“[…] Based on 1.5 million hours of acoustical monitoring from places as remote as Dinosaur National Monument in Utah and as urban as New York City, scientists have created a map of noise levels across the country on an average summer day. After feeding acoustic data into a computer algorithm, the researchers modeled sound levels across the country including variables such as air and street traffic. Deep blue regions, such as Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming and the Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado, have background noise levels lower than 20 decibels—a silence likely as deep as before European colonization, researchers say.That’s orders of magnitude quieter than most cities, where noise levels average 50 to 60 decibels […]”
In April of this year, the Purépecha municipality of Cherán K’eri, Michoacán is celebrating four years of its uprising to end the presence of organized crime in its territory. Following the uprising, indigenous women and men not only managed to throw out to the narco cartel, but also expelled all authorities (police, local government and political parties) that supported the illegal activities in the community. They decided to retake their traditional forms of self government to start a long process of building their autonomy. A few months back they inaugurated a new weapon to continue defending their traditions and reaffirm their rejection of the institutional political method: a communal television.
When the community of Cherán K’eri began to organize, one of the fundamental demands of the population was security. The process of self defense that initiated and remains in effect today has results that cannot remain unnoticed: the smiles of the people and the life that animates the plazas and streets is noticeable starting at the entrance of the town.
“We now have confidence in our peace, our children walk to school without worry, as does everyone else. We no longer feel that fear that we once had”—shares one member of the community.”
The council of Honor and Justice is in charge of the security of the municipality: while the communal patrol (ronda communitaria) is controlling the city’s entrances and exits, as well as resolving the internal problems of the community. The “Guardabosques” (guardians of the forest), are in charge of protecting the rural zones furthest from the center of town, where the forest is. Each day and by turns, two groups of six people patrol the territory with their truck. It should be noted that for the indigenous Purépecha men and women, the protection and preservation of their forest is both a traditional and spiritual obligation, and therfore it is an essential part of their struggle. Their defense not only includes their security, but also the enormous work of reforestation, whose effects can already be seen.
In addition to having strengthened their system of communal security, the people of Cherán changed their entire system of governance. The main council, formed by a group of 12 individuals, lxs K’eris, coordinate the actions of the other councils and commissions. However the ultimate authority of the community is the assembly: in each one of the four neighborhoods that form Cherán, the communards come together to carry forth proposals and make decisions at the general assembly. “Previously, to my memory, never did a municipal president convene a neighborhood general assembly, and much less allowed the people to say what was on their minds. The people couldn’t give an opinion, they (the municipality) only did what was convenient to them.” commented a member of the community. Now, “the agreements come directly from the coordinators of the bonfires, from the bonfires, from the neighborhood reunions”, states another.
It is worth remembering that thanks to the community pressure that was also exerted in the legal arena, the municipality of Cherán K’eri was completely recognized on a federal level as an autonomous municipality. With this victory, Cherán achieved setting a national precedent so that other indigenous municipalities of Mexico can also exercise that right to free self determination.
Even though there has been great advancement in the construction of a new world, the residents of Cherán also know that their struggle is barely starting, and that surely they will have to confront more challenges in the future. The upcoming year is particularly critical: while the Electoral Institute of Michoacán had agreed that the appointment of the authorities of Cherán shall be created by practices and customs, the residents know that the political parties will try to take advantage of the municipal elections that will take place in the state to attempt to return to their community.
Nevertheless, their position is firm: they will do all that is possible to impede their entry. In a system in which the drug traffickers, political classes and transnational businesses work hand by hand to impose their control upon the territories and plunder the natural resources –in this case the forests- the residents are conscious that to return to a system of political parties would represent a huge risk for the defense of their territory.
“For us here in the town the political parties are dead, because they never did anything when we began to defend the forest. Why? Because all of the parties are backed by organized crime. And whoever does not want to see that wants to remain blind to what is happening. That is what I think of the parties: that they are shit.” declares one woman. A youth also comments- “They have asked me many times: What will you do the day that this town returns to the parties? What would I do? I would be the first fucker to return to the front and say “no fucking way here”. No to the political parties, no to that bad government, no to that narco-government”.
On August 3, 1995, 23-year-old Kelly Savage was making last-minute plans to leave her abusive husband, Mark Savage. A few weeks before, Kelly had contacted a battered-women’s organization for advice on how to leave her husband. “Act as normal as possible,” they told her, a common tactic given to women seeking to evade their abusive spouse’s suspicion. For the next few weeks, Kelly quietly amassed what she needed to leave—birth certificates for her two young children (Justin, who was three, and Krystal, who was almost two), medications, and clothes—all of which she hid so that Mark would not find them. She purchased bus tickets to Los Angeles dated the next day, August 4.
That afternoon, Kelly left to cash a check and pick up a few items for their departure. While she was out, she called Mark and asked him what size vacuum bags they needed. In a sworn statement, Kelly said, “I thought that by asking about vacuum bags, Mark would think that I was planning to stick around to use them.” Instead, Mark told her to come home because Justin, her three-year-old son, was not breathing. Medical experts determined that his death was caused by physical abuse.
Like many abusers, Mark had escalated in the days leading up to Kelly’s planned escape. While he had always been violent—he had a habit of throwing Kelly onto the bed and choking her—he had recently tied Kelly to a couch and tried to carve his name into her ankle. Neighbors called the police twice based on the noise they heard. The night before, possibly because he knew Kelly was planning to leave, he had beaten Justin severely enough to possibly cause the brain injuries that killed him. When Kelly returned home and found Justin lifeless, Mark tackled her and threatened to kill her if she called 9-1-1. She did so anyway.
