by Sean Baillie • As part of a delegation organised by the Scottish Solidarity with Kurdistan campaign, I was invited to the Democratic Union Party’s (PYD) 8th Congress, joining Dr Jan Xal a Kurdish expat, now in Glasgow, Sarah Glynn from SUWN and Scottish Green Party members Ross Greer MSP and Zeyn Mohammed.
On the Friday night we were invited to dinner with the two co-conveners of the PYD Saleh Islam and Asya Abdulla and the other international delegates.
Politicians, activists from 12 different countries, international volunteers of the YPG and the families of two English volunteers who gave their lives fighting in Rojava were our companions for the evening.
Over the course of the weekend I listened to some of the most incredible stories of bravery, solidarity and the utmost belief and conviction in, not only, that peace could be achieved but also an inspiring vision of what sort of society is being created in the Northern part of what we would call Syria.
After dinner we met Steve and Tracey Howell, the family of Dean Carl Evans, the volunteer who was killed in Northern Syria.
Surprised to hear some Scottish accents, Steve and Tracey painted a heartwarming picture of Dean’s character and how he had fallen in love with Rojava and the Kurdish people, so much so he requested to be buried with the men and women he fought beside. In Rojava, another International Volunteer was Macer Gifford, humble and embarrassed to be the one held up and paraded around.
Whilst a Commander in the YPG injured in the battle for Kobani had to be lifted onto the stage during Saturday’s international conference, Macer told us how it didn’t feel right that it has to take him, a well spoken, polite, English speaking Westerner in order for people in the UK to listen, but completely understood why and clearly felt a massive sense of importance and duty to do so.
Admitting he would have identified at one point in his life as a Thatcherite, he spoke about how his time in Rojava had grown him personally and politically.
He was so convinced by the unique system of self-governance and collectivism in Syria that he is now in the process of creating a charity to source medical supplies for the people of Rojava.
This ultimate form of participatory democracy where the people are organised from the ground up, the decisions that affect the community are taken by the community.
Many Kurds speak about Kurdish independence in a very similar way to what many Scots and commentators call Civic nationalism.
The Kurdish people speak about independence without a state, an independent Kurdish state just for Kurds seems pointless and wrong to them as it is this very system of state nationalism that has torn apart their communities and deliberately carved up the Middle East.
“We all lived together peacefully before the borders and nations” they tell us “and we will again”, the enthusiastically proclaim.
Their idea of a Democratic Confederation of all peoples in the Middle East is the vision they feel that could bring not only peace and equality to the Middle East but in time the wider world.
A bold statement to make but one they realise can only happen if it succeeds in northern Syria first.
On the Saturday, hundreds gathered from all over the world. To listen and share experiences, offer messages of support and speak of what could be achieved.
Delegates from 12 European countries including MSPs, Members of the German parliament from Die Linke, the vice mayor of Stockholm, Peace institutes, think tanks such as the New world summit who have started to build and design working parliaments in Rojava, an amazing array of pro democratic Kurdish, Syrian and Iraqi groups plus writers and historians.
We heard heroic and heartbreaking accounts of those who have given their all, inspiring accounts of solidarity such as the Swede’s who gave a full age-group of School children in Sweden the day off their studies to fund-raise enough money for a sister school to be built in the heart of Rojava.
A jaw dropping speech from the PYD’s co-leader Asya Abdullah who spoke unscripted for nearly 40 minutes, in a passionate call to hold up their commitment and structures of female recognition at every level, blew the roof off the venue and reminded us of how far many Western countries still have to go in this regard.
With RIC kicking off again and projects like the Yes registry, it is a timely reminder of our reasons for wanting independence, and what kind of society we ourselves wish to build.
I personally found great inspiration and enlightenment amongst the people of Kurdistan in what is perhaps the ultimate fight for democracy.
In increasing our support for the people of Kurdistan, we need to take time to learn important lessons from them in how not to hand over our power, like a good will voucher at the ballot box, only to be sold as a commodity in the chambers of Westminster or Holyrood for that matter.