November 6, 2023
To Respected Academics and the International Academic Community,
We pen this letter as educators and staff from the Universities in Northeast Syria commonly known as Rojava, acting on behalf of the Coordination Center of Universities in North and East Syria. We find ourselves in a situation where, much like many regions across the Middle East and the world, we are relentlessly under attack on multiple fronts. The Turkish state continually subjects our society and livelihoods to daily assaults utilizing a wide array of weaponry. At the same time, we are deeply saddened and concerned by the ongoing Israeli campaign of colonial violence in Gaza and the loss of thousands of lives in Palestine and also in Hamas’s attacks in Israel. We express our solidarity with everyone impacted by this war, especially with colleagues and students in Gazan schools and universities whose campuses have been destroyed by Israeli airstrikes. We stand with the international community in calling for an immediate ceasefire and the lifting of the blockade on Gaza.
In these times of pain and sorrow and in the face of these dire circumstances, we aim to express our thoughts and sentiments through this message.
We recognize that our suffering is not confined to our region alone, as numerous parts of the world are grappling with severe challenges brought about by the global dynamics of power and capital. As we approach the conclusion of the first quarter of the 21st century, our world is grappling with significant conflicts. On one hand, we are witnessing rapid advancements in science and technology, while on the other hand, we continue to experience warfare, genocides, and acts of terror at a scale reminiscent of a "Third World War." Additionally, serious social issues, assaults on the dignity of women, crimes against children, environmental pollution, hunger, rising global temperatures, and many other problems persist.
This leads us to ponder: why has the development of science and technology not led to progress in democracy, equality, ecology, peace, and human rights? On the contrary, why have problems in these areas escalated? What is the purpose of scientific advancement, and who is it intended to benefit?
If societal issues intensify alongside scientific progress, it becomes imperative for scientists, educators, and researchers to ask these questions and acknowledge their responsibilities. Institutions, universities, academies, research centers, and the like, are arenas in which such questions, conflicts, and challenges should be thoroughly examined. Throughout history, ethics has always been a significant facet of science and philosophy. Unfortunately, present-day academia and universities seem to be experiencing a profound lapse in terms of responsibility. It appears that human empathy and ethics have never been so fragile. How is it that, despite widespread social, cultural, moral, and physical atrocities occurring globally, academics and universities are displaying such feebleness in asserting their will and stance? Inaction or weak commitment in the face of mass murderers, colonialists, assimilationists, invaders, fascists, sexists, greedy corporations, and nationalists poses a grave threat to our world, our environment, our society, and our livelihoods. Moreover, indifference to assaults on the dignity and autonomy of women is equally perilous. It must not be forgotten that a lack of commitment or weak commitment implies complicity and partnership. Sadly, contemporary scientists and universities are complicit to a considerable extent. This is an undeniable reality that warrants a more explicit, interpretive, and elucidative position.
History attests that when philosophy, science, and knowledge fulfill their ethical obligations, they advocate for radical change; they alleviate societal suffering and fortify democracy, equality, and freedom. The history of humanity shows that philosophy and the concepts of justice, freedom and democracy have evolved when authorities and their consequences grew weaker. This is a fundamental truth. Our aim is not to reiterate these facts; rather, it is to draw attention to the imminent danger we face. As academics and universities based in northeast Syria, who are living through the consequences of these facts, we earnestly wish to cultivate and foster a heightened sensitivity and awareness. We firmly assert that what truly matters is not mourning when the pain strikes us personally. We become global, social, and ethical when we weep and raise our voices in solidarity with the suffering of people worldwide. Pain does not need to be confined to our homes, our lands, or our countries. If we fail to empathize with others today and remain inactive, there might not be anyone left to assist us tomorrow.
Compassionate individuals recognize that the people of Syria and Rojava have waged a historic resistance against the terror of Daesh and the Turkish state's occupation for many years. We have paid a steep price for our stance and continue to do so. After occupying parts of our territory, the Turkish state is imposing a regime of fear, threats, and daily massacres on us through the use of drones, fighter jets, and bombings. Most recently, on 05.10.2023, the Turkish state flagrantly targeted our social infrastructure. Before the eyes of the world, they systematically destroyed critical facilities and resources, such as hospitals, schools, academies, grain storage depots, power plants, water distribution centers, oil facilities, and more, upon which millions of people depend.
Pain and suffering know no geography. There is no distinction between the pain endured by Kurdish, Palestinian, and Israeli children, women, and communities. Their suffering is a shared burden, and the right to life is sacred for all. The key is for every one of us to unite against oppressive and violent regimes and systems, irrespective of the context. Our goal is not to perpetuate this narrative, but rather to draw attention to the imminent danger confronting us. As academics and staff at universities of northeast Syria, we have had firsthand experience of these realities, and we are deeply committed to raising awareness and taking action. We firmly assert that the vital point is not to grieve when the pain is in our hearts. When we weep and raise our voices in solidarity with the suffering of all individuals worldwide, we demonstrate that we are global, social, and ethical. Pain need not be limited to our homes, our land, or our country. If we fail to feel the pain of others today and take a stand, tomorrow, when we face our own hardships, there may be no one left to help us.