Both Kelly and Mark were tried for Justin’s murder, found guilty, and sentenced to life without parole. Kelly has been in prison now for 19 years, and her pro bono attorneys have recently filed a habeas petition for a new hearing, which is being opposed by California’s Attorney General Kamala Harris. Their argument: The jury never heard about Kelly’s long and painful history of abuse, evidence which shows that Kelly’s case was a textbook example of intimate-partner battering.
According to statistics provided by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, there were 186 women serving life without parole (LWOP) sentences in July 2013. This represents about 3 percent of all inmates statewide. The Sentencing Project reported that same year that there are over 5,300 women nationally serving life and life without parole sentences, reflecting an increase of about 14 percent since 2008. About 300 of these women were sentenced to LWOP, which means that California’s prisons alone contain about half of America’s female inmates serving LWOP sentences.
As Kelly’s case shows, a common characteristic of women sentenced to LWOP is their history of abuse. While there’s no exact count of how many women in prison have been physically or sexually abused, most place the odds around 85 to 90 percent—disproportionately high compared to men. As the length of sentence increases, so do the odds that a woman has been abused. Among all women in prison, women who have been sentenced to LWOP sentences are the most likely to have been abused, more so than women serving non-life sentences and men serving life sentences, said Professor Margaret Leigey, a criminologist at The College of New Jersey who has studied LWOP sentencing.
On the surface, the numbers seem overwhelmingly higher. Professor Heidi Rummel, who directs the Post-Conviction Justice Project at the University of Southern California Law School, which assists those convicted of serious crimes, said that, among the women she represented—those sentenced to life or LWOP sentences—the rate of physical and sexual abuse is “basically 100 percent.”
“It must be a horrifying experience to discover that your partner is not the person they say they are; that they may have been relaying information provided in confidence ‘on the pillow’, to the state; and that the fundamentals of the relationship were lies. Many have described the sense of violation they feel.” - Tamsin Allen
The exploitation of human sexuality is a well-known pressure point in the repression of social movements. Typically such measures are thought to be reserved for military conflicts involving complex, multi-tiered, counter-insurgency campaigns, such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Throughout the first and second Palestinian uprisings, Israeli intelligence forces regularly recruited Palestinians for collaboration after first documenting them in precarious sexual situations. Classically, Israeli handlers would observe and record a Palestinian engaging in extra-marital, homosexual, or otherwise ‘deviant’ sexual behaviors and then leverage the publicity of these filmed vices in exchange for actionable intelligence leading to the capture of wanted Palestinian fighters and activists.
Though such methods may be more familiar to students of ‘traditional’ warfare, the collection of intelligence through the exploitation of trusted social network is a common domestic policing strategy as well. A 2014 study demonstrated that 81% of “law enforcement professionals” use social media (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) in their investigations, and that 80% agree that the creation and management of fake social media profiles is an “ethical” practice in law enforcement. In 2011, the British press was made aware of several undercover police agents who were infiltrating protest movements throughout a 40-year period. Of the seven undercover officers initially exposed, five were found to have had sexual relationships with women. Often times these were women the officers were tasked with monitoring. These sexual liaisons between cop and activist were the product of misrepresentation. Subsequent investigation into the actions of these officers exposed 10 individuals, nine of which who had sexual relationships with activists.
The following will provide brief biographical profiles of these individuals. In doing so it is my hope that movements can learn from these examples and improve our resistance to infiltration and disruption. The purpose of these methods is to reverberate distrust, fear, uncertainty, suspicion and divisions amongst our friendship circles, our communities and our wider social networks.
Bob Lambert, posing as Bob Robinson, infiltrated leftist and animal liberation networks, using a job at Greenpeace London as an activist cover, and targeting activists affiliated with the ALF. Between May 1987-November 1988, Lambert was engaged in a sexual relationship with a 24-year-old female, not affiliated with political activism, whom he met at a party. Lambert reportedly maintained the relationship for 18 months to create the background of a personal life for his projected activist persona. To this end, Lambert even arranged to have his own home raided by police to show that he was a ‘known activist.’ In total, Lambert spent 26 years in the Metropolitan Police’s Special Branch (including the Special Demonstration Squad), and recently issued an apology for the relationship stating:
I also apologise unreservedly for forming false friendships with law abiding citizens and in particular forming a longterm relationship with [the woman] who had every reason to think I was a committed animal rights activist and a genuine London Greenpeace campaigner.
Not only was Lambert involved with the unnamed 24-year-old, but a year or so prior, he also had a sexual relationship with a second female whom he fathered a child with before disappearing. Lambert met the female activist whom he was meant to spy on in the “mid-1980s” and had a son with her in 1985 before breaking up in 1987. When the child was two years old, the female activist married a second man and Lambert surrendered his paternal rights. The woman came forward in early 2013 after seeing Lambert’s 1980s picture in a newspaper and recognizing it as that of her long lost ex-boyfriend and the father of their son. The woman reports that she met Lambert in 1984, and became involved in animal rights and involving herself in direct action networks. In 2013 Lambert admitted to having relationships with four women while undercover. Throughout this infiltration, Lambert was also legally married. Lambert is one of at least two UK police infiltrators that fathered a child with a female activist who was targeted for surveillance.
