Ecological and gender dimensions of the democratic-confederalist approach in northern Syria: an inter-cultural dialogue

Background documents:

  1. MESOPOTAMIAN ECOLOGY MOVEMENT Principles, Functioning and Objectives

Approved at the 1st Conference of the Mesopotamian Ecology Movement (MEM) on April 23+24, 2016, in Wan

Website: http://www.mezopotamyaekolojihareketi.org – Email: mehdiplo@riseup.net Principles

* The earth is a whole. It cannot be divided and limited by dominant powers. The Mesopotamian Ecology Movement (MEM) is politically active in Upper Mesopotamia and leads struggles on a pluralistic basis in cooperation with all living beings against each kind of ecological destructions and exploitations.

* The MEM is against the mindset of the patriarchal hegemonic system which deepens the hierarchy and domination with mythological, religious, philosophical and scientific ideologies. It is struggling against antagonisms like man-woman, nature-society, urban-rural, rulers-governed, subject-object, logic-emotion, soul-body and is based on the paradigm of a democratic, ecological and gender liberated society.

* The struggle against the statist and hegemonic system whose institutional and conceptional structures deepens centralism, nationalism, sexism and individualism is considered by the MEM as a ecological-social struggle. The autonomous self organizations of different identities, cultures, religions and social groups are regarded as the basis of democratic nation, confederalism and democratic autonomy.

* The MEM describes local life units as ecological and promotes them against capitalist cities with their cancerous industrialist structures. In this sense, it aims to develop eco-cities as areas of direct democracy and free life where autonomous and local self organization is possible.

* The ecological challenges are treated on paradigmatic level and the development of local as well as global solutions is vital for our existence and future. For that, by means of multi-faced ecological organizations and ecology movements, it is aimed to develop networks between people and the ecological dimension of a social and actual consciousness.

* Because the representative democracy is not insufficient to develop a self organized society in the different areas of life, it defends the building up of assemblies and communes along the principles of direct democracy.

* The ecological consciousness is the foundation of the ethical and political consciousness. Based on that a compatible relation is developed with the nature. The main reason for the ecological catastrophe is rooted in the domination of humans by humans. Due to that the MEM aims a social fabric which allows an equal and free life for everybody.

* As all human beings have human rights, all other living creatures have also rights according to their species and variation. The MEM is against the capitalist modernity that instrumentalizes and commodifies soil, water and air as it wants and destroys them for

continuously growing profit and all kind of social, political and economic plans and practices which disconnects people from production. Accordingly the MEM defends the life rights of all creatures.

* The MEM promotes ecological life areas where direct democracy is implemented, people live in harmony with the nature and the energy is produced on local level by clean energy resources. All activities are supported for the ecological transformation of all life areas.

* The MEM rejects all kind of perceptions which see all creatures and elements of nature as resource and a mean of benefit. Instead of objectification of the nature by the current civilization, it works on developing ecological orientated life conditions which allows a compliance between human and nature. For this cause, it supports all kind of suggestions and activities.

* The MEM highlights the impacts of war on the nature and climate, struggles for a world without war and advocates for a peace diplomacy.

* The MEM stands against the historical oppression between gender. It struggles against the reproduction of discriminating social roles and hierarchy between gender.

* The MEM supports the development of economic models based on production, community and solidarity and stays against the mindset of aid which deepens poverty and hunger.

* The MEM rejects the huge mono-cultural agriculture and GDO’s which sterilizes the agricultural production and subjects it to the global companies. It accepts the diversity in the agriculture and sustainability which is crucial for the life and thus for the continuation of this diversity it supports natural models in the agriculture.

* The MEM works for the increase and spread of local seeds.

* The MEM supports small and middle scale agriculture and animal husbandry models which do not dominate the nature.

* The MEM is against the uncontrolled growing of cities and so called “TOKI” models of gentrification. It works for the development of ecological cities and their local ecological transformation as an alternative to cities designed with the capitalist mentality. The aim is to have cities which can supply themselves.

