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A journalist on a story of hope in northern Syria

January 25, 2016

“Believe it or not there is some good news out of Syria,” said Associate Professor and Chair of the Jackson School’s Latin and Carribbean Studies Center Tony Lucero in introducing guest speaker and journalist Wes Enzinna to a crowd of students, faculty and the public gathered in Room 101 at the Jackson School on Friday evening, Jan. 22.

“It has to do with a story about environmentalism, feminism and the movement of a people,” Lucero added before handing the microphone to Enzinna.

Enzinna, a writer whose cover story about a Kurdish-enclave in northern Syria was published in the November 2015 issue of The New York Times Magazine, spoke to the group about “The Rojava Experiment: A Secular Utopia in ISIS’ Backyard?”

During the event he recounted his travels in July 2015 to an area in northern Syria called Rojava, known as Kurdish Syria, and explained the influence of Kurdish nationalism in Turkey and Iraq, both of which border Rojava.

In describing how the people of Rojava have established a system of democracy and fended for themselves against the Syrian government army and ISIS despite the odds, Enzinna traced the history of the Kurdish “democratic confederalism” movement in the region. He highlighted the philosophies and exchanges between imprisoned Kurdish leader Abdullah Öcalan in Turkey and Murray Bookchin, an author and political theorist who resided in Vermont, and how these sparked the people of Rojava to lay the groundwork for democracy and women’s empowerment.

Rojava is one of the enclaves in Syria where the U.S. has been sending support in the fight against ISIS, he noted.

Enzinna ended by expressing his hope for some resolution for Syria and its Kurdish population at upcoming negotiation talks brokered by the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, currently scheduled for the week of Jan. 25. During the meeting, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will meet with other factions in Syria, including full representation from Rojava. These negotiations are part of an international bid to end the five-year conflict that has killed an estimated 250,000 people.

Enzinna’s reporting appears in The New York Times, Harper’s n+ 1, and the London Review of Books. He’s also deputy editor of Vice Media, where he produces documentary films for Vice and Vice News.

This event was sponsored by the Latin American and Caribbean Studies Program, the Jackson School of International Studies and the Center for Global Studies and Middle East Center, Department of Communications, International Policy Institute, and Comparative History of Ideas.

Sponsorship of this event does not imply that the Centers and/or Programs endorse the content of the event.