In addition to his service as a police agent and sexual infiltrator, Lambert also served as an agent provocateur carrying our acts of property destruction, including the use of arson, and attributing such actions to the ALF. According to Member of Parliament Caroline Lucas, in testimony given to Parliament, Lambert was responsible for placing and detonating an incendiary device in the Harrow, northwest London branch of the Debenhams department store in 1987 in protest of its selling of fur.
Lambert is also said to have admitted his involvement in the arson to a female activist. The arson was part of a three site simultaneous attacks with only two perpetrators arrested. According to testimony from one of the convicted arsonists Caroline Lucas as well as other evidence, Lambert was the third participant. Lambert, as expected, has denied these accusations but proudly asserts his role in providing intelligence that led to the arrest of the other two arsonists. The fires caused £7-8 million in damages and according to some, were instrumental in motivating the chain to cease the selling of animal fur. The purpose of the attack was for Lambert to garner credibility amongst his ALF community and convince them he was a committed activist.
Lambert played other key roles in the animal rights community penning an ALF leaflet explaining the group’s philosophy and even co-writing the infamous McLibel leaflet in 1986 which defamed McDonalds and led to the longest civil trial in UK history. During his dating and sexual exploits, Lambert also used his role as the boyfriend of an activist to encourage more militant action. According to “Charlotte,” one of Lambert’s sexual partners, “He would tease me for not being committed enough…he got me to become more involved in ‘direct action.’”
Mark John Kennedy
Police Constable Mark Kennedy, posing as Mark “Flash” Stone, infiltrated environmental and leftist networks for approximately eight years (~2001-2009) in the area of Nottingham (sometimes working alongside a female spyplaying the role of an “eco-activist”), hosting meetings with activists in up to 23 countries including the United States, and participating as an activist in illegal actions including blockades, site occupations and sabotage, sometimes playing key logistical roles such as transport. In numerous accounts from activists, Kennedy is portrayed as a provocateur, encouraging activists to commit acts of violence including attacking police. For his work, stone was paid £50,000 annually, plus an additional £200,000 annually given for “bribes, drinks, accommodation, a vehicle and travel abroad to meet other anarchists.” During this time, Kennedy presented himself as an “avid rock climber and former drug smuggler,” maintained a four year relationship with a 26-year-old, female activist named Anna who reports having sexual intercourse with Kennedy more than 20 times. After Kennedy’s true identity was revealed, Anna spoke to the news media stating, “‘If somebody was being paid to have sex with me, that gives me a sense of having been violated.”
In addition to this relationship, Kennedy reports sleeping with a second female Welsh activist, though testimony from “those who knew him best” suggests that more female activists were likely victimized. It was this second female that exposed Kennedy after discovering his legitimate passport while on vacation with the spy in July 2010. Anna, Kennedy’s first activist girlfriend, stated to The Guardian that there were “several other women within the protest movement who Kennedy slept with,” but that while she knew he was sleeping with these additional women, “there was never any type of romance involved.” After his police handlers became aware of his “erratic sexual conduct” he became the subject of surveillance, wherein police officials videotaped him having sexual contactwith female activists. While Kennedy joked about his use of “horizontal interrogation techniques” with activists, he maintained a second life with his wife Edel, and their two children. Kennedy defended his actions, stating that sexual promiscuity was common within the protest movement. “It was a very promiscuous scene. Some people had five or six lovers…Girls on protest sites would sleep with guys in order to entice them to stay in these horrible places: Cold, wet, with bad food and nonexistent bathroom facilities.”
Since the exposure of Kennedy as a police spy, international activists have compiled an open-source, online, database attempting to document the host of protests, meetings and convergences in which he attended. Using the Powerbase platform, activists have linked Kennedy to at least 68 incidents, some covering multiple years. According to Kennedy, he was one of 15 police spies who had infiltrated environmental movements; at least four of these spies remain embedded in UK protest movements. After Kennedy’s infiltration became public knowledge, and he left law enforcement, he used his wealth of insider knowledge for personal financial gain, establishing a series of companies (e.g. Tokra Limited, Black Star High Access) thought to be private consulting firms. In a report by The Guardian, Kennedy used the privileged access he gained in police infiltration campaigns to act as a “corporate spy” while still maintaining his Mark Stone alter ego. Shortly thereafter, it was reported that Kennedy was working for a second spy firm in the US, Densus Group, targeting “anti-capitalist demonstrators.”Kennedy claims that during his sexual exploits, his police handlers “sanctioned” his actions, stating that some echelons of British policing was aware of his sexual relationships. Acpo president, Sir Hugh Orde told Members of Parliamentthat “he had no knowledge of the [Kennedy] case until the Guardian disclosed the prosecution of six activists…collapsed because of Kennedy’s role in it.” According to Kennedy, he was one of 15 police spies who had infiltrated environmental movements; at least four of these spies remain embedded in UK protest movements. While the UK’s infiltration efforts targeting social movements date back to at least to anti-war campaigners in 1968, the pervasiveness of establishing sexual partnerships appears to be a newly intentional strategy.
