The fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has often been portrayed as a fight between the West and its Arab allies against Islamic ultra-fundamentalists. Over the last several years, however, a progressive Kurdish-led resistance has been forming in Rojava (Syrian Kurdistan) amidst the Syrian Civil War. The resistance has successfully implemented a model they refer to as “democratic confederalism,” based on gender-equality, self-governance through councils and assembly, as well as a communal model of economy, which Rojava now has to defend from threats of both ISIS and the Bashar al-Assad regime.
Crucial in the development of the revolution in Rojava that brought about this unique democratic experiment is the history of the Kurdish Women’s Movement—an umbrella organization that has been foundational in shaping the political objectives of the Kurdish liberation movement internationally, and more specifically across present-day Turkey and Syria. If initially the Kurdish struggle, led by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), had aimed to establish an independent state, since the 1990s PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan, together with the Kurdish Women’s Movement, have turned to questioning the patriarchal and capitalist nature of the very concept of the nation-state itself. This led the movement to demand a practice of democracy without the nation-state; it is this practice of stateless democracy that today has been put fully into practice in Rojava and that forms a horizon for progressive politics the world over.
The program centers around a lecture by Havin Güneşer—journalist, women’s rights activist, and the main translator of the work of Öcalan— who introduces the history, objectives and achievements of the Kurdish Women’s Movement. Güneşer is interviewed by Jolle Demmers (Head of the Center for Conflict Studies, Utrecht University, Utrecht). The program is introduced by Jonas Staal (artist and together with BAK, founder of New World Academy), as well as by a short video by Rens van Meegen (documentary filmmaker). Attendants to the program receive a free copy of the reader New World Academy Reader #5: Stateless Democracy (2015) published by BAK, with key texts from the Kurdish Women’s Movement and solidary academics, artists, and activists.
The book presentation and lecture is hosted by New World Academy; BAK, basis voor actuele kunst, Utrecht; Center for Conflict Studies, Utrecht; and De Balie, Amsterdam. Stateless Democracy: The Kurdish Women’s Movement is the second of a series of events on stateless democracy organized by New World Academy in collaboration with the Kurdish Women’s Movement. An overview of the work of the New World Academy is on view until June 21, 2015 in the Centraal Museum, Utrecht.