24 April 2015
by Salvador Zana*
It has been claimed several times that the war going on now in the Middle East is the first internet war. In fact a whole lot of claims have been made about this war without most people being sure about what this war actually is. Some say it started with the Syrian opposition taking up arms, others see its roots in the rise of Daesh (ISIS) in Iraq and yet others say it is one battlefield of a larger international conflict along lines such as East and West, Islam and Modernity, Freedom and Terrorism.
I am nowhere knowledgeable enough to try disentangling all the conflicting sides, motifs, interests and outlooks and will therefore refer to it as the Mesopotamian War, meaning the multitude of the ongoing conflicts in that region, involving the forces of Rojava's TEV-DEM (Democratic Society Movement) coalition and of the PKK, KDP and PUK, Daesh and Assad and Turkey and many other factions, governments and militias. The analyses of the situation always differ with the perspective of the viewer. It is impossible to talk about the fight of the Kurds in Başûr and Rojava without taking into account the armed struggle in Turkey, just as it is impossible understanding the rise of Daesh without the background of their various international supporters and allies. There simply is not one evil mastermind behind this, one cigarette-smoking man pulling all the strings. The only simplifying thing I can say about all this is that it is not a war of humans aganinst humans, but a war of ideas. The real battles are taking place not at the frontline but on both sides of it, in the minds of people. If we knew how to destroy the fascist ideology in our enemies' heads, the war would be over tomorrow. If we had been wiser, more hopeful, more passionate in the past, we might have been able to turn into revolutionary awareness the anger and frustration that drives so many people into the arms of Fascism every day. Someone who I believe to be an enemy might not be one after all. He might wear my enemies' uniform, believe my enemies' propaganda and point a gun at me for my enemies. But as soon as he stops doing that, what more is he than another human?
It is an aspect of the war over people's minds that by the means of modern media has become more influential than ever. You do not need a conscription army if you can convince people to fight for your cause. And you do not need an army at all if you can convince people of what the real problem is. Assad, Daesh and every other force put huge efforts into making sure that their ideology, their version of the story is prevalent and unchallenged within as many people as possible.
Concerning this issue our movement faces huge problems. When YPG finally liberated Kobanê in January the international media largely reported that it was Pêşmerga who had driven Daesh out of the city. While the atrocities committed in the name of the “Caliphate” continue to attract considerable interest, disgust and sometimes awe all around the world the cause of their most courageous and successful adversaries remain unknown. One might get the impression that it is just western warplanes that stop Daesh from marching against the capitals of the Middle East. The YPJ has been in the focus of several media reports, but mostly not as a revolutionary fighting force but as a mere curiosity – girls with guns, how exotic.
If YPG and YPJ have been covered insufficiently, then the revolution itself has not been covered at all. Even people who actively try to find out about it usually fail to get an impression of what this revolution is, how it feels and what difference it makes. What is actually going on in Rojavan society? I am not exempting myself, my comrades or anyone doing media work in Kurdistan when I criticize this situation. There is obviously a large deficite when it comes to communicating our cause to the outside world. We are either mis- or not at all represented in corporate as well as in social media. While the propaganda of our fascist foes attracts scores of eager young men the message of Rojava's heroes gets lost in overly long, unedited and untranslated youtube videos. While the world cries out at the massacre of Şengal and the wrecking of Hatra it remains oblivious of the peoples that have risen up just miles away from these places to create a new and free society.
You may wonder why I am saying all this and at the same time sitting in a dingy room in a YPG base without internet, instead of making sure that the world learns about our fight every day. The thing is, I believe that there are thousands of people out there who can do a much better job than me. Anybody with basic video-editing skills can take use the YPG material on Youtube and make great videos from it. Anybody with a blog and an audience can come here and tell what's really going on. A week ago I was talking to a YPG general in Dêrik who was enthusiastic about the idea of graffiti artists coming and painting the city. There is an infinite number of ways to help – everybody needs to figure out for her- or himself what he or she can do.
If this is the first internet war then we definitely need to step up our presence. In the end, the internet remains one of the most important tools for mass communication, and indispensable for revolutionaries. We have long passed the time when information could be controlled by governments and corporations. And nonetheless the coverage of the Rojavan cause by international media is being stripped to the utmost of any true meaning, many a times labeling it a “fight of the Kurds”.
This is not just a fight of the Kurds. It is a fight of the Arabs and Ezidis, of Armenians and Assyrians. It is a fight of women and a fight of the youth. It is a fight of Christians and Muslims. It is the fight of Arîn and Xabat, of Ché and Rosa, of Thomas Sankara and Tupa Katari and all the other revolutionaries who have fallen trying to end the suffering of the world. It is the fight of all those oppressed. It is the fight for freedom and everybody has a place in it. You too.
*Salvador Zana is an internationalist revolutionary with roots in Europe and Africa. He is currently with YPG in Cizîre canton of Rojava.