“In 2011 and 2012, Syrians launched a popular revolution of enormous consequence and reach. New forms of organisation and expression emerged which reconfigured social relationships away from those based on hierarchy and domination towards the empowerment of individuals and communities. From 2013 on, however, these experiments were increasingly submerged by fierce counter-revolutionary trends, both Assadist and regional. War dismantled the country's infrastructure and social fabric. Over half the population fled its homes. What does this mean for revolution as a desired end?” (219)
Anti-authoritarians Leila Al-Shami and Robin Yassin-Kassab look back over the past fifteen years of resistance movements in Syria, to understand the anarchistic currents that emerged during the revolution that began in 2011. Altough this revolution has gone farther than any other in recent memory, it is poorly understand and has received little support. With Burning Country: Syrians in Revolution and War, the authors seek to change that.
Communicators and governing authorities, who can no longer sell the “security” which they are manifestly incapable of delivering to any of their subjects, have thus pounced on the latest Parisian massacres in order to recast their rhetoric. “We are at war,” they tirelessly repeat, with the slight giddiness that always accompanies the manipulation of a new toy.
In Paris, on November 13, 129 people were killed in coordinated bombings and shootings for which the Islamic State claimed responsibility. Although this is only the latest in a series of such attacks, it has drawn a different sort of attention than the massacres in Suruç and Ankara that killed 135 people. The lives of young activists who support the Kurdish struggle against ISIS—so far the only on-the-ground effort that has blocked the expansion of the Islamic State—are weighed differently than the lives of Western Europeans.
The climate wars have already begun. In the parlance of the State, climate change has proven to be a “threat multiplier” that has become typified by, among other conflicts, a war in Syria that to date has killed more than 300,000 people and displaced over 9 million. With people throughout the Middle East escaping the ongoing resource wars and desperate for some semblance of stability, Europe now faces its greatest refugee influx since World War II and fears over a reactionary fascist backlash loom in the background.
Fierce muslim men made headlines around the world when they massacred around one hundred people in France this week. Messages of sympathy have poured in from as far afield as the official opposition party of Zimbabwe, who one would think are hardly in a position to pity anybody. French men made no headlines when they willingly participated in a coalition that massacred around one million people in Iraq between 2003 and 2006. Be that as it may, if I can sympathise with those who express passionate contempt for this civilisation, a despicable 'old bitch gone in the teeth' deserving nothing more than disgust, I must admit that the Moorish heathens of the moment want nothing more than another variant of the same thing. What we really need is to put old hag out of its misery altogether.
Even as Rojava captures the imaginations of anarchists, with many groups and individuals around the world engaged in active support of the Kurdish-lead libertarian experiment, there remains a profound ambivalence among anarchists towards the struggles in the rest of the country formerly known as Syria. On the one hand, some radicals seek to identify and support grassroots initiatives, popular armed formations, or resistance movements in exile that have a liberatory character; on the other, some see the Syrian Revolution as nothing more than yet another imperialist coup being lead by armed religious fascists with nothing worth supporting. Between those two poles, the huge majority of anarchists (and others who care about international revolutions) consider the conflict too complex and murky to come to any conclusions.
In April 2015, a conference was held in Hamburg ‘to introduce the thoughts of the Kurdish leader, Abdullah Ocalan, to the international community.’ Silvia Federici was supposed to send a ‘message of greeting’ – just as Toni Negri and Immanuel Wallerstein had at a similar previous conference.† Federici then dropped out. However David Harvey, David Graeber and John Holloway did attend and all three spoke on a stage with a large portrait of Ocalan in the background.