t. We don’t expect anyone to be ideologically ‘well-informed’ per se, having read Bakunin, Marx, etc., in order to fight together. Our main perspective is based on taking along people with good hearts. We aren’t interested in macro-geopolitical decisions either - here we have a liberated space in which we are rebuilding our daily lives”.

“Hevalty, not Anarchism’’, Çiya emphasises, ‘’and definitely not propaganda’’.

“There are many people in the west who just can’t find an individual space for struggle but have great potential. We are a group of comrades and friends; even though we practice military tactics, what we perceive is a cultural revolution. We are experiencing the social life we’ve always dreamt of, in a space that we have liberated socially and culturally.

Rojava let us dream again. While Europe was possessed by inertia and despair, we’ve seen the beam of light shining here. Obviously we do have a political motivation, however, this reality is moving in between normal life and revolution, through time and spaces. What influences and surrounds us here, is the daily life itself. This is a place where revolution is not instrumentalized. A praxis based on camaraderie, solidarity, personality, and self, is of essence.

We were six people in the beginning. We wrote a report explaining our issues, and our proposal for a separate battalion was approved. The battalion has 9 members at the moment, and we are expecting 15 more to join pretty soon. We didn’t have a vehicle when we started, for instance, but then our needs begun being met, one by one. Seeing that we were serious and disciplined, increased the support of hevals.’’

“Actually, if you are from the west and don’t cause any trouble, then they just love you’’ says H. Marcello with a grin.

When asked about the reactions and participation requests from Europe, their smiles and expressions clearly show that they aren’t too happy. “We appreciate solidarity of all sorts. Could be organising gigs, financial contribution, trying to make our voice heard… Another way, though, would be coming here. You don’t necessarily need to join the armed struggle, but rather work in the social field, which, by the way, is much needed. The third way, obviously, is to fight at the front. But the thing is, there’s a collapse in Europe: when in the 90s hundreds of thousands of antifascists were fighting against Neo-Nazis, they were merely a small bunch in our neighbourhoods. Now it’s gone upside down. Our numbers aren’t high enough, and young friends who join in are mostly not strongly politicised. ‘Being Revolutionary’ has become something in between the exploration of self and being mesmerised, something that partly covers a lifestyle but is far from the basic revolutionary principles. People are no longer afraid of losing their privileges or their possessions, but of changing. We think that anti-militarism is an important topic, but mostly being misunderstood, or not discussed correctly. We are surrounded by countries that ‘export’ violence, and this has to be stopped. However, criminalising yourself while living in a closed shell, wearing a hood and covering your face, is not the way to go. Responsibility… That’s what’s most binding and revolutionary. We don’t believe that there can be any proper action in the absence of it. If your friend is hungry, you’re responsible for it. If a woman is subject to violence, you’re responsible. Empathy seems to be fading away day by day, and the narration of internationalism changes. We want to refresh this narration, and emotions that are being lost. Because this is what Rojava gave us back. We call it ‘jumping into the darkness’ or ‘throwing yourself into the fire’. Let’s say, had my mom been in a wheelchair, I wouldn’t be able to come here. But that’s why it needs to be understood that responsibility should be taken by society, not individuals, and that it’s not a personal but rather a historical and social matter.”

Botan explains that the revolution helped him get to know himself better, understand what ‘being revolutionary’ really means, and that he’s never been happier before. “Among outsiders looking in, there is a tendency to regard people’s personal frustrations as the reason to come here: Having broken up with a partner, or being unemployed… I mean, of course there may be such examples, but it’s not just that. People need to believe that those who are truly happy with their lives can - and  do - want this for others. Rojava is not a place for therapy, but one of struggle for positive values. The base for this struggle is created here through the construction of mutual values and intimacy’’.

“The primary problem with some comrades joining from the west is that they sometimes miscomprehend the intimacy, interest, and trust that is shown, and take it for granted as if there are people working for them. We try to explain to the newcomers that it is important to respond with disciplined work and the right behaviour. It’s not a ‘’sit down and learn’’ type of approach though, we live together, learn together, and transform together.’’

“At first all of us used to sit in a small room all day long. Patience is a very important doctrine.’’

‘’Revolutionaries are not easy people’’ says Marcello, ‘’we all are strong characters. Learning to live together… that’s essential. The mechanism of criticism and self-criticism at our daily (verbal) reports here, is fundamental to our praxis of coexistence. In the west, criticism is either considered as hurtful, or simply ignored. Here, though, we believe in the importance of the daily personal reports and the meetings, discussions about them. The intention when you’re criticising someone is never a bad one. That’s the main principle of criticism. You rather think together about the reasons of a behaviour. That’s actually YPG’s system, and their rules are ours as well since we are affiliated with them. Both they and we are trying to minimise the hierarchical relationships, as well as problematising hierarchy itself.

Everybody here is working hard. And you do too when you see that, because else is not very possible as you would feel and look fairly weird. We’re trying to keep all the work and activities in a horizontal structure. We really believe in the essence of creating ‘belonging’, in a way that everyone feels part of each other. The rules are there to protect ‘hevalty’, and that’s why we respect them.

There is no hierarchy in our living space, within our daily lives. all decisions are taken collectively, all work is done together, and all responsibility of the incomplete work is being shared. For instance, even though I am in a commanding position in the military field, my friends in the kitchen can tell me to fuck off when I ask for a special meal. Or even though there is a kitchen staff, everyone takes initiative for the food. Respecting the group and comrades is key. Your heval is the person you trust with your life and you just shouldn’t upset them.

“The squat experiences help with the principles and praxis of our collective life. Those are the only places, except here, where you’ll find such a lifestyle anyway. But ‘heval’ is such a significant concept: your comrade who will protect you by all means. You have to trust them. And it is some sort of love relationship’’, repeats Çiya.

They are willing to form a twin Antifa group soon, but nothing is quite clear yet. Çiya wants to bring a climbing wall to Rojava.

They tell that the fight will continue until capitalism is abolished all over the world. ‘’Until then, we are side by side with PKK, who are carrying out an internationalist struggle. We consider the Karker (workers), those who build life, as a whole. This is the peoples’ revolution and is dependent on other peoples. We don’t need to get lost in theory and we believe in looking into each other’s eyes to search for a way together. Having born in the mountains from nothingness, PKK is the movement of the poor, of the dispossessed, of those who have nothing but each other. They aren’t moving through bloodshed, nor by the creation of centralised, authoritarian structures as in Russia, but rather by opening space and time for people to build their own lives, and to invent their own mechanisms of self-governance. We witness their approach on religion and landlords: They could have been trying to change things with tyranny or by the power of arms. But they’re trying to find other ways instead; with work that aims to activate social mechanisms, and to enable a change from the inside. There is an effort to stay away from harsh conflict, and give back the self-power to the peoples. It is but a holistic approach, solid in faith and praxis.’’

“Even though the movement thinks that the social aspect is most important, I believe that the military aspect is no less’’, says Marcelo, “a failure in one of them, would lead to the same result in the other’’.

Regarding the revolution, they emphasise that there is no other goal than internalising a communal life, which they see all around them, and that they count on their comrades.

And finally, Heval Marcelo says they can be contacted via their Twitter account, @antifatabur, and adds, “we shall also remind that we have two cooks from Italy, yet another significant reason to join us!’’