Andrew James Boyling (aka Jim Boyling)
Detective Constable Jim Boyling, 28-years-old, posing as Pete James Sutton or Jim Sutton 34-years-old, infiltrated pro-bicycle movement Reclaim the Streets for five years (1995-2000) as a lead organizer, as well as having contact with additional environmental and hunt saboteur campaigns. During this time events were organized within the activist community designed solely to collect information on attendees. During his time within activist movements, Boyling married Angharad Bevan, the 28-year-old activist he was tasked to monitor, and fathered two children with her before divorcing. Boyling only made his superiors aware of his relationship in 2005 by informing a single senior officer close to the time he married Beven. His relationship with Beven was one of two sexual relationships Boyling had with females in activist networks while undercover. Both relationships were described as “serious.” At times Boyling worked directly under Bob Lambert, with Lambert acting as his handler.
Following Boyling’s exposure, Chief Constable Jon Murphy of Merseyside (NW England) told newspapers that sexual conduct between police agents and activists was “never acceptable…under any circumstances,” further stating in relation to the police infiltrators that “something has gone badly wrong here” and calling the undercover agent’s actions “grossly unprofessional…a diversion from what they are here to do…[and] morally wrong.”. Despite such grandstanding, Boyling’s ex-wife stated in an interview with The Guardian that superiors were knowledgeable of these incidents, stating:
Jim [Boyling] complained one day that his superiors said there was to be no more sexual relations with activists anymore – the implicit suggestion was that they were fully aware of this before and that it hadn’t been restricted in the past…[Jim Boyling] was scoffing at it saying that it was impossible not to expect people to have sexual relations. He said people going in had ‘needs’ and I felt really insulted. He also claimed it was a necessary tool in maintaining cover.
Boyling also reportedly perjured himself in court in 1997, giving evidence under oath (as Pete James Sutton) while concealing his true identity as a police spy during his prosecution alongside protestors arrested after occupying a government office.
Boyling was also present during legally protected conversations held between defendants and their lawyers, as the police spy was represented by the same legal firm. This action has led to a legal challenge where protestors have argued that Boyling’s presence during such conversations violated the defendants’ right to protected communications with council, and that Boyling thus obtained information through protected, private correspondences. Investigations by The Guardian revealed that “police chiefs [had] authorized undercover officers to hide their identities from courts when they were prosecuted for offences arising out of their deployment.”
Mark Jacobs, 44-years-old, posing as 29-year-old Marco, infiltrated anarchist, anti-globalization, animal rights, and other social justice networks for five years (2004-2009) in the Cardiff area. Jacobs was known for taking on logistics and financial roles in his circles, and used the reputation he built within the Cardiff Anarchist Network (CAN) to infiltrate the Dissent! anti-G8 planning committees. During 2008, Jacobs maintained a sexual relationship with a female movement activist, and reportedly was responsible for encouraging CAN to engage behaviors to increase division and inebriation. On organizer with CAN reported to press:
He changed the culture of the organisation, encouraging a lot of drinking, gossip and back stabbing, and trivialised and ran down any attempt made by anyone in the group to achieve objectives. He clearly aimed to separate and isolate certain people from the group and from each other, and subtly exaggerated political and personal differences, telling lies to both ‘sides’ to create distrust and ill-feeling. In the four years he was in Cardiff a strong, cohesive and active group had all-but disintegrated. Marco left after anarchist meetings in the city stopped being held.
Following Jacobs’ exposure as a police spy, his activist girlfriend stated, “I was doing nothing wrong, I was not breaking the law at all. So for him to come along and lie to us and get that deep into our lives was a colossal, colossal betrayal.” According to additional testimony, a second female also maintained a dating relationship with Jacobs but littler more information is available.
Sergeant John Dines, posing as “John Barker” infiltrated London Greenpeace as well as unnamed anti-capitalist groups from around 1987-1992. He worked with the Metropolitan Police’s Special Demonstration Squad and began infiltrating Greenpeace following the departure of Bob Lambert. In 1990, Dines began a relationship with Helen Steel, and abandoned her in 1992 feigning a mental breakdown. When Steel sought to track down the whereabouts of her boyfriend, she discovered that John Barker was really Sgt. John Dines who had stolen the name of Phillip John Baker, a child who had died of leukemia years prior. Steel also discovered that Dines has been married since 1977.
The Dines/Barker case is said to be one of at least 80 similar occurrences organized by Scotland Yard over a 30 year period wherein police adopted the names of dead children in order to produce false identities and documents with verifiable back stories. Other police spies utilizing sexual infiltration, including Bob Lambert, also used the identities of dead children to create false names and documents. According to Lambert he adopted his identity from that of a seven-year-old child who died of a heart problem, and stated to media sources that the UK Home Office was aware of this practice, and that it was widespread.
Mark Jenner, presenting himself as “Mark Cassidy,” infiltrated UK protest groups from 1994-2000 as an officer in the Metropolitan Police’s Special Demonstration Squad under the direction of Bob Lambert. During his tenure, Jenner was married yet maintained a five year relationship (1995-2000) with a 29-year-old female activist, living with her in a London apartment and rarely returning to his family. After their lengthy cohabitation, the woman explained that she thought of themselves as “man and wife” having “completely integrated [Jenner] into my life.” Jenner met the woman’s family and even appeared in her mother’s wedding photographs and videos from other family events. The woman explained that Jenner used her as an “excellent cover story.”
Jenner used the woman’s credibility and trusted social network to insure his own cover story, as she explains, “People trusted me, people knew that I was who I said I was, and people believed, therefore, that he must be who he said he was because he was welcomed into my family.” Given this history, the woman was motivated to investigate his identity after Jenner disappeared in 2000 from their shared apartment stating that he was depressed. In testimony given to a Parliamentary inquiry, the woman, speaking via the pseudonym “Alison,” spoke of the deception stating, “It has impacted seriously on my ability to trust, and that has impacted on my current relationships and other subsequent relationships. It has also distorted my perceptions of love and my perceptions of sex.”
