The Kurdish People’s Protection Forces (YPG), the Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), has been in receipt of a flow of non-Kurdish, mostly-Western foreign fighters for approximately a year. These volunteers had gathered in informal groupings such as the “Lions of Rojava,” a primarily English-speaking unit of non-ideological ex-military men. The recruitment pattern of the YPG has begun to shift, however, and the stream of foreign fighters to “Rojava,” as the YPG calls the areas it rules, has become increasingly ideological. In January, a process was begun to create a unified structure—or at least a brand—for the disparate foreign groups and individuals in Rojava. This effort concluded two days ago with the formation of the International Freedom Battalion (EOT).
The process was led by the Marxist-Leninist Communist Party (MLKP), a militant Left-wing outfit founded in Turkey in 1994, composed of both Kurds and Turks, that officially hews to the line of the murderous Albanian tyrant Enver Hoxha. Other groups involved include:
- Reconstruccion Comunista (Communist Reconstruction, RC), a Spanish group, which adheres to the MLKP’s Hoxhaist views and has close links to the MLKP in general;
- The Liberation Army of the Workers and Peasants of Turkey (TIKKO), the armed wing of the Communist Party of Turkey/Marxist–Leninist (TKP/ML), a Maoist insurgent group in Turkey since the 1970s;
- The United Freedom Forces (BOG), a conglomeration of five main Turkish hard-Left groups, the two most important of which are the Revolutionary Communard Party (DKP) and the Marxist–Leninist Armed Propaganda Corps-Revolutionary Front (MLSPB-DC), both communist. [UPDATE: In March 2016, the DKP and MLSPB-DC, along with the PKK, MLKP, TKP/ML, and five other organizations founded the Peoples’ United Revolutionary Movement (HBDH) with the stated goal of overthrowing the Turkish government.] The other BOG groups are two communist factions—the Revolution Party of Turkey (TDP) and the Proletariat Revolutionary Liberation Organization (PDKO)—and a green anarchist groupuscule called Social Insurrection (SI)
[UPDATE: Over time, other groups announced themselves under the EOT:
- The Revolutionary Union for Internationalist Solidarity, a Greek anarcho-communist group
- The Bob Crow Brigade. The unit is named after Robert Crow, the British leader of the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) until his death in 2014. Crow was from the Stalinist corner of British trades union politics, an unreconstructed communist, based around The Morning Star, and an ardent admirer of Arthur Scargill, whose contempt for democratic rights, even of his own members, left him operating on slush funds from the Soviet Union and Muammar al-Qaddafi in his attempt to bring down an elected British government. The Bob Crow Brigade is an English-speaking unit containing British, Irish, and Canadian Leftist militants, all of them men, some of whom had been unemployed, and others who had worked as—variously—a council gardener, railway worker, removals man, farmer, and bike messenger. There is apparently some friendly internal dissent between Bolsheviks and “more libertarian” tendency, though they’re all self-described “Reds”. The group has expressed support for Jeremy Corbyn.
- The International Revolutionary People’s Guerrilla Forces (IRPGF): A “militant, armed, self-organized, and horizontal collective, working to defend social revolutions around the world, to directly confront capital and the state, and advance the cause of anarchism,” which announced itself in March 2017. The nationalities of its members are not quite clear.
- In July 2017, IRPGF announced a subunit, The Queer Insurrection and Liberation Army (TQILA), which expressed itself as part of the “militant horizontal self-organized collectives and communities for the revolution and queer anarchism,” with a commitment to “struggling against authority, patriarchy, [and] oppressive heteronormativity,” among other things. Said by TQILA to demonstrate the “revolutionary advances” made in Rojava, TQILA credited “Jineology classes” for leading the way. Jineology is described as the “science of women,” a concept, unsurprisingly, developed by the PKK’s leader, Abdullah Ocalan, which was apparently a tremendous “step forward for the women’s liberation movement” and helped to break down the “sexist paradigm based on the subject-object dichotomy”. If TQILA exists at all it likely consists of a half-dozen people; it is primarily a messaging instrument to further the PKK’s legitimacy with Western audiences.
- In February 2018, a group calling itself the Antifascist Forces in Afrin (AFFA) was announced in response to Turkey moving into the Efrin canton to expel the YPG/PKK.]
The full statement of the International(ist) Freedom Battalion’s founding is reproduced below.
The Middle East has been a bloodbath because of imperialist vampires and exploiters. These same forces brought together the ISIS so that people in the region would bow down to occupation and oppression. The ISIS gangs massacre Christian, Yazidi, Assyrian, and Muslim peoples. Gangs sell women and children in slave markets and organise massive executions in ways that resemble the centuries-long strategies of their imperialist masters.
The organised peoples’ resistance against these forces’ desire to destroy their languages, faiths, lives, and identities has been led by the People’s and Women’s Protection Units (YPG-YPJ) and was successful in places such as Kobani [Ayn al-Arab], Shingal [Sinjar], Tel Hamis, and Serekaniye [Ras al-Ayn].
The Rojava Revolution came to the fore of global politics and the YPG-YPJ resistance is admired and supported by impoverished masses. With international fighters, Rojava became today’s Bekaa and Palestine. The Rojava Revolution is the Paris Commune under German siege, Madrid during the Spanish civil war, and Stalingrad during the Second Imperialist War [World War Two].
The Rojava Revolution has upset the balance of power in neighbouring countries, especially Turkey, and has become the heart of world revolution and the beacon of resistance for oppressed peoples.
As a women’s revolution, Rojava has strengthened women’s will and become the symbol of struggle against patriarchy and global bigotry.
Revolutionaries across the world have turned their attention to Rojava and never hesitated to fight and die for victory here in order to expand the revolution.
Revolutionary forces in Turkey and different parts of the globe have come to Rojava in order to strengthen the revolution and expand the war to the lands they came from.
We fight in Rojava, die as martyrs and carry the banner of resistance.
We fight at the frontline against imperialism and bigots in the region.
We confront the ISIS gangs’ brutal attacks on the revolution.
We live the revolution and feel it in our veins and cells.
We are the people in Kurdistan who made the Rojava Revolution, the workers, oppressed people, women and internationalist revolutionaries who fight under the banner of the YPG-YPJ.
We are Spanish, German, Greek, Turkish, Arab, Armenian, Laz, Circassian, and Albanian.
We are the revolutionary forces and organisations that have come together from different parts of the world to form the Internationalist Freedom Brigade.
All oppressed people, workers, labourers, women, youth, religious groups, ecologists, anti-imperialists, anti-fascists, anti-capitalists, democrats and revolutionaries of the world; we call on you to fight under the banner of the Internationalist Freedom Brigade in order to defend the Rojava Revolution and expand it to establish people’s fraternity in the Middle East and rest of the world!