PYD Co-Chair Asya Abdullah: A women Revolution

PYD Co-Chair Asya Abdullah: A women Revolution

In an interview to ANF, Democratic Union Party (PYD) co-chair Asya Abdullah said the revolution in West Kurdistan where a self-government is in place since some areas were liberated, is led by women.

Asia Abdullah has taken an active part in the Kurdish movement in West Kurdistan for many years. She was elected as co-chair, together with Saleh Muslim, at the 5th Congress of the party last June.

Forty-one years old Asia Abdullah comes from the town of Dêrîka Hemko near the city of Qamiþlo. Abdullah is at the same time an activist who was forced to hide herself for a long time until one year ago to survive the pressure by Assad’s regime. 
Mamoste Osman, Bavê Cûdî and Ehmed Huseyin are only several of the PYD executives murdered under torture in Syrian prisons. No news has been received from one other PYD executive Naziye Ehmed Keçel who was taken into custody in the city of Efrin in 2004. PYD co-chair Asia Abdullah who came to Europe to attend the West Kurdistan conference in Paris in mid October begins our interview by telling about the struggle of PYD members.

The PYD leader underlines that the Assad's government alliance with Turkey forces them to struggle in Syria and remarks that the Democratic Autonomy that has recently been built in Kurdistan on the basis of an organization structure from the base to the centre is pioneering a democratic Syria. Stating that they continue to get organized in the areas of health, education, security and municipality works as well, Asia Abdullah points out that; “This is the first time people are governing themselves without a state”. 
PYD co-chair Abdullah called attention to the lack of medicine in the Kurdish region and told us about local community’s urgent needs, conditions of being elected for city councils, relations with the Syrian opposition, problems with electricity, water and health services, security and most importantly their preparations in the possible event of a widening of the war in Syria.

To start with the conference in Paris, how did you find the KNK discussion on West Kurdistan in national consultation?

I find the Kurdistan National congress (KNK)’s attempt to organize this conference very important as I am of the opinion that the KNK, which is a national umbrella organization, is responsible in the face of the revolution in West Kurdistan. the conference was also very important because saw participants from many parties from West Kurdistan coming together. Also, it was not only Kurds but also the Assyrians and Armenians that spoke at the conference. I believe this kind of a conference in Paris will leave a mark in such a historic and critical period.

As someone who has been taking an active part in politics in West Kurdistan for many years now, had you ever thought about leading a revolution and progressing it to this point? 

In the struggle we fought for many years now, we have continued our political works in both West Kurdistan and Syria since the establishment period of the PYD in the early 2000’s. Until the revolution we carried out this year, our struggle in Kurdistan and Syria was quite compelling because of the agreements between the Assad’s regime and Turkey. Beyond any doubt, this alliance targeted our movement and the achievements of the Kurdish people. Hundreds of our comrades have been arrested and many others were murdered under torture in the last ten years as the result of attacks against our struggle. 
How many members of your party are still in prison? Do you receive any news from them? 
After spending long years in prison, most of them were released thanks to some legal reforms. Many members lost their lives in Syrian prisons, like Mamoste Osman, Bavê Cûdî and Ehmed Huseyin who were murdered under torture. A comrade named Naziye Ehmed Keçel is missing for some time. We have received no news from her since she was arrested for her part in the organization of our party in Efrin. The struggle against the Syrian regime as an opposition movement in the last ten years is a significant past and history for us.

A change in the Middle East was inevitable as the regimes that disregarded the demands of peoples had to either make changes or be overthrown. However, in the present situation, we have seen that these regimes don’t have the power of change. Therefore, to get back to your question, we had been estimating that the Syrian regime would change and the revolution wind in the Middle East would reach this country too one day. This precisely because of the fact that the Damascus regime is one of the most long-established regimes with a history of fifty years dominated by one party, one flag, one ideology and one thought for many years. It was inevitable for this situation to change one day.

What kind of a change is it that you want? How will the change in Syria affect the region?