According to activists, at least two additional undercover informants were also present and had sexual relationships with activists. They have been named as Rod Richardson and Simon Wellings. According to Evans and Lewis, Richardson was not sexually involved with activists. While it is unknown if Wellings had relations with activist women, his behavior mirrors that of other informants, collecting and reporting on the personal details of activists such as their friendship circles as well as sexual preferences and partners. It is reported by the BBC that Wellings infiltrated anti-capitalist group Globalize Resistance from 2001-2005.
For nearly four months now, heavily armed Islamic State (IS) militants have been laying siege to the city of Kobanê in Syrian Kurdistan (Rojava).
Another IS massacre was initially feared. But the homegrown defense units of Kobanê, despite being hopelessly outmatched militarily, have been able to repel IS incursions for a surprisingly long time — and for much of this time without help. It has been a pitched battle that has repeatedly seen bitter house-to-house fighting.
However, with the questionably timed expansion of military assistance from the United States and the opening of Turkish territory to Peshmerga forces from Iraqi Kurdistan, the tide appears to be turning. The close fighting within Kobanê has all but ended, though the surrounding countryside remains occupied by the IS.
After a wave of solidarity demonstrations for Kobanê all across Europe in October and November, international attention on the region noticeably abated with the arrival of the Peshmerga reinforcements. Nevertheless, the situation is still militarily and politically complex, and the battle over Kobanê remains in part a battle over the appropriate means of international solidarity.
The debate about what practical, concrete form this solidarity should be taking has not been settled. At an early stage of the fighting, some parliamentarians from Germany’s Die Linke — despite the party’s long-standing rejection of military interventions — proposed an international operation with a United Nations (UN) mandate. As Die Linke’s parliamentarians rushed ahead, a skeptical German public found itself again asking where it should stand regarding international military operations.
At the same time, UN General Secretary Ban Ki Moon called on those who could protect the civilian population of Kobanê to do so. This raised additional questions, not only about who exactly could respond to such an appeal, but also about how realistic it was to hope for a military intervention whose primary objective would be the protection of civilians and not the pursuit of power. In the face of a spreading wildfire, care has to be taken not to call for aid from those who set the fire in the first place and then doused it with gasoline.
The planned intervention of Turkish ground troops has been among the more dubious propositions. This was, in any case, purported to be a controversial plan; France had declared its support for the establishment of a buffer zone by Turkey, while Great Britain and the US rejected this proposal, at least in public.
Given that IS militants have reportedly been crossing the Turkish-Syrian border with ease, and in the context of Turkey’s longstanding hostility to Kurdish interests, it was clear that such a plan would amount to the fox guarding the henhouse.
Turkey’s hostility to Rojava is intimately bound up in its own strategic goals — preserving regional influence as well as territorial sovereignty — and in Rojava’s apparent alignment with a domestic resistance that has historically threatened these goals. A cursory review of the background of this relationship should suffice here.
Shortly after the onset of demonstrations against the Syrian government in 2011, the PYD began to construct autonomous governing structures in the majority-Kurdish regions of northern Syria, and to assemble self-defense forces (YPG/YPJ) among citizens.
The PYD had previously made known that its activities were independent of the wider Syrian opposition. When the latter began conferring with Turkey and, with Western support, took up arms against the Syrian government and started calling for foreign military intervention, the PYD spoke out against such outside intervention and stressed that a democratic Syria could only be the collective project of all Syrians.
Under the leadership of the PYD, democratic council structures were erected in three regions (Afrin, Kobanê, and Cizirê) that are referred to as cantons. The governing assemblies as well as the self-defense forces are characterized by gender quotas and representation of all populations according to ethnic and religious identification (Kurdish, Arab, Assyrian Christian). Town, neighborhood, city, and regional councils invite and receive active participation from the population in decision making.
Democratically decided price controls, a constitutional justice system, and free schooling in any student’s mother tongue are additional distinguishing features of Rojava’s egalitarian structures. Under exceedingly adverse conditions, the region has managed to sustain its people on the basis of self-organized production collectives.
At the outbreak of civil war in Syria, Rojava’s representatives did not merely reject outside military intervention. In negotiations with the Syrian opposition, they also argued for the autonomy of the Kurdish region in a possible future Syria. The Syrian opposition organized under the umbrella of the Syrian National Council categorically rejected both these stances.
Representatives of Rojava were thereafter increasingly isolated by the opposition and its supporters, the so-called “group of friends of Syria.” This isolation was accompanied by an economic embargo that has been enforced by Turkey and the government of the autonomous Kurdish region of Iraq (Kurdish Regional Government, or KRG).
The Turkish government, for its part, declared it would not tolerate this “terrorist formation” on its border, holding it as identical to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), against which it has waged a long-term campaign of repression with US support. And rivalries within Rojava between smaller Syrian-Kurdish parties and the PYD, the leading party, ruptured relations with Iraqi Kurdistan.
The smaller parties drew nearer to the KRG in time and jointly accused the PYD of monopolizing political power. Though the social footholds of these parties in Rojava were small, the discord between them and the PYD became a pretense for the KRG, in association with Turkey, to weaken Rojava by any means.