In the current environment, we continue to face assaults, requiring us to stand firm in the face of adversity. Consequently, our universities have been temporarily closed due to circumstances beyond our control. Nonetheless, we remain committed to our work and our struggle, not allowing adversity to deter us from our mission. Our desire and hope are to further strengthen our resolve and commitment as intellectuals, educators, and academics. We firmly believe that the many projects we have undertaken jointly can serve as a catalyst to prevent mass atrocities, forge a path toward peace, and put an end to the dark scenarios we face.
Sustained commitment and a renewed struggle for peace and social justice offer the only path to overcome the distress, violence, and attacks we are currently enduring. In conclusion, we maintain that no force is mightier than the power of unity among diverse societies striving for democratic values. When hearts, minds, and the strength of communities come together, they can indeed manifest the world they envision. Time is of the essence, and if we do not act today, it may be too late. With the hope of a peaceful, free, and equitable world for all!
The Coordination Center of the Universities of North and East Syria
(University of Rojava, University of Kobani, University of Al-Sharq)
The Institute of Social Sciences at the University of Rojava in collaboration with the University of Bremen and the Center for Solidarity with Alternative Universities (CSUA) organizes a summer school program on education for peace with justice: learning from communities of resistance. It will take place in June 2022 and have two forms of sessions: (a) closed seminars between MA students at the University of Rojava and the University of Bremen and (b) public seminars and workshops with speakers from diverse background of scholarship and activism on decolonization in Kurdistan and around the world. The public program of the summer school is sponsored and supported by the Peace with Justice Network.
The summer school program brings together scholars of education as well as organizers and activists in the areas of grassroots educational and learning initiatives from communities around the world. Many of these communities have historically been subjected to different forms of marginalization and exclusion; their rights for a free and democratic education in their own language have been denied; their language and cultural practices have been suppressed; they have been assimilated; and their life has been shaped in constant struggle for basic rights and for peace with justice. This program will provide an opportunity to learn from communities of resistance on how – against many forms of violence, suppression and injustice – these communities fight back and establish their own educational systems and initiatives. We will also hear from scholars of linguistics and higher education as well as academic members of the Peace with Justice Network on how academia and grassroots initiatives can fight back the dominant global landscape of education that favours those controlling power and capital.
There will be simultaneous English-Kurdish interpretation for the public seminars.
All seminars take place online via Zoom.
More details can be found here: csua-paris.org
Seminar – Education for Peace with Justice: Building Networks of Solidarity
Tejendra Pherali, University College London
Elaine Chase, University College London
Laila Kadiwal, University College London
Sardar Saadi, University of Rojava
How can we build networks of solidarity for educators and organizers around the world? What could be the objectives and projects of such networks, and how can we form stronger relationships among different grassroots educational initiatives? In this seminar, leading members of the Peace with Justice Network will talk about the network, its aims and activities, and the projects that members of the network are involved in.
Tuesday, June 13, 2023
17:00 Rojava Time (16:00 CET, 10:00 EST, 19:30 New Delhi)
Roundtable – Building Communities of Resistance through Grassroots Education
Arif Sahar, University of Sheffield Hallam – Hazara Community (Afghanistan)
Tula Narayan Shah, Nepal Madhesh foundation (Nepal)
Berenice Celeita, NOMADESC - The Intercultural University of the Peoples (Columbia)
Jacinta Kerketta, Organizer with Adivasis community (India)
Hayso Thako, Karen Education and Culture Department (Myanmar)
Representatives from Universities of North and East Syria
Birgul Kutan, University of Sussex
This roundtable will bring together scholars and organizers from communities of resistance around the globe to talk about the role of education and learning in daily struggle against suppression and injustice. Speakers on this roundtable represent grassroots educational initiatives in geographies where violence has destroyed many lives. Despite all odds, they insist on building capacities of resilience among their people through education. They will share their experiences and challenges they face in their projects and the ways in which they navigate through them.
Thursday, June 15, 2023
17:00 Rojava Time (16:00 CET, 10:00 EST, 19:30 New Delhi)
Panel – Language and Decolonial Pedagogy
Jaffer Sheyholislami, Carleton University
Amir Kalan, McGill University
Shahrzad Mojab, University of Toronto
Multilingual Education as a Catalyst for Decolonizing Education
In this talk, I am exploring the potential of multilingual education in challenging and dismantling legacies of colonization including linguistic and cultural domination, that are mainly perpetuated through the education system. The paper suggests that one of the most effective ways of fostering a decolonized approach to education is to appreciate linguistic diversity and incorporate minoritized languages into the curricula of schools. Examples will be drawn from two opposing contexts: (1) regions that have embraced linguistic diversity including Rojava and Bashur; (2) countries that continue to deprive tens of millions of linguistic human rights and mother-tongue based multilingual education (MTBME) including Iran and Turkey. I will argue that a MTBME system can challenge some of the legacies of colonization by empowering students to project their voices and ideas, assisting linguistic communities to preserve and develop their languages, nurturing cultural heritage, and cultivating a more inclusive and equitable society.
