Rojava: Key Facts
Rojava is the Kurdish name for Kurdish-majority regions of Syria, and is still commonly used to describe the wider autonomous region officially known as North and East Syria (NE Syria). The region is administrated by the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES), its highest political assembly is the Syrian Democratic Council (SDC), and its unified military force is the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
Though the political process which led to the establishment of autonomy in North and East Syria has its origins in Kurdish regions and Kurdish political thought, it is likely that Kurds no longer make up a majority of the population in regions administered by the AANES. In particular, following successive SDF defeats of ISIS, the AANES’ remit has expanded into Arab-majority regions such as Manbij, Deir-ez-Zor and Raqqa.
NE Syria is also home to Syriac Christians, Assyrian Christians, Armenian Christians, Yazidis, Turkmen and Chechens, minorities whose rights are protected in law and who are guaranteed representation in all political processes.
The years since the initial declaration of autonomy in Kurdish-majority regions in 2012 have seen immense hardship, with the region suffering from bloody, protracted campaigns against ISIS and other jihadist groups such as Jabhat-al-Nusra; political and economic embargo and occasional violence on the behalf of the Syrian government; and Turkey’s invasion and occupation of Afrin, Tel Abyad and Sere Kaniye.
At the same time, the region has also seen the flourishing of a unique political project, building the foundations of a multi-ethnic democratic society based on gender equality, ecological regeneration and locally devolved power. Thousands of international and Syrian activists, researchers and professionals have come to the region to support, report on and participate in the work of its institutions.
“Beyond the Frontlines”, a 2019 report by the Rojava Information Center, gives the complete picture to date of the political, civil and military make-up of the region, and the sweeping changes that have taken place in North and East Syria since 2012. You can read the report here.