For the Turkish government, Rojava represents a threat on multiple levels.
First of all, Rojava’s democratic autonomy model functions as an example to the Kurdish population within Turkey itself. The cantons have declared that the natural resources of Rojava will remain the collective property of the region’s people, and any potential revenues from them will be invested back into the people. The egalitarian council structures and the collectivization of resources stand diametrically opposed to the confessional conservatism of the ruling Justice and Development Party and its neoliberal politics.
Furthermore, Rojava is an obstacle to Turkey’s ambitions to expand its regional influence. The strategic and economic orientation of Turkey is fundamentally at odds with Rojava’s project. Thus the entire prehistory of the conflict contradicts the expectation that the Syrian-Kurdish people might receive support from Turkey.
This plays out similarly in relation to the KRG. Self-organized production collectives, progressive gender politics, and democratic council structures also stand opposed to the basic orientation of the oil-rentier proto-state in northern Iraq — though nearly all commentary on the current situation might suggest otherwise.
If that weren’t enough, Rojava and Kobanê in particular have a strategic significance for the IS. Should Kobanê fall fully into the hands of IS, it would be even easier for the group to recruit from Turkey, as well as smuggle arms and other goods. In addition, Kobanê is in the middle of the three cantons geographically. The other two cantons would be completely dislocated from one another without Kobanê, and their defense against further attacks by the IS or other militias would be much more difficult.
Turkey is attempting to exploit this situation and instrumentalize the IS offensive in order to make Rojava into an international issue. Davutoğlu’s publicly declared conditions — to only support the use of US military bases in Turkey and US ground troops against the IS if the fall of the Syrian government is also a goal — are revealing.
He could not say it any more clearly: the IS advances and the murder of Syrians within sight of the Turkish border do not provide sufficient motivation to act, even in the form of the relatively minor concessions demanded by the Kurdish movement.
The contents of the Turkish War Authority bill, recently passed by the Turkish parliament, are shaping this reality. In that document, the PKK — for Turkey, the same thing as Rojava — and the IS are both named, in the same breath, as “terrorist organizations.” Still, faced with a choice between the PKK/ Rojava and the IS, the Turkish government’s preference for the latter is clear.
The citizen council-governed cantons are showing the entire Middle East that it is possible to build a peaceful, democratic, and social justice-oriented self government that transcends cultural differences. Rojava presents an alternative to the ethnic and confessional polarization endemic in the region. That such a model has, at least up to now, been able to survive primarily through its own self-defense forces — in other words, without imperialist protection — is special to say the least.
Still, it is apparent that the continued existence of Rojava cannot be ensured without international solidarity, the more so as US military assistance and the KRG’s involvement both seem to be bound to fundamental concessions that would curtail the most emancipatory aspects of the model.
But what kind of “solidarity” can we practice from the West? In Germany, a start would be to confront the calls by some left parliamentarians for a UN-mandated military intervention. Considering the manifest divisions in the Security Council, these calls are no more than symbolic anyway. Since such a UN mandate is plainly unlikely to come about, the only remaining effect of these calls is to damage, once again, Die Linke’s basic peace platform.
Demands from other quarters for arms shipments to Rojava also do not constitute solidarity with Rojava, if we are coming from the perspective of a politics of peace.
Without a doubt, of course, calls out of Rojava for military aid, considering the all-or-nothing war there, are understandable. This may seem contradictory. But the problem for peace-platform politicians in Germany is a different one.
Can the German left guarantee that the “avenue of legitimacy” they are opening for (both German and non-German) foreign military operations and arms shipments will serve the “right” purposes? Since the current political balance in Germany doesn’t permit Die Linke any of the power necessary to control military operations or arms shipments, the answer must be no.
One example of this in the very recent past: when the Yezidi people in the Iraqi Sinjar mountains were facing slaughter by the IS, they were left completely unprotected by the Peshmerga and the KRG.
The forces from Rojava and the PKK that rushed in to help were exactly those whose already long struggle against the IS had been actively weakened by the KRG. Although the unspeakable role of the KRG lies open for all to see, it was the KRG that was lauded as the Yezidis’ savior and received German arms shipments in contravention of German laws and the UN Charter.
As long as the KRG is thus encouraged and empowered in its political orientation towards Rojava, no one can guarantee that these new arms won’t some day be pointed at Rojava or the PKK.
Therefore, instead of working for military intervention and arms shipments — the implementation of which they cannot meaningfully influence — the German left could demand that the doings of NATO-member Turkey be exposed for what they are: the intentional delivery of the people of Rojava into the hands of the IS.
The units of the YPG/YPJ have declared that they can, together with the PKK, manage the defense of Rojava on their own. Still, Turkey has to open a corridor through its territory for military resupply and logistical resourcing, and abandon its de facto support of the IS. The lifting of Turkey’s embargo on Rojava also has yet to be attained.
The German government and other Western governments must be pressured to force their NATO partner Turkey to end both its proxy war in Syria as well as its repression of political protest. Western leftists could also work for goals such as the removal of foreign soldiers (as well as Patriot missiles) stationed in Turkey and demand sanctions against Turkey if it continues to support the IS. Finally, military intervention by Turkey or other imperialist forces must be adamantly rejected, whereas a more skeptical stance towards Western governments’ goals in the region is needed.
Campaigns for an end to arms shipments to all actors in the region and for massive increases in refugee aid are among the most important concrete projects peace-oriented leftists should be working on.
