Dr. Jeff Miley interviews Ercan Ayboga about the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic in North Kurdistan and the rest of Turkey, and about the response of the Kurdish freedom movement.


Ercan Ayboga has worked in the town administration of Diyarbakir (Amed) and was co-coordinator of International Relations and heritage sites, including the urban Tigris River project. At the same time is active in the Mesopotamian Ecology Movement, based in Turkish-Kurdistan. He is a co-author of Revolution in Rojava: Democratic Autonomy and Women’s Liberation in the Syrian Kurdistan (Pluto Press, 2016) which has been published also into German, Russian, Italian, Spanish and Greek.

Jeff Miley is a Lecturer of Political Sociology at the University of Cambridge, and a member of the Board of the EU Turkey Civic Commission (EUTCC) and a Patron of Peace in Kurdistan. He is co-editor, with Federico Venturini, of Your Freedom and Mine: Abdullah Ocalan and the Kurdish Question in Erdogan’s Turkey (Montreal: Black Rose Books, 2018).


This interview is part of a series of conversations on People-Centred Responses to the COVID-19 Pandemic.

The COVID-19 pandemic simultaneously reveals and exacerbates the systemic contradictions, indeed, the catastrophic failures, of global capitalism.  It has served to expose the manifold injustices and collective irrationalities embedded in dominant patterns of social-property relations.

Humanity finds itself at a crossroads.  The very future of life on the planet is at stake.  An unholy trinity of plutocratic plunder, never-ending wars and ecological disaster had already come to coalesce as co-constitutive features of what can be called the Political Economy of Armageddon.  We must now add the ravages of rampant disease into the lethal mix.

Hell-bent on destruction, our sociopathic rulers are.  Never willing to let a good crisis go to waste.  And so they connive, they conspire to consummate yet another ratcheting up of the ruthless and reckless rhythm to which we are all forced to dance.  They quicken the pace at which we march towards the abyss.

But try as they may, they cannot abolish the dialectic.  They cannot extinguish the flame of resistance.  Where they inflict the most intense suffering, there they conjure a most powerful response.  For they cannot help but bring into being a universal class, bearers of the flame, born to struggle, and whose struggle inherits the legacy of so many long suppressed but never fully forgotten struggles, of so many struggles against exploitation, oppression and domination, of so many struggles for human emancipation.

As the imprisoned leader of the Kurdish freedom movement, Abdullah Öcalan, has rather elegantly put the point: “Despite all the oppression and exploitation at the hands of the official world-system, the other face of society could not be destroyed.  In fact, it is impossible to destroy it” (Sociology of Freedom, p.143).

Across the generations, these struggles for freedom have never ceased.  And in this, per chance the last generation, the dehumanizing, oppressive apparatus must at last be burst asunder, or else we are doomed.

In this series of interviews, we seek to amplify the voices of people engaged in freedom struggles around the world.  We ask them about the situation on the ground where they are at, in an attempt to find out how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting peoples’ livelihoods and social relations around them, how it has reinforced tyrannical tendencies of both the state and the market, and how it has triggered the emergence of long-simmering fissures as well as new opportunities.  In the process, we hope to bring attention to the valiant efforts of community-based organizations and social movements in mobilising grass roots initiatives in response to the pandemic, and to learn about the prospects and challenges such initiatives are facing.

By so doing, we aim to help raise internationalist consciousness, to help people understand the similarities as well as particularities among grass roots struggles at different locations across our interdependent globe.  Simultaneously, we hope to help forge connections and foster dialogue among people engaged in these struggles, and thereby to contribute to the construction of a network in pursuit of a liveable alternative to the genocidal and ecocidal nation-statist and capitalist world system, a network in pursuit of democratic confederal principles and praxis.  In a word, to see the links, to forge the links, to help build democratic confederalism from below, that is our purpose.

“The right of self-determination of the peoples includes the right to a state of their own.

However, the foundation of a state does not increase the freedom of a people….

Meanwhile, nation-states have become serious obstacles for any social development.

… democracy cannot be imposed by the capitalist system and its imperial powers which only damage democracy. The propagation of grass-roots democracy is elementary.” Abdullah Ocalan