The Anarchist Element and the Challenge of Solidarity

by Bill Weinberg, Fifth Estate

The north Syrian town of Kobani has been under siege since mid-September by forces of the self-proclaimed Islamic State, popularly known as ISIS. Early in the siege, world leaders spoke as if they expected it to fall. The US took its bombing campaign against ISIS to Syria, but targeted the jihadists' de facto capital, Raqqa—not the ISIS forces closing the ring on Kobani. But the vastly outgunned and outnumbered Kurdish militia defending Kobani began to turn the tide—while issuing desperate appeals for aid from the outside world.

The defenders and aggressors at Kobani are a study in extreme contrasts. ISIS is charged with committing massive war crimes and crimes against humanity in areas under its control—most notoriously, the massacres and enslavement of the Yazidi minority in northern Iraq. Rights for women have been utterly repealed, and a trade in sexual slavery (hideously called "marriage") established.

Kobani lies within the autonomous Kurdish zone in northern Syria (now partially overrun by ISIS), which has issued a constitution guaranteeing equal rights for women in all spheres of life—domestic, civic, labor. An experiment in direct democracy has been launched, with power devolving to neighborhood and village assemblies, where seats revolve and women have a 40% quota. These assemblies also send empowered representatives to canton assemblies. A parallel Women's Assembly, on the same model, has veto power over the canton assemblies.