Guest speaker Azat Zana Gundogan presented his knowledge on utopian thinking and the Rojava Revolution, organized by the 25th Annual Social Justice Colloquium on March 18.
Gundogan is a sociologist at Florida State University, and his research concentrates on alternative societal frameworks and Kurdish communalism.
Many understand utopia as unachievable, an impossible reality. Gundogan promotes a different perspective, claiming the concept as an empowering and hopeful mindset.
“Utopianism is a vital process of seeking a better, but not a perfect world,” Gundogan said.
The discussion began with Gundogan’s explanation of oppressed minorities in Syria and their transition into Middle East revolutionaries, sharing images of female Kurdish fighters and touching on their victories against ISIS in 2015.
Gundogan recognized Rojava as the most recent example of utopianism, a reflection of imagination and positivity.
Rojava advocates for the liberation of people and women’s freedom, fighting this war to form a political system prioritizing communal values.
Gundogan also outlined the origins of the Kurdish community, an ethnic group native to a mountainous region in Western Asia known as Kurdistan.
Establishing democratic confederalism has been the main objective of the Kurds of Rojava since 2012, a social and political model of governance pioneered by women and youth of different peoples.
The principles of grassroots decision-making, environmentalism, and gender equity are at the forefront of promoting social order in the Rojava Revolution.
The Kurds do not have an independent state of their own, and Gundogan explained that one must look at the specific contexts within each country, Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Iran, and their contrasting trajectories.
Scholars and journalists have depicted the Kurds as perpetual fighters striving for a nation-state. Despite these interpretations, Gundogan believes this is not only a regional problem but an internal issue with existential implications.
Gundogan presented repression as the dominant consequence, Syrian policy excluding the Kurds from citizenship rights, assimilation policy, and perspectives that defined them as an alien group.
Formation of identity, culture, and survival depends on self-determination, and by being a stateless minority in a world defined by states, obtaining autonomy becomes a challenge.
The Rojava model intends to provide democracy without the state, fostering individuality, sovereignty, and choice. This approach emphasizes social dreaming, divergent from the everyday understanding of utopian thinking.
Gundogan concluded his discussion by reminding the audience that the Rojava project is in danger and requires reclamation as a legitimate utopia.