The battle over Kobanê, which began in the summer of 2014, has brought to the world’s attention the Kurdish resistance to the brutal forces that call themselves Islamic State (IS or ISIS). Contrary to the expectations of many, the defense forces have succeeded in fending off the attacks not only of ISIS, but also the al-Nusra Front and the Assad regime over the last two and a half years.
Less well known, however, is the fact that residents of the predominantly Kurdish areas of northern and northeastern Syria have established themselves as a new political entity that they call Rojava, comprising three autonomous cantons, one of which is Kobanê. There they have undertaken, to all appearances, a social and political revolution, characterized by remarkable efforts towards gender liberation and direct democratic self-government.
In December 2014, we, as a delegation of scholars from Europe, Turkey, and North America traveled to Rojava to learn more about the ideals and practices of this revolution and to witness at first hand, in one of its cantons, its claims to gender liberation and democratic self-government. Do its practices really constitute a revolution ? Do they live up to its democratic ideals ? What role do women actually play ?