The heavier price of this fifty-year period was paid by the peoples in Syria as social problems got deeper in this Middle East territory which is specific for housing a number of cultures, ethnic groups and religions. The 50-year old single party regime established a balance against this richness. As already known, the Kurdish people here have been deprived of all their rights as hundreds of thousands of them weren’t even accepted as citizens. This is why we as the Kurdish movement are fighting for change. A revolution in Syria will give a new colour to the change in the Middle East and it will expand to the whole region. 

On the other hand, local government should be formed not from the central top to the bottom but viceversa. The governance should be based on the requests and will of peoples who should make their own decisions and determine their future and institutions themselves, because we have already seen how the regimes built otherwise have failed to solve problems and turned the society into a disaster. Therefore our paradigm bases on the society with a self-government system as the determining factor.

What kind of preparations did you make to face the change you said you had foreseen? 

Before starting the revolution, both our party and movement held meetings and congresses where we discussed about the kind of change we asked for. We also organized public meetings where we listened to the views of the people, analyzed the situation in Syria and the Middle East, prepared projects, made decisions and presented a road map. As a consequence, we declared the Democratic Autonomy project as the Kurdish movement in West Kurdistan. We see Democratic Autonomy as the best solution not only for West Kurdistan but the entire Syrian territory.

Has the Democratic Autonomy project been defined by your party? How does the High Kurdish Council consider this project?

The project was built by the Social Democratic Movement (TEV-DEM) and other organizations affiliated to it. Our party PYD has supported this project and fought to put it into practice for the last one and a half year. On the way to autonomy, the people in West Kurdistan have formed self-government and city councils each of which has seventeen committees affiliated to it. As to the structure in villages where government were determined in line with populations, governance is leaded by communes that deal with many issues including security and social organization.

What is the function of these seventeen committees of city councils?

Some committees deal with public services in the areas of politics, women, youth, education, law, health and security and these committees have representatives at city councils. Each committee has a specific working area and they evaluate their activities at monthly meetings. The self-governance systems in the cities of Kobanê, Efrin and Cizire have been put into practice thanks to these committees which provide people with all their needs in many areas including health and security. In short, this achievement is a consequence of the Democratic Autonomy project we have declared.

How many cities have councils at present and are there any Kurdish cities that are still dominated by the Assad regime?

City councils and committees affiliated to them are actively being run in West Kurdistan and in all Kurdish populated cities such as Aleppo, Tiltemer and Hesekê. We are also organized in the Kurdish neighborhoods of the capital city Damascus. In some Kurdistan cities such as Kobanê, Efrin, Qamiþlo, Tirbisiyê, Amûde and Dêrikê, people are governing themselves and the number of this kind of settlement units is increasing every day in line with the current process and variant equilibriums.

What was the greatest obstacle you faced while putting the Democratic Autonomy project into practice? 

This is a new form of government for not only Kurds but also for the whole Middle East region. This is the first time it has been put into practice and people have started self-governance without a state. I would also like to remark that this system differs from all others because of its structure of organization from the base to the top. This project is at the same time a philosophy of life which we represent at the academies we have formed prioritizing the education of people.

In which way do you organize the education of people at acedemies, according to age groups or social classes? 

Besides special academies, we have also formed general public academies where all members in committes and administrations attend trainings and are learn the new paradigm in detail. We also provide lessons on the culture of democracy and self government. We organize regular seminars and panel discussions in neighborhoods and villages where we hold public meetings at regular intervals to discuss the political situation and the resolution of social problems. We surely take the criticism, proposals and evaluations of the people into consideration.

What about the public interest in this new form of government?

I can say that we had some difficulties in elections in particular as they were carried out for the first time in accordance with democracy as a requirement of the Democratic Autonomy. Through the elections, we have achieved a culture of election and democracy because of the fact that all decisions used to be made by the central structure as our people had been deprived of their right to elect and be elected in all elections till that date.