Use of Cryptocurrencies in the Rojava RevolutionMarch 26, 2019
The conflict in Syria long ago attained an unprecedented scale for the modern world. The civil war that fractured this country in many different parts with completely different governments has been in the limelight ever since it began in 2011. Since then, it has seen the rise and fall of the IS but also many additional occurrences that might have been overshadowed by the Islamic State.
Among these is most definitely the Rojava Revolution, an anarchist movement that is covering much of the northern parts of Syria. The territory is controlled by the Kurdish forces, but ones that are driven by uncharacteristic ideologies, especially when compared to Iraq’s Kurdistan as the main hub of this ethnic group.
Among its specific characteristics is the way Rojava is approaching money and possession. In this unlikely environment, cryptocurrencies have, apparently, also found a strange but fitting future home, at least for now.
The Rojava Phenomena
The Rojava, how it is known to most people around the globe, is a northern region of Syria that is predominantly populated by Kurds. It revolted against the central government in 2012 and since then attained what is a working autonomy. After that took place, it set up a model of political governance that its representatives called a democratic confederalism. It operates in a decentralized and basically stateless structure that offers a natural synergy with many aspects of blockchain technology. The region recently, however, entered into a political turmoil brought about from outside sources.
The US announcement its pull-out from the region. For many in Rojava, this meant that the Turkish invasion would be imminent – for the government in Ankara, the notion of Kurdish independence has been a hotly contested and often bloody ordeal. When the pullout had been an announcement, there were concerns that the political system emerged in Rojava would disappear after a Turkish attack. Luckily for the region, the decision was mostly overturned and the threat of a massive attack by the Turkish army was, a pessimist would say, postponed for a later date.
The Local Economy
The criticism of the new governmental system often stated that all different approaches must align in one way or another to the capitalistic principles of a market. This is something that China demonstrated effectively, keeping political communism but taking on an open market. The same can be said for the USSR that failed to relinquish the centralized control of the economy and because of this, it eventually lost and disappeared. However, the leaders of Rojava have a different perspective.
That is why Arsalan Serdem, who leads the region’s technological development program, believes that they can make a structure that is both ecological and egalitarian. The proponents of this approach call it democratic modernity. Serdem thinks that the right combination of technology and philosophy is needed to make this dream possible.
For him, the aspiration is to have an institution that has access to a very high level of technology, which can then be used to create tools that the society can employ. The same tools should at the same time allow society to make good relationship with its natural environment. He also is certain that these decentralized institutions must be supported by decentralized technology.
Serdem and his peers are building up institutions that would allow for training of the people in what would the Western world term hacking skills. This would include the participants researching means of digital governance, blockchain solution for the distribution of natural resources and cryptocurrencies. Right now, Serdem is still looking for trainers and teachers, which would be the individuals across Rojava that would be able to pass on their knowledge to others.
An additional important mission of the institute would be to teach injured war veterans basic programming skills. Currently, there are over 30 veterans who are participating in the program. Aside from these initiatives, he is also recruiting what he called social engineers. These are tech-savvy individuals who blend some form of hacking and philosophy that seeks to reshape technology. People around Serdem are echoing this message.
A software developer and a member of the academy in Rojava said that these tech academies could produce solutions to social issues. For example, decentralized governance tools would be able to help in decision making but also help keep the powers in check. Both agree that cryptocurrencies would be very useful to the region’s inhabitants.
The Money of Rojava
Presently, the people of Rojava are completely dependent on money issued by the Syria state, meaning that they are bound to the same regime. Also, the region does not have any access to electronic transactions. But, similar to esports and other digital ventures, cryptocurrencies know no boundaries or unsuitable geographical locations.
With this in mind, the Rojava authorities are trying to bring in crypto as something local merchants begin accepting in the region. This could be the vital first step towards the regular individuals embracing things like bitcoin, ethereum and other cryptocurrencies not as a means of long-term investment but immediate payment option.
Hurdles and Mindsets
Naturally, there is plenty of cynicism surrounding the same project. The region of Rojava is not overly developed and the war did not help this. However, there was an influx of new tech but it was mostly seen with the appearance and quick spreading of smartphones. With them, the local inhabitants got access to social media and chat apps, mainly YouTube, Facebook, and Whatsapp.
However, this is still a far cry from the actual use of cryptocurrencies. This is why people like Serdem believe that the academies could redefine technology and move it away from the corporate groups (and interest) that is today associated with this field. This means a new take on network infrastructure, social media and even hardware and devices in the region.
But, they would not need to redefine cryptocurrencies, which are already a perfect fit for the Rojava ideology and social setup. Instead, the current digital currencies would be able to blend immediately with the region’s overall political and economic aspirations. Serdem and others like him are diligently working on the same possibility.