The US government may add the Monarch butterfly to the Endangered Species list following a catastrophic loss of its population over last decades due to habitat decrease from cultivation of genetically engineered crops and climate change.
US Fish and Wildlife Service announced on Monday it would conduct a one-year status review of the Monarch butterfly to determine if they are warranted protection under the Endangered Species Act.
The agency is requesting scientific and commercial data through a 60-day public information period and they’re looking for data on the insects’ biology, range and population trends, habitat requirements, genetics and taxonomy, distribution patterns, population levels, life history, thermos-tolerance, and conservation methods.
The Center for Biological Diversity said the population has declined from a recorded high of approximately one billion Monarch butterflies in the mid-1990s to only 35 million butterflies last winter, the lowest number ever recorded.
The agency review comes in response to a petition from the Center for Biological Diversity, the Center for Food Safety, and the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation to list the subspecies of monarch (Danaus plexippus plexippus), who argue might be necessary.
The Center for Biological Diversity said the decline is driven in part to the widespread planting of genetically engineered crops in the Midwest, where most Monarchs are born. The vast majority of genetically engineered crops are made to be resistant to Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide, a potent killer of milkweed, the monarch caterpillar’s only food.
In addition to herbicide use they say Monarchs are also threatened by global climate change, drought and heat waves, other pesticides, urban sprawl and logging on their Mexican wintering grounds. Scientists have predicted that the Monarch’s entire winter range in Mexico and large parts of its summer range in the states could become unsuitable due to these threats.
Quite apart from their obvious beauty and appeal for Lepidopterists, the Monarch butterfly or the Danaus plexippus plexippus play an important role in ecology. They pollinate or specifically they carry pollen from plant to plant helping fruit, vegetables and flowers to produce new seeds. In the food chain in their caterpillar stage they are a food source for birds, mammals and other insects.
Monarch butterflies are found throughout the United States and many fly between the US, Mexico and Canada – a journey of 3,000 miles. The journey, according to studies, has become more perilous for the butterflies because of threats along their migratory paths, their breeding grounds and wintering grounds.
“We are extremely pleased that the federal agency in charge of protecting our nation’s wildlife has recognized the dire situation of the Monarch,” said Sarina Jepsen, the Xerces Society’s endangered species director. “Protection as a threatened species will enable extensive monarch habitat recovery on both public and private lands.”
“In the current crisis, the unquestionable dogma is that the police have a right to exist, that the police as an institution are an apt instrument to protect us and serve us, and therefore they are a legitimate presence on our streets and in our neighborhoods.
In this debate, the Right claim that the police are working just fine, while the Left claim that changes are needed to get them working better. Both of them are united in preserving the role of police and keeping real people—neighborhoods, communities, and all the individuals affected by police—from becoming the protagonists in the conflicts that affect us. Similarly, we frequently hear leftists claim that ‘the prisons aren’t working,’ exhibiting a willful ignorance as to the actual purpose of prisons. Sadly, for all their distortions and manipulations, the Right is being more honest. The police and the prisons both are working just fine. As per their design, they are working against us.”
–Peter Gelderloos, “The Nature of Police, The Role of the Left”
“I’m very much concerned with how the history of the southern freedom movement or civil rights movement is portrayed. And, I’m very conscious of the gaps in the history, and one important gap in the history, in the portrayal of the movement, is the role of guns in the movement. I worked in the South, I lived with families in the South. There was never a family I stayed with that didn’t have a gun. I know from personal experience and the experiences of others, that guns kept people alive, kept communities safe and all you have to do to understand this is simply think of black people as human beings and they’re gonna respond to terrorism the way anybody else would. …The southern freedom movement has become so defined, the narrative of the movement has become so defined by non-violence that anything presented outside that narrative framework really isn’t paid that much attention to. I like the quip that Julian Bond made…that really the way the public understands the civil rights movement can be boiled down to one sentence: Rosa sat down, Martin stood up, then the white folks saw the light and saved the day.”
–Charles E. Cobb Jr., “This Nonviolent Stuff’ll Get You Killed: How Guns Made the Civil Rights Movement Possible”
“Blue Lives Matter” was the caption displayed in large letters on MSNBC, yesterday, when discussing the assassination of two NYPD cops by a Black man, the day before. CNN and all the rest of Empire’s networks have been holding a vigil ever since those killings. They have interviewed just about every member of those officers’ families, as well as their friends, colleagues, relatives and current and former police commanders, commanding officers and police “unions”. They have read letters written by their children, saying goodbye to the killed officers. They have shown their spouses crying. They have displayed the vigil by the police, standing in military formation, saluting their fallen comrades, as if an enemy combatant in Afghanistan has killed two of the occupying army, which we, as Americans, are obliged to mourn and feel angry at the enemy who dared to kill two of our own “brave men”. To humanize an otherwise inhuman police force whose main job is the repression of the occupied poor, who beat and kill unarmed and innocent members of the working class, every single day, with total impunity, which at times seems to even surpass the impunity of US occupying armies overseas, the media of the occupiers and corporate thieves have been showing, nonstop, the supporters of the police mourning and lighting candles and saying how good and brave those cops were. The commentaries and the message they convey are unmistakable: blame the protesters who are demanding change and justice for victims of the racist police.