* The MEM stands against urbanization models threatening the rural life and for models aiming an equilibrium between urban and rural areas with a communal self governance.

* The MEM denies monopolist structures which destroys the social and economic fabric and the industry which is based on making profit and competition. For the needs of the society it develops an eco-technology. It rejects all kind of productions not based on the ecological equilibrium.

* The MEM stands against each kind of structure and organization which aims to monopolizes the energy. It supports the development of technologies which are accessible and usable for everybody.

* The MEM has a critical approach on eurocentric positivist intellectualism and rather it cares about solution methods of autochtonous cultures. The information should be spread to many centers.

* The MEM is against destructive hydroelectric power plants, dams and absolutely against nuclear power plants.

* The MEM struggles against interventions into demographic structures of settlements and is against to all which damage environmental and history. It stands against plans and practices which destroy nature, historical constructions and all kind of activities which damage the social memory culture.

* The MEM carries out activities to spread the ecological consciousness. For these objectives ecology academies, publications, conferences, forums and neighborhoods assemblies are initiated.

* The MEM carries out activities in the preventive medicine and with natural medicine subjects.

Functioning

* For the MEM each individual is valuable. All ideas, positions and solution proposals shared in face-to-face meetings or via communications tools like phone or email will be taken into consideration, brought to the agenda and discussed independently of the background of the respective person or organization.

* Although Upper Mesopotamia is the focus region of the MEM there is no geographical limit for its activities. The MEM consists of individual participants, collectives, cooperatives, associations, social movements and other civil society organizations which join the activities by their own decisions.

* There is no prioritization between activists. It is important that all decisions are taken consensus-based. If not possible, decisions may be taken by the majority.

* The MEM cooperates with collectives, cooperatives, associations, social movements and other civil society organizations which are not members, but interested in same issues.

* All activities are transparent, can be questioned and are carried out on the basis of social ecology. All subjects are discussed transparently in the meetings and communication media and the results are published to all activists.

* The council, coordination and commissions of the MEM are elected at the general conference which is organized every second year. The members of the conference are elected by the provincial councils based on gender co-representation.

* The council of the MEM and all organs are established according to the co-representation of genders. The co-speakers of the MEM are elected by the coordination and change every 6 months. The general conference is organized annually, but every second year the council and coordination is elected.

* The MEM establishes commissions for science, law and various campaigns if considered necessary.

* At the conferences short and long term plans are decided. The coordination of the MEM is mainly responsible for their implementation.

Objectives

As a requirement of the bond to the territory it is aimed to get organized, build up solidarity and develop effective protests against those constructing and planning dams, destroying natural habitats of human beings, many endemic plants and animals, deepening desertificating in Mesopotamia by changing the climate, destroying nature by mining projects, polluting the air and making the soil infertile.

Consequently the MEM develops and supports alternative solutions against the imposition of capitalism.

