Memed gave an inspiring and moving talk on the struggle of the Kurdish people within the Turkish, Syrian, Iranian and Iraqi borders. Theirs is a history of exclusion from the mainstream of political and economic life in these countries.
Memed told us that from the small beginnings of five students getting together in the 1970’s to establish a future Kurdish state of Kurdistan, the PKK was founded in 1978. The leader, Abdullah Ocalan was captured and imprisoned in Turkey and has spent the last 16 years in solitary confinement.
During his time in prison A.O. has abandoned the previous absolutist theoretical and practical armed policies of the PKK in favour of a set of new ideas to embrace the ideas of Wallerstein, Adorno, Bookchin and Gramsci, amongst others. This meant that gender equality was given a central role as historically, women have always had a greater social investment in establishing agricultural based settlements and providing social stability for themselves and their families.
A.O. has written the Democratic Modernity Manifesto, which seeks to establish a Kurdish democratic autonomy within an overarching democratic federalism for all countries in the Middle East.
The model would be based on ecological industry, communal economy within the framework of democratic federalism leading to a unification of thousands of People’s Assemblies.
Such a structure has been in place since 2011 in Northern Syria since the beginning of the civil war against the Assad government. Everyone is included in the three Cantons that have been set up: Kurds, Armenians, Assyrians,Turkmen and Christians (have I missed any? P.H.)
There will be a Charter of Rights to ensure that languages, religions and philosophical beliefs are protected in this democratic federal system. They will be organised into cooperatives and all minorities will have proportional representation in all the organising committees. There will be co-chair systems with quotas to ensure that there is a woman co-charing each committee.
Security: every citizen to be trained for six weeks.
- State-like structure
- People’s power to keep the State in check
The Kurdish revolution will mean:
- Kurdish national questions
- Gender equality
- Society without hierarchies
- Abandon and get rid of old absolutist thinking and ideas, which are still deeply rooted in the Middle East, particularly in relation to the gender issue
Question time with replies from Memed.
Q: How will this new society work? Will there be a kind of libertarian municipalisation with ways to replace capitialism with cooperatives? How to negotiate with markets?
Memed: The war economy operating currently in Northern Syria, where there is bartering of olives and oil and other goods. There will have to be a return to an agricultural revolution, to developing a new way of living that is tune with our environment. But there will be no absolutist approach. A more pragmatic approach is necessary. There will be many ways to be linked in their plurality. Memed said that despite the many difficulties and embargos of the people living in Northern Syria they are still surviving.
After the war, ten to fifteen years from now, there will likely still be capitalism and technology that we need and still be in use. There is a need for a longer term view and Realpolitik.
The new view and ‘aim is to change our adverseries’.
There will be differentiation between States and their People.
Q: What is the long term plan for money supply?
Memed: Alongside the currency, which is the Dinar, there is a barter economy of bread, olives or oil. Longterm, (not wanting to reapeat the same trap as post WW1) want to democratise the States they are living in, e.g. Turkey to become 25 separate regions with their own local parliaments. Federalised democracies weaken the power of the Nation State, which is set up by elites to expropriate Surplus Value.
Q: How do you gain the strength and support of the different peoples and avoid further civil war? What about the difficulty of dealing with the Western banking system? How to make people believe in this?
Memed: There will be plural economies (bartering alongside existing currencies of the four countries ) because there will need to be alternative currencies depending on the development of these (?)targets.
Q: from a representative of Southall Black Sisters, more a statement really, who says that ‘religion is the bane of women’s lives’. In Britain we look to the State to make things more beneficial, although the State is deeply racist.
Memed: The gender issue is central to the development of Kurdish society. The first humanising revolution of human society was led by women who organised themselves and their families into an agricultural society. The many research findings of archeological and anthropological studies demonstrate the leadership of women in ancient societies. Women were engaged in settled agricultural life which evolved into a more humanised society. The first counter revolution came from men with a violent monopoly of Surplus Value. Women have had a fundamental role. Religion is inherently political. Islam becomes a problem when it becomes a State based power. There is a need to democratise Islam by taking Islam out of the mosque because the mosque belongs to the State. The Kurds want a socialist economy that is separate from religion. Islam was developed by the merchant class. It needs to be democratised, not to be rejected, which just alienates people. Attention needs to be directed to the People.
Q: Support for Kurds, we need to learn from you. For UK needs to create our own organisations. We are not happy with how we are ruled, we need to start to build our own assemblies now. The State is the source of our problems.
Memed: There is a joke about so many parties and organisations, but there is no need to be afraid of forming new alliances and entities to express yourself and engage. We have forgotten this because we are used to more powerful State structure. Kurdish leaders organised people who lived in Syria and now, more than 30 years later, they are leading the movement. As I said, in 1974, there were five people looking to change the system.
Q: How to soften fundamentalist Islam?
Memed: We have a comparatively more scientific approach, a range of fora for discussion. There still needs to be a spiritual level. People may still need this in order to exist. It is about taking out the absolutist ‘isms’ in everything that create enmity between people. People of different cultures and relgions can live together without State interference, nationalisms and sectarianisms.
Q: about the size of Turkish population and how this would be divided up into regions.
Memed: The population of Turkey is 80 million, 20 m. of which live in greater Istanbul. There would be 25 regions, i.e. about three to four million people in each region. There would be a local collection and use of taxes. In this way, the People are not overwhelmed by large State.
Pamela mentioned that there was an excellent documentary on the reclaiming of Kobani produced by Channel 4 in the Unreported World series that had been broadcast on Friday 27 March, and Memed said this would be accessible via internet (or 4oD).