'We need our version of the Rojava Revolution right here'

[The following is the text of a speech given to a meeting and concert to mark the founding of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). Some 400-500 people attended the November 28 event organised by the Kurdish Association of Victoria at the Kurdish House centre in Melbourne’s Pascoe Vale.]

Friends and comrades,

I would like to thank the Kurdish Association for the invitation to participate in tonight's very important function and to mark the publication of our pamphlet The Kurdish Freedom Struggle Today.

Socialist Alliance joins with you in celebrating the founding of the Kurdistan Workers Party 37 years ago. We honour the heroism and commitment of the activists of the PKK over this decades-long struggle for the rights of the oppressed Kurdish people. We salute the thousands of martyrs who have fallen fighting for a just cause.

Today, the revolutionary democratic wing of the Kurdish movement is playing a tremendous progressive role in the Middle East. It is fighting the 'Islamic State' gangs in northern Syria and Iraq and in both theory and practice is the complete opposite of everything the IS stands for.

A striking example is Shengal (Sinjar), betrayed by the KDP peshmerga in August last year when the IS attacked. It has now been liberated. It is not possible to hide the role the PKK and YPG-YPJ played in this victory. They came to the rescue of the Yazedi community and they helped establish Yazedi self-defence forces that took part in the liberation of their historic territory.

PKK ban shameful & perverse

And yet the PKK is regarded in the West as a terrorist organisation. This is absolutely shameful! It is completely perverse! In Britain the Kurdish teeenager Shilan Ozcelik has actually been convicted and jailed for 21 months because she wanted to go and join the PKK to fight the IS terrorists.

Here in Australia in August the PKK has once more been kept on the list of terrorist organisations. The Turkish regime sent officials to Canberra to lobby for this result and our supposedly 'anti-terrorist' government was happy to oblige them.

That is, our government continues to criminalise an organisation whose militants are fighting and dying to defend the rights of all the various ethnic and religious communities in the region. This policy, carried out under both Coalition and Labor governments, is a cynical farce!

Rojava has inspired millions

The struggle of the Kurdish people, especially in Rojava, has inspired millions around the world.

The heroic resistance in KobanĂȘ — and in particular the unprecedented frontline role of women — electrified millions of people around the world and introduced them to the Kurdish national struggle. In Rojava there is a women's army, women commanders and hundreds of female martyrs who have died fighting for their people and the revolution and its advanced values. This shows what women are capable of and gives new meaning to the concept of feminism.

We will always defend the national rights of the Kurdish people which have been so cruelly denied for so long. Our modest pamphlet is an expression of our solidarity. We want to introduce the struggle and its importance to a non-Kurdish audience, to win support in left and progressive circles in Australia. Our pamphlet, along with our coverage in Green Left Weekly, is a means to this end.

Of course, you are more familiar with this struggle than we are. But if you have non-Kurdish friends and colleagues who are interested you might consider giving them a copy of the pamphlet to introduce them to the Kurdish question. For a 44-page pamphlet there is a lot of material for people to ponder.

What is the essence of the Rojava Revolution? It is a form of people's power characterised by a very intense effort to establish, above all, grassroots democracy, empower women and provide a basis for different ethnic and religious communities to live together in friendship and cooperation.

Lessons for Australia

What can we learn from the Kurdish struggle here in Australia? Obviously conditions here are very different. This is a wealthy first-world country but it is dominated by the rich and powerful and their giant corporations. If people's needs were put ahead of big business greed, we could give every single person here a decent secure life and provide serious help to the rest of the world as well.

But as we know, things are going 100% the other way. Life for ordinary people is becoming more stressful, and more and more people are more and more fearful of the future. This is perfectly understandable.

Climate change will affect everyone severely. The drive of the bosses to make money out of every single aspect of life is destroying society. In their unbridled greed they are completely mad.

In supposedly 'advanced' Australia there is an epidemic of domestic violence. So far this year 78 women have died at the hands of men. The governments criticise this reality but refuse to provide the necessary services and programs to create real gender equality and eliminate this stain on our society.

We need a Rojava Revolution here

Clearly something needs to change. We need our version of the Rojava Revolution right here! We need something just as radical but anchored in our conditions and appropriate to our reality.

We need to keep struggling to unite broader and broader forces around the struggle for fundamental social change. That is what Socialist Alliance is about. We are always working to bring together all those who want to resist the neoliberal juggernaut and fight for a society which puts people's needs first.

The Kurdish community and the other migrant communities must be a part of this struggle. We want to work with you, both in solidarity with the Kurdish freedom struggle in your homeland but also to create a better society right here.

In conclusion let me say: Long live the PKK! Long live the Kurdish freedom struggle!

Thank you.