  • The MEM rejects completely the competitive and paid education system that alienates people even to their mother tongue and request people to bow to the rulers. It supports a liberating system wherein people can share their knowledge mutually and their interests and tendencies are taken into account. To do that, it creates resources and spaces to realize such prepared study projects in this sense.
  • Instead of a health care system where you can get service as long as you have money and which causes new diseases due to a poor diagnosis process and does not produce medicine, the MEM supports for all people a consumption of food and beverages whose ingredients are known and free of hormones and a life assuring a clean environment and thus minimizing the factors causing diseases. It projects hospitals where natural methods are applied and herbal products are used, a a face to face interaction will be implemented by the employees in order to enhance the motivation of the patients and the relationship between the patients and the staff.
  • The MEM defends that construction of concrete causes each kind of illnesses. Thus it supports ecological compatible and cheap construction materials which allows practicable and affordable solution for housing questions. It develops projects for such kind of constructions and life areas and makes suggestions to municipalities, trade unions and different associations. The MEM encourages and organizes various housing cooperatives. It supports proposals of ecological solutions and projects for the urban transformation projects of modern states and capitalism.
  • The MEM supports the use of renewable and sustainable energy sources which cause no ecological destruction, threaten the habitat of living beings and does not contribute to energy policy which raises the consumption. In this sense it supports initiatives on local level.
  • By means of doing social studies, the MEM reveals the exclusion of people behind the mask of modern society with its assimilating character. It displays the multilingual and multicultural history of Mesopotamia and struggles against the perceptions making us intolerant to each other.
  • The MEM designs methods of ecological struggles against poverty; organizes and encourages campaigns and projects to be implemented.
  • The MEM believes that each territory should be governed by those communities and individuals living at place. Thus, the creating of assemblies by people who aim to govern their streets, villages and neighborhoods based on their life styles and needs.
  • The MEM supports an approach of municipalism which does not ignore the relation between nature and human beings in Mesopotamia. It backs the necessity of efforts for a another planning, education, environmentalism at local level, energy production, science and health care.
  • The MEM consider a collaboration with the relevant units of municipalities as important and engage itself in this sense.
  • The MEM defends the access to clean water, clean air, affordable housing and organic food as a basic right for all humans. It discusses and develops solutions upon these issues. It struggles against the pollution of air, water and soil by means of specific actions and methods.
  • The MEM performs studies and activities for building up of an ecology institute, carries out permanently educational activities and engages itself for having lessons on ecology at schools.

 

2. Interview of Hors-Sol with the Mesopotamian Ecology Movement (MEM)

 

https://hors-sol.herbesfolles.org/2017/07/19/entretien-avec-un-ecologiste-kurde/

Summer 2017

Why a specific ecologist platform ? Why is it so important during a civilian and military conflict ?

The exiting of a broad and strong ecology movement in North (Turkish) Kurdistan is very crucial for the implementation of the paradigm of the Kurdish Freedom Movement which says “Democratic, Ecological and gender liberated society”. The Kurdish women is active for many years and meanwhile accepted in the society, but the ecologists were quite weak although there were some important campaigns against destructive dams or other projects in the last 15 years. These struggles were an important contribution for an ecological awareness, but there was still strongly the necessity to have a specific structure in order to raise significantly the ecological consciousness and affect the political decisions in the society. Parallel to that the neoliberal policies of the Turkish government became stronger and thousands of projects in rural and urban areas continued to destroy and exploit the nature. The Mesopotamian Ecology Movement (MEM) has been the result of this development and discussions. The MEM is part of the broader Kurdish Freedom Movement, but has a specific autonomous status.

The war is one of the main reasons for the ecological destruction. Since summer 2015 the state has bombed almost all mountains and torched several ten thousands of hectares. In seven cities was a strong destruction during the last winter and spring. War is against not only people, also against their nature and environment. We have to stay also against this kind of ecological destruction; now and not after the war.

 

Which kind of campaigns do you lead since your declaration of may ?

We struggle mainly against destructive dams, mining, coal plants, fracking and neoliberal urbanization projects. For example the fight against the Ilisu Dam on the Tigris River is important; it started 15 years ago, now we continue it including actors outside of the MEM. We have done one demonstration against the Silvan Dam which is planned to be used for fracking. Fracking is a field where we have to work more in future. There is a strong movement against a large coal plant in the province of Sirnak; several times thousands of people joined protest demonstrations.

As we have continous war in North Kurdistan we work also against the ecological destruction caused by war.

Is your movement in contradiction with other leftists movements (including trade unionists and marxists) that are based on the industrial development ?

In our movement are many activists from trade unions working in the public service area; but not from trade unions of industrial workers. Until now we had no contradictions with the latter because the industry is quite weak in North Kurdistan. Only in a very limited way some people working in the destructive projects, which we fight, have criticized individually our campaigns. However this is not a bis discussion.

The leftist organizations do not stay against our movement in Kurdistan, rather they support our activities principally. Several years ago the most of them started to criticize the governmental policies and their investment projects.

 

Do you get a special bond between the Kurdish affirmation and environmentalist question ? Does your movement exceeds the Kurdish question?

