Rojava’s Threefold Economy

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by Janel Biehl
26 Feb 2015
Kurdish Question

A Presentation by Abdurrahman Hemo, adviser for economic development in Cizîre Canton, Dêrîk

On December 2, the academic delegation to Rojava visited the economic center in Dêrîk. There we heard a presentation on Rojava’s economy from Abdurrahman Hemo, the adviser for economic development for Cizîre canton. Hemo explained what he called Rojava’s three parallel economies: the community economy, the war economy, and the open economy.

I. Community Economy

Hemo: Our economic project is the same as our political project. We call it “community economy,” and all parts of society participate. It’s cooperative. We have started to build cooperatives in all different sectors: we have trade cooperatives, company cooperatives, construction cooperatives. The organizational model for our economy is the cooperative. Our aim is to be self-sufficient. If there is just bread, then we will all have a share. This is the main principle of cooperatives.

For two years now, we have tried to develop this economy. Before [the revolution] the culture was different, so now we have academies to promote the cooperative mentality. We’ve organized seminars and discussions, so that the community can be convinced this kind of system is better. Currently participation is at a good level.

The main economic activity here is agriculture, and so the majority of cooperatives are concentrated in agriculture. That is our community economy. The other cantons function in the same way.

Let me explain that in all three cantons we are surrounded—we are embargoed. Rojava is rich in natural resources and agriculture, but we receive no infrastructure investment. Internationally there’s no investment here. Internationally Rojava isn’t recognized—it doesn’t exist. If we want to develop in Rojava, we have to build everything ourselves.

So in the revolutionary process we created companies to develop agriculture economy, and to supply seeds to the peasants so they can continue to cultivate their lands. And we supply them with diesel for the agricultural machinery.

And we created companies to refine oil, produce diesel and other products. To produce diesel is actually less expensive than water. Water costs 25 cents a half-liter, while a liter of diesel costs 25 cents. Water is twice as expensive as oil. In Cizîre canton we have thousands of oil fields. But at the moment only 200 of them are active, because where would we send the oil? We are embargoed—we can’t trade with the outside world. So we just exploit the oil for our own use here in Cizîre.

Some oil fields are under the control of ISIS—one emir owns five or six oil fields. ISIS can sell their oil to Turkey–they have contacts with Turkish side and trade with Turkey. We have thousands of oil fields, but we can’t exploit them even for the use of the rest of Syria. We exploit oil only for our own use, for our own income.

We have also created companies to develop infrastructure and to build roads, with asphalt. All these are local companies—we get no assistance from outside.

Q: Who decides how much to produce, of what, and how to distribute surplus?

Hemo: The situation is complex. The democratic self-government, the committees for agriculture and finance, and the companies are all involved.

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