Some Thoughts and Suggestions, with Solidarity and Hope
Today (2nd Dec) the UK’s House of Commons has decided to expand its military operations, via a campaign of ‘targeted’ air strikes on ISIS/ISIL/Daesh (we’re going to just call it ISIS from now on). Beyond Parliament, in the street outside and beyond, there is widespread and multivocal opposition to this action which comes from a variety of political perspectives. As members of Plan C we have joined our voices with those opposing further military action in Syria on these terms. However, we want to add some thoughts, directions and a vein of practical solidarity which we hope other comrades will pursue around and beyond this media flashpoint. We also want to use this opportunity to make a brief intervention to amplify the voices of those in Syria, and those who have fled, voices which have too often been pushed aside, whether by leftists or British parliamentarians. This is not intended to be a ‘Plan C position’ that we can clobber round the heads of other groups or organisations. There’s a lot we don’t know. But here are some things we do know.
Firstly, what’s actually going on? It’s necessary to point out that the UK is already militarily involved in this conflict in a number of messy and contradictory ways – it has conducted airstrikes in Iraq, it sells arms to Saudi Arabia who are also involved in this conflict (as well as in Yemen). Also, this isn’t a humanitarian mission, and it’s dishonest of pro-intervention MPs to say it is. There is no dossier. Never mind the millions of Syrians (and Kurds, Yazidis, Iraqis etc.) who have been displaced by the conflict and now suffer on and between our borders, this resolution would not be on the table if it weren’t for the Paris terrorist attacks. All states are acting for imperialist motives. All these motives are different, and some conflict. What about ISIS? There are many different analyses of ISIS out there, but what’s clear to us is that ISIS is a reactionary authoritarian project whose appeal is not just on the ground of religion. There are, for example, important questions to be asked (by us) about why some young people from rich countries are drawn to these groups. The British government suggests other less odious things in this resolution – Vienna peace process, humanitarian assistance for Syrian refugees – but there is no concrete commitment to these beyond what’s already been made. TL:DR – Throwing more murderous weapons into Syria is a shit idea.
Secondly, it’s evident to us that only certain voices are listened to when the British state, other European states and the USA go to war and engage in peace processes, and only certain politics are present. This piece eloquently expands upon the short-sightedness of the UK’s Stop the War Coalition (StWC), which has rumbled into action with a one-sided account of imperialism which pays no nuanced attention to the barbarism of Assad and ISIS, or Russia’s role in the conflict. The ongoing project in Rojava in Northern Syria, which aims to create a secular, democratic, autonomous state and simultaneously has had significant success in holding off ISIS, is barely mentioned in the British media or Parliament. To redress this imbalance, we have compiled a short list (at the bottom of this text) of further reading from less-publicised voices in the conflict that we think have important things to bring to the discussion
Thirdly, because words are not enough, we offer a small contribution to the Rojava project. The Rojava cluster of Plan C this week began a fundraising drive for the region. This is to contribute to a) the reconstruction of the city of Kobane, pulverised by ISIS: b) to buy medical supplies c) to support Kurdish organisations in the UK who are engaged with the situation in Rojava. We already have relationships with some of these organisations and individuals and have made some steps to spread information and reflection about what’s happening in Rojava, and the region more widely. Our work is one form of international assistance which can be offered by those wanting to show solidarity with people caught in the Syrian civil war. We also want to remind people there are brilliant people and groups already organising alongside migrants at the borders of Fortress Europe. No doubt there are other projects, and other ways progressives in the region can be helped. Like so many others, we are reading and learning, and open to assisting other initiatives, as well as marching on the streets.
We try to make our reflections critical and respectful, and admit that it’s hard to sure what is going on in such a complex and fast moving situation- for example, some are critical of the PYD and its defence forces the YPG/YPJ for having a de facto non-aggression policy with the Assad regime and there have been reports of clashes between the cantons and FSA (Free Syrian Army) units. Our support for Rojava is a critical support based on what we see are common political affinities, we are committed to continuing to engage critically with voices both within and beyond the cantons.
We also want to say how chuffed we are that so many people have donated to our fundraiser so far. To contribute please go here. If you can’t afford to donate, then please share our link. We’re almost halfway there in 2 days!
None of these situations map perfectly onto one another; war, and this war in particular, is not simple. But we shouldn’t shy away from nailing some colours to a mast when there are some things we know. We know airstrikes on Syria won’t bring about the world we want to see. We don’t have a blueprint for what will. But we’ve got options, and we’ve got allies. We’re going to keep paying attention, follow the money, and channel it too.
Rojava Solidarity Cluster
Contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
* Syria Solidarity UK
Syria Direct: a useful news site about Syria
* Revolutionary Left Current (warning, graphic images)
* Kurdish Question: a good site for news and opinion about Rojava and Turkey
* Imprisoned aid workers and journalists
* The Free Shilan campaign
* Leeds Friends of Rojava