European Nation-Statism and Language Education: Evidence from Newly Emerged Nations in the Middle East and Central Asia
In this talk, I draw on the experiences of newly emerged nation states in the Middle East and Central Asia to show that investment in the European nation-state model will not automatically lead to the creation of an anti-discriminatory educational system that is committed to protecting linguistic diversity, although in smaller and more ethnically homogeneous states. The creation of an inclusive language education takes the extra component of engaging in anti-discriminatory governance. Newly emerged states can oppress Indigenous minority languages and fall short of satisfactorily addressing the language issues of immigrants because of their narrow definitions of nationhood and national identity. These states can also undermine the very ethnic language that they claim to promote. This happens by devaluating “non-standard” varieties of the ethnic language and elevating the status of English over local languages as the language of science and learning.
Tuesday, June 20, 2023
17:00 Rojava Time (16:00 CET, 10:00 EST, 19:30 New Delhi)
Navenda Piştgirî û Alîkarî bi Zanîngehên Bakur û Rojhilatê Sûriyê re (CSCUNES) piştî yekemîn Civîna Giştî ya Salane (KGM) di 28ê Cotmeha 2022an de sernavek nû qebûl kir; "Navenda Piştevaniyê bi Zanîngehên Alternatîf re (CSUA)". Her çend ev guhertin bi zehmetiyên îdarî yên ku em di sala borî de rastî wan dihatin jî têkildar bû, me xwest ku navekî ku di warê çalakiyên piştgirîya perwerdehiyê de ku em dikin bêyî ku behsa cîhek taybetî bikin, hilbijêrin. Di vê civînê de hin guhertin di qanûnê (tuzukê) de pêk anî, dest bi hilbijartina buroya nû ya navendê ku ji heft kesan pêk tê kir û projeyên ku dê di demek nêzîk de li ser malperê werin pêşkêşkirin eşkere kirin. Di danûstandinên pêşerojê de, ji kerema xwe email@example.com li şûna navnîşana kevn a ku sernavê berê yê komeleyê tîne bîra xwe bikar bînin.
Suite à la première Assemblée Générale Annuelle (AGA) le 28 octobre 2022, le Centre de Solidarité et de Coopération avec les Universités du Nord et de l'Est de la Syrie (CSCUNES) a adopté un nouveau titre ; « Centre de Solidarité avec les Universités Alternatives (CSUA) ». Bien que le changement ait été également lié aux difficultés administratives que nous rencontrions au courant de l’année dernière, nous voulions choisir un nom inclusif en termes d'activités de soutien éducatif que nous entreprenons sans mentionner un lieu particulier. Cette assemblée a apporté quelques modifications au statut, procédé à l'élection du nouveau bureau du centre composé de sept membres et a dévoilé les projets qui seront très prochainement présentés sur le site. Dans les communications futures, veuillez utiliser firstname.lastname@example.org au lieu de l'ancienne adresse e-mail qui rappelle le titre précèdent de l’association.
Following the first Annual General Meeting (AGM) on October 28, 2022, the Center for Solidarity and Cooperation with Universities of North and East Syria (CSCUNES) adopted its new name; "Center for Solidarity with Alternative Universities (CSUA)". Although the change was also related to the administrative difficulties we were facing during the last year, we wanted to choose an inclusive name in terms of the educational support activities we undertake without mentioning a particular location. The meeting also made a few changes to the bylaws, elected the new executive board composed of seven members, and unveiled the projects that will be presented on the website in the near future. In future communications, please use email@example.com instead of the old e-mail address which recalls the previous title of the association.
Navenda Piştevaniyê bi Zanîngehên Alternatîf re (CSUA) sazîyekî fermî ya zagona sazîyan a 1901 e ku di sala 2021 li bajara Paris, France, hatîye damezrandin. Nawend piştgirîya zanîngehên Rojava û yên herêma Bakûr û Rojhelatê Sûrîyê (Zanîngeha Rojava, Zanîngeha Kobanê û Zanîngeha El-Şerq) wekî armanc dibîne, da ku bernameyên perwerdehî û lêkolînê bipêşve bibe.
Centre de Solidarité avec les Universités Alternatives (CSUA) est une association loi 1901 créée en 2021 (Paris, France) qui vise à soutenir les universités du Rojava et de la région nord et est de la Syrie (Université du Rojava, Université de Kobani et Université d'Al-Sharq), afin qu’elles puissent développer leurs programmes d'enseignement et de recherche.
Center for Solidarity with Alternative Universities (CSUA) is an association law 1901 established in 2021 in Paris, France. It aims to support universities of Rojava and the north and east region of Syria (University of Rojava, University of Kobani, and University of Al-Sharq) for their advancement of educational and research programs.