The networks and the politicians they interview have been referring to the killed officers as “brave men who put their lives on the front lines everyday, to protect and serve their community”. This is what the media that’s owned, controlled and in the service of the 1%, want people to believe: that the police are there to “protect and serve the people”, not protect the class of the super wealthy from the wrath of the oppressed, beating and brutalizing and killing them, everyday, on the streets, to keep them in line and in leashes, out of fear that they may rise up and demand justice.
Compare the incredible display of sympathy by the corporate media for those two cops with their treatment of innocent young Black men who are regularly killed by the police. Not only do they not show any such sympathy for them, they actually try to dehumanize them, by digging up and mentioning past “troubles with the law”, putting THEM on trial, instead of the viscous and racist police who killed them. Where was their reading of letters of the children of Eric Garner? Where was their interviews of his widowed wife and his aunt and friends and relatives and neighbors and people who do similar work to his, etc, as they did with the children and relatives and friends and colleagues of the dead cops?
These shameless double standards and hypocrisy are not accidental. What the Empire’s media and politicians are trying to do is to use the killings as an opportunity to push back against the protests and their legitimate demands for change that are taking place nationally. The goal is to blame, discredit and put in the defensive the protests for heightening “tensions”. They view this incident as an opportunity to gain the upper hand in the minds of the people, to increase the support for the cops, which is understandably at record low, to justify their brutality and to end the anti-police protests.
It never fails. Every time there is critical resistance, an uprising and continued unrest people get dragged back to compliance (with permits) under the rhetoric of being peaceful or nonviolent. The movement gets dragged out of the street to sit attentively at the feet of the oppressors with speakers that tell us change will come if we are calm (and peaceful). […]
Rhetoric about resistance and direct action becomes meaningless, lost in the symbolism of marching for civic change. Movement managers try to make the movement mainstream-popular, inviting celebrities and business leaders to come forward, while at the same time pushing out radical elements that released pressure valves to begin with. If not directly, through terrible tactical choices that alienate people (like working with the police who are critically engaged in counter insurgency and developing profiles on agitators to undermine the movement).
Never mind, that working with the city and police legitimizes those avenues, while making it easier for the police to knowingly divide and attack groups that take nonpermitted action or respond to their conditions without the permission of the state. Is this what solidarity looks like?
Instead of hearing about what groups are doing to sustain themselves during these uprisings, we hear more and more about demands. Police reforms that usually come with dangerous baggage, more technology and funding for the police. But the movement is so pressured by popular media and civic leaders to clarify its goals, policy change becomes a priority before much needed discussions can happen. Before policy change can be challenged not as a goal, but maybe a tactic to gain concessions in a larger fight to abolish the infrastructure that makes racial oppression profitable.
But once the movement is focused on policy change, containment is practically complete. And the agitators who were able to explore what it means to act autonomously for liberation, who were harassed and attacked by the police, are cast aside as unreasonable. Ungovernable.
Unity becomes language to gather behind and solidarity is reserved for those who will declare their nonviolence or tolerance for police collaboration. Never mind that nonviolence never actually was not violent- it just tolerates violence in the hopes of receiving change. It accepts violence as a means of determining justice- because if someone is constantly violated don’t they deserve to be saved?
The cops are killing people, but pacifism will kill the movement every time. We say “first do no harm” but liberalism does harm to the movement every time. People pull permits in the name of pacifism, but invite the police. How does this make sense?
What is liberalism? There are many ways people might define or apply it. But for now i’ll start with, peace for the sake of appearing peaceful regardless of whether the conditions are peaceful or not. Appealing to and supporting state violence (the government) to restore “peace” whether the conditions are peaceful or not. Working with the enemy to minimize the affects of oppression, while never supporting those looking to prevent or abolish it.
Redirecting the outrage and energy of people away from their own communities and into organizations that work with and support the state (and it’s violence). Taking real anger and pain, and neutralizing it so that it does not actually threaten the economic and social conditions that produced it. Believing that the state is the only way we will be free. Controlling how other actors behave so that the state will make you free. And finally, using peace as a reason to dismiss and silence people seeking critical movement building dialogue to prevent the co-optation of the movement. Demanding peace without first acknowledging the conflict is dismissive and heartbreaking. Same with #notallcops rhetoric.
The popular media finds it much easier to latch onto movement building for reform because the hierarchical political structure wants people to resign power over to representatives and allow those representatives to determine clear goals. And just like that the movement becomes less about supporting black solidarity and more about appealing to the dominant white (and liberal) gaze for approval.
But what if the goals aren’t clear? What if supporting black rage and insurrection means that all of it will have to fall? Especially the privileges and comforts gained by whites and non-black POC under the capitalist system built on genocide and slavery. The economy of wagery and servitude that makes (black) people poor and deprives them of resources. The system of governance and gender violence that pits (black) community against each other based on sexuality, gender and patriarchy power. The lack of empowerment and shared decision making. The lack of access to resources for those who are disabled by society. The political system itself, who carries on war after war here and abroad without the consent of the governed. The way problems are handled, policed and result in mass imprisonment and violence for poor, brown and black communities of color.
It’s not simple. But to build this movement we cannot oversimplify it. We cannot ignore that non-black and white people benefit from seeing this movement silenced or neutralized. And we can’t pretend that it doesn’t make whites uncomfortable to think about a black revolution. This might be a large reason why people in the movement fall back on learned liberalism. Because people, particularly people of color, have been taught that to assimilate in Amerikan culture means to behave, which has become synonymous with being “reasonable” or deferring to white models of power. But this is not reasonable, co-optation will fail and the conditions will fall.