Ocalan also made an important announcement in March that Kurds no longer needed a nation-state but a structure of democratic confederalism within the existing nation-states.
After the capture of its leader Abdullah Öcalan in 1999, the messages and statements put out by the PKK began to change. Influenced by the communalist ideas of US social-ecologist Murray Bookchin, as well as Emma Goldman and the Zapatistas, Öcalan and others in the PKK began to criticise nation-states, and the PKK’s stated goal changed from the establishment of an independent Kurdistan to democratic confederalism. We will summarise here what Öcalan and others say about democratic confederalism, before looking at how the ideas have been put into practice in Rojava and Bakur.
The term communalism originated from the revolutionary Parisian uprising of 1871 and was later revived by the late-twentieth century political philosopher Murray Bookchin (1931-2006). Communalism is often used interchangeably with “municipalism”, “libertarian municipalism” (a term also developed by Bookchin) and “democratic confederalism” (coined more recently by the imprisoned Kurdish political leader Abdullah Öcalan).
An alliance of militias led by the predominantly Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and supported by the U.S.-led international Coalition against Islamic State, the SDF fought the ground war against the jihadist group, capturing nearly all Syrian territory east of the Euphrates river between 2016 and 2019.