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Catalyzing worker co-ops & the solidarity economy

Cooperatives in North and East Syria

Cooperatives in NES vary in terms of size and field of activity, but also by type. Some are worker cooperatives, which produce a good or provide a service and gain a profit to be distributed among members. Others are service cooperatives, which are a special type of consumption cooperative: financial capital is gathered by members in order to set up a service for the community, which is directly provided without being commercialized. This is most commonly done in order to purchase a diesel-powered electricity generator for a neighborhood or village, which can provide electricity when the general electricity is out.

Due to the decentralized political system of the AANES, conducting a comprehensive assessment of the existing cooperatives in NES is challenging. No central body collects information on all the types of cooperative across all of NES. Cooperatives are developed on the most local level, the communes, with the support of different bodies: the Cooperatives Bureau of each canton or region, the economy committees of local Women’s Councils, and Aboriya Jin. Furthermore, military incursions and attacks by the Turkish state keep overrunning a system that is still in its very infancy. The territory between Sere Kaniye and Tal Abyad was some of NES’ richest arable land, and also housed the region’s highest concentration of agricultural cooperatives. Over 12,000 hectares were in use by agricultural cooperatives, with other cooperatives developing related to their activities. Most of these cooperatives have been destroyed, abandoned or looted after the invasion and occupation in October 2019 (described in more detail below).

Nonetheless, by looking on the regional level and at the work of the women’s economy bodies, we can get a picture of the extent of the cooperative economy in NES. The Jazira region – one of the seven official regions of NES – is home to the greatest number and variety of cooperatives in AANES in 2020. This is due to the fact that the AANES system has been established in Jazira for longer than in other regions of NES, and that large swathes of Jazira are arable land.

Cooperative Bureaus in Jazira support around 40 worker’s cooperatives across both of the region’s cantons, Qamishlo and Heseke. One cooperative typically incorporates between 5 and 10 families. 23 are located in Qamishlo Canton, out of which 13 are agricultural cooperatives, cultivating 874 hectares of land. The other cooperatives primarily work in manufacturing and produce clothes or offer sewing services. The situation varies strongly from region to region: the Euphrates region, for example, has far less cooperatives than Jaziria.

Read the rest at Rojava Information Center



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