The Grayish Struggle of the Kurds

In my piece on the Grayzone, I had to cut a significant section about the Rojava revolution. This is perhaps for the better as I am neither an expert Kurdish history or struggle nor did that section really fit with the rest of the article. That said, the manner in which a discussion of Rojava always seems excessive or beside the point speaks to exactly the manner in which Rojava exists in the Grayzone, a space of illegibility. Expanding the domain of the possible, the Rojava revolution is the politics of the elsewhere and the otherwise. I also believe that the ecology and temporality of the struggle for democratic autonomy offer profound lessons for our movements about how we relate to time and life.  Here is what I had originally written before substantial editing: 

"Largely ignored by the Western media, the Kurds and their militias, the PKK and the PYD,  have been perhaps the most effective forces in opposing ISIS, even to the point of regaining territory from them. They have done this however amidst repression and heavy bombing Turkey, backed by Western NATO forces. Their story is one that is crucial to tell in any account of the Greyzone. Yet, as is appropriate to the messy lives and complex politics of the denizens of the Greyzone, there is not enough space to do justice to the deep complexities of Kurdish history, a tale that unfold across millennium in a region which cuts across the borders of Iraq, Iran, Turkey and Syria. 

The goal of the Kurds is to establish neither a Caliphate nor a nation-state but to create something else entirely. This something else, this neither-nor is the political imaginary that exceeds the binary logic of US/THEM, that ruptures from the narrative of the Clash of Civilizations.  For the kurds, this something else is a new world founded on a commitment to radical democracy, ecology and communalism. The movement deeply values co-existence and ethnic heterogeneity and is grounded not in arbitrary borders but in the ecological relations to the land which support human life.

Even their concept of time is different. While both the West and ISIS are fixated on linear time, be it through a secular notion progress or a prophetic faith in a redemption at the end of history. The Kurdish struggle is grounded in a certain immanence, a belief that it is possible establish the institutions and social relations of a new world in the present. This world that the Kurds are fighting for can be seen as firmly entrenched in the Greyzone, committed to living with the messy entanglements of human lives and working to establish a society that thrives through a fostering of these connections rather than one that seeks endlessly to contain, isolate, sterilize and dispel difference. 

The Kurds offer one clear articulation of the ethical and political stances that a defense of the Grayzone entails. Yet while it is crucial it is to provide as much possible support and solidarity for the Kurds, to defend the Grayzone does not mean that one must go to Kurdistan and join the PKK on the front lines. The Grayzone is not a homogenous space or singular domain. Rather, the Grayzone is the home to particular messy, heretical, transborder lives that exist in the grip of encounter, always articulated within a particular context. To look to the multitude of struggles that constitute the Grayzone is to identify both specific sites where it is under siege and a diversity of tools and tactics which can be employed to create and defend it."

Evidently, there is more to say and much more to learn about the world envisioned and struggled for by the PKK and PYD. I am particularly interested in reading some more of Öcalan's writing, especially the pamphlet "Liberating Life". The eco-feminist and autonomist thought is fascinating.


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