Economy of Rojava
In order to understand the reality of the economy of the Autonomus Self-administration of North and East Syria (AANES), it helps to have a quick look at the history of the area before the revolution started in 2012.
The Baath regime imposed a colonial policy on the Kurdish populated regions as part of its central economic plan for decades. The plains of Rojava have been doomed to cultivate dry weed in mono-culture. Besides the oil pumps, there was no industry in the entire area since the entire harvest as well as the raw oil was directly transported into other regions within the Syrian state.
The self-administrated areas are part of a region called Mesopotamia which is Greek for “between the rivers” which describes its very fertile geography between the Euphrates and the Tigris – two of the main rivers of the Middle East. However, three factors led to a water crisis that is intensifying from year to year. First of all, the region is said to be one of the areas affected first by the climate catastrophe caused by global industrialism. Secondly, the intensive mono-culture and digging of new wells under the regime further depleted the water reserves. Lastly and most significantly, huge dam projects of the Turkish state have been reducing the water level in the Euphrates for many years. Furthermore, since the begin of the revolution, the Turkish State is using their control of the majority of the water and energy supply for the region as a inhumane warfare tactic in order to make the population leave their homeland.
Since the begin of the revolution until today, the economy of Rojava is first and foremost a war economy.
What does that mean?
On the one hand this means that more than half of the budget of AANES is spend on military defense and the distance to the Turkish border has to be taken into account for the construction of a new factory to make direct attacks on the infrastructure more difficult.
However, war is not just physical.
Imperialist forces, led by the US, have been escalating their sanctions which make the Syrian pound increasingly worthless against the Dollar. Since the self-administration is obliged to use the Syrian pound for diplomatic and strategic reasons, these sanctions aimed at the Assad-regime are hitting the AANES just as hard. The most obvious attack against the living conditions of the people of North and East Syria is the embargo that is enforced by all surrounding nation states which makes the import of many necessary goods either impossible or extreme expensive. In this sense, we have to understand the economy as a field of active warfare as well.
In the midst of this reality, a revolutionary economy based on the principles of grassroots democracy, ecology and women liberation is being built up.
Economy is being understood as organizing the satisfaction of society’s needs. One tool for this, and the heart of the future economy, are cooperatives. Today there exist a significant number of cooperatives all over the self-administrated areas. While most of them are agricultural cooperatives in villages, cooperatives in small scale industry and services have been founded as well. The focus lies on building up cooperatives in accordance with the true values of cooperatives instead of focusing on a quantitative high number or a larger output.
Therefore, the production and allocation of many essential goods like weed, gas or diesel lies to a large extend in the responsibility of the self administration today, which, for example, invests 200 million dollars every year to supply bread at a very low price. Furthermore, it is one of the main priorities to build up economic autonomy as fast as possible since the dependence on imports from the enemies of the revolution is diplomatically and financially very expensive.
Especially in the last 1-2 years several new factories have opened which allow for a more independent production of cooking oil, milk products and salt, among others. Just like in all structures of the self-administration, also the economy has an autonomous women organization which is mostly building up women cooperatives. The objectives of the social economy are dependent on, and therefore cannot be separated from, the overall goals of the revolution to discover new ways to live a communal and meaningful live together in order to restore a healthy society that can resist the attacks of capitalism. In order to bring about a change in society´s mentality, education takes a fundamental role in bringing us closer to a communal economy.
Only by changing ourselves, we change the way how we produce, consume and live.