Glossary of Terms

Asya Abdullah – Abdullah is the elected co-resident of the Syrian-based Democratic Union Party (PYD)

Massoud Barzani – Barzani is the leader of the KDP (Kurdistan Democratic Party)

Cemal Bayik – Bayik is one of the founder members of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK)

Cizîre – The Cizîre Canton is biggest of the three cantons of Rojava. The canton recognizes three official languages and is shared amongst Arabs, Kurds, Assyrians, Armenians, Chechens and adherents of Islam, Christianity and Ezidi.

Selahattin Demirtaş – Demirtaş is the elected co-chair of the HDP (Peoples’ Democratic Party).

DBP (Peace and Democracy Party) – Formerly the BDP, the DBP is a pro-Kurdish political party in Turkey/North Kurdistan.

Democratic Autonomy – Conceived by Abdullah Öcalan, democratic autonomy is a system of governance based on grassroots participation, decentralised decision-making and common ownership. It offers a non-state social paradigm, arguing that ‘States only administrate while democracies govern. States are founded on power; democracies are based on collective consensus’. It is argued that this system is the paradigm of oppressed people, as it offers an antidote to assimilationist practices of the nation-state and exploitative structures of capitalism. The canton system in Rojava, Syria, which declared autonomy in early 2014, is based on this system of governance.

Diyarbakır – Diyarbakır is one of the largest cities in South-eastern Turkey, the principal home of Turkey’s Kurdish population.

Efrîn – Efrîn is one of three Kurdish cantons in Rojava, of which the majority population are Kurds, Alawis and Ezidis. Since the war in Syria, hundreds of thousands of Kurds and Arabs from Aleppo, Damascus and other Syrian Arab cities have sought refuge here. The population is growing drastically, which is causing serious problems to infrastructure.

Erbil – Erbil is the capital city, and the largest, of Iraqi/South Kurdistan. It is the primary home to the governing bodies of the KRG (Kurdish Regional Government).

HDP (Peoples’ Democratic Party) – A counterpart to the pro-Kurdish DBP (Peace and Democracy Party), the HDP is a pro-minority rights, feminist leftist political party in Turkey. The party has a 50% quota for women, a 10% quota for LGBT individuals, and is jointly led by Figen Yüksekdağ and Selahattin Demirtaş.

HPG (Peoples’ Defence Force) – The HPG is the military wing of the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party).

İmralı – İmralı is a Turkish prison island. Abdullah Öcalan, a leading member of the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party), is currently serving a life sentence in solitary confinement here.

Murat Karayılan – Karayılan is one of the founders of the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party). He is also on the executive council of the KCK (Union of Communities in Kurdistan).

KCK (Union of Communities in Kurdistan) – The KCK was assembled by the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) in 2007, aiming to put into practice plans for ‘democratic autonomy’ as laid out by PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan.

KDP (Kurdistan Democratic Party) – Led by Massoud Barzani, the KDP is a major political party of Iraqi/South Kurdistan. It shares with the PUK (Patriotic Union of Kurdistan) its ideology of Kurdish nationalism and self-determination.

KNK (Kurdistan National Congress) – The KNK is a coalition that brings together representative from all four parts of Kurdistan with the common aim of solving the disunion between Kurdish political parties. The KNK embodies the moral unity of the Kurdish nation and works to create a concerted strategy for the democratic solution to the Kurdish question within existing states.

Kobanê –Kobanê is one of three Kurdish cantons in Rojava, of which the majority population are Kurds, Alawis and Ezidis. Since the war in Syria, hundreds of thousands of Kurds and Arabs from Aleppo, Damascus and other Syrian Arab cities have sought refuge here. As a result, the number of vulnerable people in need of shelter, food, clothes and water continues to grow substantially. Since July 2012, the YPG has been fending off repeated fierce assaults by ISIS fighters on the Kobane region.

KRG (Kurdish Regional Government) – The official ruling body of Iraqi/South Kurdistan.

Abdullah Öcalan – A co-founder and leading member of the PKK (Kurdistan Worker’s Party), Ocalan is considered to be the legitimate political leader of the Kurdish people, with over 3 million people signing a petition to declare as much. He has been held in solitary confinement on Imrali island since he was abducted by international secret services in 1999 and handed over to Turkey. His death sentence was commuted to life in prison after a change in law in Turkey, and since then he has authored numerous books and attempted various times to broker ceasefires and begin peace negotiations. His Prison Writings have been translated into several languages and argue against secession in favour of peaceful coexistence of all peoples within the existing borders of Turkey, Syria etc. in 2009, he published a Road Map for Peace, which was confiscated by state authorities and not published in English until 2012.

Salih Muslim (Muhammad) – Muslim is the elected co-president of the PYD (Democratic Union Party).

Peshmerga – Commanded by Massoud Barzani, the Peshmerga are the official army, or regional guard, of Iraqi/South Kurdistan. The literal translation is: ‘those who confront death’.

PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) – Formally established in 1978, the PKK is a political and military movement acting based in Turkey/Northern Kurdistan. Founded by Abdullah Ocalan, among others, the PKK was engaged in an armed struggle with the Turkish state for self-determination and self-defence from 1984 to 2013. IN an effort to facilitate peace talks, the PKK announced nine ceasefires over the years; the last began in March 2013 following the announcement of peace talks by the Turkish government and a historic call for peace by Abdullah Ocalan. The PKK is still listed as a terrorist organisation in Turkey, US, UK, and the EU.

PUK (Patriotic Union of Kurdistan) – Led by Jalal Talabani, the PUK is a major political party of Iraqi/South Kurdistan. It shares with the KDP (Kurdistan Democratic Party) its ideology of Kurdish nationalism and self-determination.

PYD (Democratic Union Party) – Jointly led by Asya Abdullah and Salih Muslim (Muhammad), the PYD is a Kurdish political party established in 2003 in Rojava, Syria. The party is a leading member of the Kurdish Supreme Council, which established democratic autonomy in Rojava in November 2013.

Qandil Mountains – On the northern side of Iraq, the Qandil Mountains are situated close to the Iraq-Iran border, and 50km south of the Turkey-Iraq-Iran tripoint. The mountain range serves as a sanctuary to the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) and their headquarters are based there.

Rojava – The name given to the autonomous Kurdish region of Syria, also called Western Kurdistan. Each canton in Rojava has its own constitution, its government, its parliament, its courts, its laws, and municipalities, though they must be compatible with those of the Charter of the Democratic Autonomy of Rojava. The cantons enjoy a great deal of administrative autonomy and freedom of decision-making. They have independent control over their education systems and social services, and each has its own Asayhish (police), People’s Defence Forces (YPG) and Women’s Defense Forces (YPJ). They are: Cezîre (also spelled Jazira, or Jezire), Efrîn (sometimes spelled Afrin) and Kobanê (sometimes spelled Kobani).

Jalal Talabani – Talabani is a leading Kurdish politician who served as the president of Iraq from 2005 until 2014. He is also the leader of the PUK (Patriotic Union of Kurdistan).

TEV-DEM (Movement for a Democratic Society) – is the political coalition governing the democratically autonomous areas of northern Syria referred to collectively as Rojava.

YPG (Peoples’ Protection Units) – The Kurdish armed force in Rojava, the autonomous Kurdish region of Syria.

YPJ (Womens’ Protection Units) – A Kurdish all-female militia, affiliated with the YPG (Peoples’ Protection Units).

Figen Yüksekdağ – Yüksekdağ is the elected co-chair of the HDP.