Democratic Confederalism in Rojava

North-East Syria Autonomous Administration (Syria)


The  Democratic Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (DAANES), was established in 2012, after the outbreak of the war, and is a self-governing system called Democratic Confederalism, regulating various aspects of society and life. The territory has a Kurdish majority, with the presence of many minorities, languages, religions and cultures, such as Arabs, Syriac Assyrians, Turkmen, Armenians, Circassians, Chechens, Muslims, Christians and Yazidis. This system of self-government aims to make all members of the community politically active at the grassroots level and give them more power. In fact, power to democratic institutions comes from the assembliesAn assembly is a formal or informal group of people of various dimensions, who meet regularly for a particular common purpose, and has the power to establish guidelines, recommendations or even rules. formed by all people, who confederate in a democratic state. 

Previously, the same model was established to some extent also in the areas of Turkey with a Kurdish majority, but conflict with the Government did not allow its development.

The Rojava Democratic Confederalism, is the result of Kurdish resistance to the war in Syria, where heroic resistance was carried out by men and women against ISIS. Therefore, the proclamation of self-rule in North Kurdistan must also be understood as a struggle for freedom and democracy. Such a “formula” of self-government is explicitly based on the ideas of Kurdistan Workers’ Party PKK founder Abdullah Öcalan, who has been detained since 1999. The democratic confederalism is embedded in the Democratic NationA democratic nation is not rigidly bound by political boundaries in one language, one culture, one religion, and one unambiguous interpretation of history, therefore it aims at the plurality and community, as well as the coexistence of free, equal, and supportive citizens., according to the concepts of direct democracy, social ecology and women’s liberation, as women are considered by the Kurdish movement as the first oppressed class.

Self-administration aims to be a democratic conception of politics, which combats approaches that make society passive by engaging every cell of society. Such a model in Rojava was possible to implement after the outbreak of the war in Syria. A bottom-up democracy is based on the life of a political society and the participation of the people in all discussions and decision-making processes. For this reason, leadership is determined by election and not appointment. 

Furthermore, effective decision-making mechanisms include councils and spaces of discussion: from the general coordinating body, such as council, committee, congress, to local committees, each unit or group has democratic control and self-government over a solution of social tasks corresponding to its cultural context.

The main condition of bottom-up democracy is that it internalizes direct democracy and is based on an organized society. No group or social class can make decisions alone on behalf of others. It is emphasized that everyone should have the right to make and carry out decisions for themselves on their own behalf.


The democratic confederalism does not have additional costs to the ones foreseen for the administration of the territory under a different system. 

Anyone born or living in Rojava has automatically the right to join the democratic confederalism processes. Councils and municipalities form the basis for democratic confederalism. Their structure depends on an organized society, therefore this is a system ranging from village and city councils to district and regional councils. It is a system that starts locally from below, and where the institution in which municipal values are put into practice, is primarily the council. The conception of democratic confederalism consciousness is trained in municipalities, put into practice in everyday life and becomes a system through councils.

When democratic values in a society become concrete, it means there is community life and councils have similar organizational structures. One of the relevant features of bottom-up democracy is that it creates a sense of responsibility for all individuals in a society, toward themselves and the environment. 

To make it possible for every individual to participate in the decision-making mechanisms in these councils, these councils have procedures appropriate to their environment as not everything can be arranged according to the generalized public. Then the coordination among the councils is important, not to decide for one another but to cooperate. The main decision-making powers lie with village, neighborhood, local, district and regional councils, where the basis of local democracy is provided. This ensures that the needs of society are met more quickly and that general problems are solved in a more direct and realistic way, hence in this bottom-up democracy, problems are solved locally and society is freed from unnecessary expenditures of time and money.

The democratic confederalism is a direct democracy system built by basic cells, called KomînaKomîna is the basic cell of the assembly system adopted in the democratic confederalism system in Rojava, where all members have the same decision making power, and can decide and manage issues concerning the community of 150 people., which are neighborhood committees of up to 150 people divided into committees that regulate the more practical matters of life (e.g., running an electricity generator in the neighborhood, or distributing whatever is needed such as food, fuel, etc.). 

There are then three structures, which are assemblies: the Northeast Syria Autonomous Administration, the Syrian Democratic Council, and the TEV-DEM (Democratic Society Movement). 

Every inhabitant of a Komîna is automatically part of the Autonomous Administration. One participates in one’s Komîna assembly, which interfaces with a larger, town assembly, which in turn interfaces with another larger, cantonal or regional assembly, which interfaces with the general assembly. Anyone, who participated in a Komîna, can participate in any of the assemblies, yet usually delegates are sent to report back from the higher assemblies back to the local Komîna. The delegates do not have decision-making power, but it is usually a matter of reporting issues. Also, this whole system is on a voluntary basis and no one is forced to participate in any of it. 