Yes and no. The destructive ecological policies of the Turkish government is the same for the regions outside of North Kurdistan; for example the destruction in the Black Sea region is in the same dimension. But the way of implementing the projects in Kurdistan are often connected with worse human right violations, there are some projects, which have only a military aim like the so called “security dams” at the Iraqi border, and the war itself destroy directly the nature (like forest fires, bombings etc). We have an anticapitalist stand and at the same time we put the ecologically destructive policies of the Turkish state with the Kurdish question.

 

The Turkey’s offensive is military. Does it take other aspects, industrial, technological, merchants ?

The increasing repression of the Turkish state since summer 2015 includes different dimensions. Its is not only military. The police arrests daily people, since summer more than 2500 people have been detained. It utilizes the terror organization Islamic State (IS) which has done several massacres against Kurds and Turkish Leftist in solidarity with the Kurdish Freedom Movement. The police is very brutal when people demonstrate. These two approaches and the destruction of several cities spread fear among the population and less people join protests.

The press is under an extreme state terror, almost all free press has been banned and more than 100 journalists are detained. Dozens of civil organizations have been closed. Until now 27 HDP municipalities have been taken over by governmental trustees. The municipalities are an important tool for the Kurdish population in terms of some small democratic space which is know also taken by the central state. More municipalities – including the three big metropolitan municipalities – may be confiscated in the next weeks. Also the 59 HDP parliamentarians in the parliament of Turkey may be detained in the next week since their immunity has been lifted in June 2016.

Many economical activities have been limited seriously in Kurdistan since the start of the war in summer 2015. Several new cooperatives have not been attacked yet, but they are under The state wants to “buy” people displaced in the seven destroyed cities with some financial support. The state wants to abuse the poverty in Kurdistan more than ever. Until now they had no success in this. But the state continues to attack the Kurds on all fronts.

 

The conflict center is grabbing oil and gas fields. Challenging the industrial and energy foundation of lifestyle, is a way to undermine the foundations of the conflict, either with Turkey, Daesh, the Syrian government and the imperialist nations ?

Of course the oppression and wars in Kurdistan can not completely understood without the big amount of oil and gas which is exploited in Kurdistan by its colonizers. As long as the demand for oil and gas in the world is high, the reason for oppression, conflict and war in and around Kurdistan will continue. A significant global change of the lifestyle towards less consumption of energy and material would make the world more peaceful. Less pipelines, securing of transport lines, military interventions, less civil/open war, less military coups, less military spending etc would be the result. Then also organizations like the IS would not get the financial-military support of states like Turkey, Qatar and Saudi-Arabia.

However, for such a change the models of mobility, feeding, housing, leisure activities etc have to change seriously which is only possible with a completely new political-economic model. In other world capitalism, which has achieved the neoliberal stadium, must overcome. A back to the economy of the 70’ies is unrealistic and even if this would be bring no solution.

 

Islamists (of IS in particular) develop an “anti- capitalist” rhetoric against a consumer society that would obviate the devotees from religious precepts. What happens in reality ?

Almost all practices of “islamist” regimes have this rhetoric which has nothing to do with the reality. Lets look to Iran or even the IS controlled areas. All promise justice and equality if you perform fully religious precepts. All these antidemocratic and fascist regimes have developed very fast a new class society (some of the old high class can continue with its position). We should not be deceived ourself by some social rights given to the broader population which are elements of a social democrat economy/society and not more. This is also the case for the IS. In the IS areas the new rich are often the “emir” of the military units for example; they just appropriate land, goods, machines and money often by using violence. As its the case with Iran, the industry has been supported very directly and no ecological aspects have been taken into consideration. The IS would do the same if they have the means and tools for that. These “islamist” regimes actually do not differ from capitalist states, they just can be compared with the more repressive ones.

 

You mention the “trinity city-class-state” as the cause of a breathless society. Is that a challenge to the urban lifestyle ?

In the last years we have started to criticize the fast urbanization in our country which has been supported mainly by the neoliberal policies of the Turkish AKP government. The cities grew so fast and with so much money that our whole urban environment changed dramatically. The majority of the population has started to consider the new lifestyle as very positive and want to implement it, by buying new apartments, cars, clothes etc. In the cities the population looses its cultural and agricultural heritage very fast and the capitalism has seized many peoples mind, cultural and free time activities, feeding, mobility and housing. Particularly the ones who rise to the middle classes are affected by that and an important part of the lower classes want to go the same way. The cultural and agricultural heritage of this country is rich, but is under big threat and is replaced by a new one which is predetermined by capitalism. The Turkish capitalism has hereby a special interest to assimilate the Kurdish culture which must be conserved. This should be done not in the traditional way because the material basis changed a lot, but with our political concept of Democratic Confederalism.

We just have started the battle in our mainly Kurdish society to convince the population to change their way to live. A life which is not orientated on profit, career, patriarchalism, extreme consume and individualism, rather on radical democracy, women’s liberation, solidarity and communal life.

 

In your declaration, you mention « communalism ». What does it mean ?

This means for us that the main political unit in the society is the “commune”. A commune consists of the people of one or several residential streets or of one village and includes between several dozen and few hundred households. In connection collectives are also important where people of certain interest, activity or material and immaterial production come together.

Communes are the main tool for the self-government and empowering people. People should think, discuss about all actions and decisions which affect their life directly or indirectly. Strong communes are an important tool to raise the number of engaged and participative individuals which take action for the interest of their commune and the society in general. In such cases certain interest groups, bureaucracies or higher classes have it much more difficult to exploit and repress the majority of society.

The Kurdish Communalism goes beyond the communes and discuss based on a year long practice how a broader society can be organized with means of “radical democracy”. Particularly the experience in Rojava (People’s Council of West Kurdistan – MGRK) and in North Kurdistan (Democratic Society Congress – DTK) are interesting in terms of a structure which includes the majority of the society.

 

You speak about cultural and ecological devastation. What connection do you make between them ?

For us each ecological destruction is also a social and cultural destruction. When a dam or mining project is built it means the destruction of rivers, groundwater, vegetation, ecosystems and soil in a big dimension. Here live people which have to leave their homes. In the Turkish state (the most parts of this world) this has the result for the big majority of the affected people of an impoverishment and the disconnection to their homeland which is the source of their identity and culture.

People disconnected abruptly and brutally from nature, history, culture and society may loose equilibrium and are open for a unsocial and unsolidary life if the political supports this and there is no political alternative. Such people become part of the capitalist consumption and loose all their social values which developed over centuries in a much more natural environment.

This disconnection has started through the war in the 90’ies when 2,4 Mio. people have been displaced forcibly by the military. The intensivity of the “investment projects” since 2002 is the continuation of that development with other means.

 

Can you imagine a peaceful solution to the conflict ? What are the conditions ?

It is always possible to have a peace which means for us not only ceasefire and hand over weapons, rather the acceptance of democratic and collective rights. However this depends on the Turkish state and not on the Kurdish side which was and is ready for a fair peace. The Kurds consider the armed struggle as a tool to make pressure on the Turkish state in order it overcomes the exploitation and repression in Kurdistan. The Kurds are aware that weapons are their security and will be given up if only basic rights (acceptance in the constitution etc) have been approved and a third hand (national and international) makes the mediation between the two sides. The latter point is crucial as the last round of negotiations (2013-2015) is neglected by the government since its end in spring 2015.

Since summer 2015 the Turkish state has started its most repressive attack against the Kurdish Freedom Movement in North Kurdistan as well as in Rojava. The resistance is also strong. As long as the Turkish government thinks that it could have success with its state terror, the war will continue and no negotiations will happen. Thats why its time of resistance now – in every area. Also international solidarity is very crucial. Maybe developments in Rojava/Syria in favor of the revolutionaries could have a positive effect on a potential new negotiation process.

 

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