Originally published: https://pmpress.org/index.php?l=product_detail&p=1269
By Janet Biehl, published by PM Press
In the summer of 2012 the Kurdish people of northern Syria set out to create a multiethnic society in the Middle East. Persecuted for much of the 20th century, they dared to try to overcome social fragmentation by affirming social solidarity among all the region’s ethnic and religious peoples. As Syria plunged into civil war, the Kurds and their Arab and Assyrian allies established a self-governing polity that was not only multiethnic but democratic. And women were not only permitted but encouraged to participate in all social roles alongside men, including political and military roles.
To implement these goals, Rojava wanted to live in peace with its neighbors. Instead, it soon faced invasion by ISIS, a force that was in every way its opposite. ISIS attacked its neighbors in Iraq and Syria, imposing theocratic, tyrannical, femicidal rule on them. Those who might have resisted fled in terror. But when ISIS attacked the mostly Kurdish city of Kobane and overran much of it, the YPG and YPJ, or people’s militias, declined to flee. Instead they resisted, and several countries, seeing their valiant resistance, formed an international coalition to assist them militarily. While the YPG and YPJ fought on the ground, the coalition coordinated airstrikes with them. They liberated village after village and in March 2019 captured ISIS’s last territory in Syria.
Around that time, two UK-based filmmakers invited the author to spend a month in Rojava making a film. She accepted, and arrived to explore the society and interview people. During that month, she explored how the revolution had progressed and especially the effects of the war on the society. She found that the war had reinforced social solidarity and welded together the multiethnic, gender-liberated society. As one man in Kobane told her, “Our blood got mixed.”
“You haven’t been to Rojava yet? Let Janet Biehl’s graphic novel help you take your first step to the land of revolutionary hope, to North-East Syria, by providing a fascinating glimpse and thrilling insight into the most significant revolution of the 21st century. History is usually written by powerful elites and rulers, but Janet Biehl invites us to a new viewpoint. Their Blood Got Mixed is a creative contribution to a historiography from the perspective of those who actually made it.”
—Havin Guneser, she is one of the spokespersons of the International Initiative “Freedom for Abdullah Öcalan—Peace in Kurdistan” and author of The Art of Freedom
“In this graphic novel, Janet Biehl brings to life the revolutionary experience in the North-East of Syria, also known as Rojava. Biehl deftly combines a deep understanding of the democratic-confederal principles underpinning the revolution with an artistic eye capable of capturing the humanity of ordinary people, in an extraordinary situation, making history. This book is a most impressive achievement. It communicates a complex and dramatic story about the history and workings of the radical-democratic experiment in Rojava in a clear and compelling fashion. Its combination of historical narrative with political theory and graphic art will make it appealing to a very broad audience, not only of academics and political activists, but to the public more generally.”
—Dr. Thomas Jeffrey Miley, lecturer in political sociology at Cambridge University and co-editor of Your Freedom and Mine: Abdullah Öcalan and the Kurdish Question in Erdogan’s Turkey