Anyone taking part in a political party or organization can automatically take part in their own assemblies, which then all interface with the Syrian Democratic Council. The difference between the two is that the Democratic Council is the assembly where foreign policy decisions are made. Anyone can take part in these assemblies, just by taking part in the many existing political organizations. It is interesting to note that so many political organizations are not revolutionary, or tied to one party, there are also many religious organizations or conservative non-religious parties that in this system are able to dialogue because there is no power to take and it makes political dialogue easier. 

The third major assembly, the TEV-DEM, is the most powerful one because it is the assembly that everyone participates in according to their expertise. If you are a teacher you participate as a teacher, like a teachers’ union, but if you are also an archaeologist you have the right to sit in these assemblies related to your skills or passions. Above all, this is the only assembly for which the other two do not have, in a sense the right of veto: a decision made by the Syrian Democratic Council must necessarily also go through the TEV-DEM, a decision made by the Autonomous Administration also must go through the TEV-DEM. Yet a decision made by the TEV-DEM does not have to go through anyone else because that is the assembly in which one participates with one’s experiences and aspirations.

This practice is interesting because it is the realization of a bottom-up participation in an official way. 

In the implementation, one key element is the co-presidencyCo-Presidency entails the shared leadership of a male and female person, aiming at the mobilization and active involvement of women in all spaces of life and the political sphere in an equal and representative way, overcoming the patriarchal model of society, politics and labor.
Article 24 of the Social Contract in the Democratic Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria says:
“The Democratic Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria adopts the system of co-chair-ship in all political, social, administrative and other fields and considers it a principle of equal representation between the sexes, which contributes to the organization and consecration of the democratic confederal system for women as their own entity.”
: all offices, from the comuna to the executive bodies, always have two leadership figures, a man and a woman, because there must always be another point of view. 

A second key element is the social contractA Social Contract is an implicit agreement among the members of a society to cooperate for social benefits, for example by giving up some individual freedom for state protection.
In the context of the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria, the Constitution is officially titled Charter of the Social Contract, being the provisional constitution of the self-proclaimed autonomous region. The Social Contract was adopted in 2014, when the political wing of the People’s Protection Units (YPG) declared the three regions it controlled autonomous from the Syrian government and remaining an integral part of Syria. The Social Contract was renewed in 2023.
, which is a basic set of rules that must be followed by all assemblies when they make decisions. In order to develop such a contract. The new social contract came into force on 12 December 2023, the general elections of all councils and committees under the new contract will take place on 11 June 2024

Another important element is the election of executive offices, with the old presidents giving a report of their term and a discussion of the participants on their term. After that there is an election, but not with candidates but rather with a self-proclamation by knowledge among the participants. The whole paradigm is based on the fact that to make the system work people must have personal relationships amongst one another. 

A key element is the co-presidency, as the autonomous women’s organization organizes and extends the struggle and develops a common mentality of women’s liberation.

The social contract is essential to ensure the fruitful and collective agreement on the democratic confederalism. 

In order to make the process practical at the implementation phase, so as to offer representation to all who live in the local area, all activities must be carried out by adopting multilingualism.

The geopolitical conditions have a strong effect on the implementation of the democratic confederalism, as the Rojava struggle was internationally supported, to some extent, to counteract ISIS, the fellow Kurdish struggle in Turkey has been oppressed, despite the democratic electoral results in the Country.

The Rojava model does not think it has discovered deliberative democracy, but based on the interpretation that was made by the political leader Ocalan and by the way in which it was implemented by the population, the model is unique to the needs, the culture and the history of this territory. Whilst the entire democratic confederalism model might be not easily transferred to other contexts as a whole exactly in the same way, some specific elements could be and the entire process can inspire others to embarque in this process.

The assemblies that confederate with each other at the local, regional and national levels are the basis of the plan that the people of Rojava set up for the establishment of a federal democratic system. This system is different to the one of the Nation-State, as it is evidently in disagreement with the idea of a centralized Nation-State, which is based on the recognition of one official language, culture and religion, instead of the celebration of pluralism and uniqueness of the various languages, cultures and religions of all people historically present in Syria.

Based on interviews conducted with Dr. Abdulkerim Omar, Mr. Eyyup Doru, DAANES in Europe, Yilmaz Orkan and Tiziano Saccucci (, UIKI Onlus.

Here is the link to the Rojava Information Center:

Here is an article on the Rojava Autonomous Administration:

Here is an article on Abdullah Öcalan:

Here is the link to the website of the Kurdish Women’s Freedom Movement: