Rojava Solidarity Seattle

Glossary

Below you will find a glossary of terms, names, and most importantly the endless amount of acronyms that one comes across when learning about the revolution in Rojava. Much of this has been taken from the lexicon in A Small Key Can Open A Large Door, which can be purchased here: http://www.combustionbooks.org/products-page/non-fiction/a-small-key-can-open-a-large-door-the-rojava-revolution/.

We are always looking to expand on this resource page so if you have any submissions or corrections (after all, the region is highly dynamic and the situation changes on a near daily basis!) please send them to Contact Us

  • Abdullah Öcalan (AKA Apo): 67-year-old Kurdish founder and president of the PKK. He has been imprisoned by the Turkish government since 1999. He is the current president of the PKK and is its main ideological architect.
  • AKP: Acronym for Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi, the Justice and Development Party, Turkey’s ruling political party. AKP is a socially conservative political party and uses draconian measures like censorship, arrests, and overwhelming force against demonstrations of dissent in Turkey.
  • Al-Anfal Campaign: Genocide committed against the Kurds and other minorities in Iraq between 1986 and 1989 by Iraqi forces loyal to the Ba’athist Party under Saddam Hussein.
  • al-Nusra Front: This relatively large and organized Syrian militia is a branch of Al Qaeda, started in the summer of 2012.
  • Alawite: Shia religious minority found in Lebanon, Turkey, and most prevalently in Syria. Bashar Al-Assad derives much of his support from this ethno-religious group.
  • Asayish: The Kurdish word for “Security” and the name of the Kurdish community protection forces within the Rojava cantons, also the main police force within the KRG.
  • Ba’athist Party: Pan-Arab Nationalist movement that later went on to hold power in both Iraq and Syria under different factions. Secular and nominally leftist, but in reality very dictatorial and militaristic, the Ba’athist Party is perhaps most famous for becoming the political party of Saddam Hussein.
  • BDP: Turkish acronym for Barış ve Demokrasi Partisi, the Peace and Democracy Party. BDP is a Turkish political party founded after the Democratic Society Party (DTP) was banned by Turkish courts in 2008 for being a front for the PKK. The BDP is the current political party most sympathetic to Kurdish rights and the PKK in Turkey. There is a currently an investigation by Turkish authorities into this political party.
  • FSA: Acronym for the Free Syrian Army, which was originally called the Free Officers Movement (FOM). It was started in 2011 by defecting Syrian military officers who refused to attack protestors and “declared war” on any armed force that did. The FSA leadership is made up of mainly Sunni ex-military officers. It welcomes defections from all parts of the Syrian Government’s security forces (police and military) and has sought to coordinate the various militia groups in Syria. It currently is estimated to have a force of about 40,000. It supports and is supported by both the SNC and National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces (NCSROF).
  • HDP: Turkish acronym for Halkların Demokratik Partisi, the Democratic Party of the Peoples. Founded in 2012, they are a left-wing party largely populated by Kurds as well as Muslims and a host of other minorities. They are viewed by the AKP as a threat to their dominance and faced brutal electoral repression and physical attacks leading up to the November 2015 election.
  • HPG: Kurdish acronym for Hêzên Parastina Gel, the People’s Defense Force. The HPG is technically the official name of the PKK’s armed wing but it is often used interchangeably with PKK. In 1992 it was changed to Kurdistan National Liberty Army (ARGK) but most still refer to it by its old name HPG or just PKK.
  • HRK: Kurdish acronym for Hêzên Rojhilata Kurdistan, the East Kurdistan Defense Forces. HRK is the armed wing of the PJAK in Iran. The HRK have carried out ambushes, industrial sabotage, and robberies aimed against the Iranian state since 2005. A few thousand people on both sides of the conflict have died as the result of the fighting.
  • ISIS (Daesh): The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, also known as The Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham, The Islamic State of Iraq and The Levant, and more recently The Islamic State (IS). ISIS is hardline conservative Sunni jihadist group formed as a radical offshoot of Al-Qaeda It is incredibly violent, practicing crucifixion and sex slavery. ISIS controls a large swath of territory in Syria and Iraq and declared itself a caliphate with its capital in Ar-Raqqah, Syria.
  • KADEK: Kurdish acronym for Kurdistan Freedom and Democracy Congress, the name the PKK adopted for itself for a while in 2002. One of the many names that the PKK has gone by.
  • KCK: Kurdish acronym for Koma Civakên Kurdistan, the Group of Communities in Kurdistan. An umbrella organization, started by the PKK in 2007 to replace the KKK (Koma Komalên Kurdistan) to put in practice the ideas of Democratic Confederalism. It is an international group and covers Kurdish groups in Turkey, Syria, Iran, Iraq, and ex-USSR regions. Most of the KCK’s activities have been in southern Turkey.
  • KDP: Acronym for the Kurdish Democratic Party. The KDP is one of the main political parties in Iraqi Kurdistan and is opposed by the PUK. The KDP was founded in 1946 during the collapse of the Kurdish Republic of Mahabad in Iran. The KDP started as and for many decades was a broad coalition of communist and socialist groups. During the First Persian War (the Iran/Iraq war) it repositioned itself as more of a nationalist and populist coalition with some social-democratic groups included.
  • KNC: Acronym for the Kurdish National Congress in Syria. The KNC is a political coalition that came about as a result of the Syrian civil war. The KRG sponsored the first meetings of the KNC in 2011 to address the Syrian crisis and what it meant to Kurds. Since 2011, the KNC has grown to include fifteen Kurdish political parties in Syria including the PYD. The KNC differs from the Syrian National Congress (SNC) because the KNC demands decentralization (as oppose to federalist aims) and autonomy from any Syrian government.
  • Kongra-Gel: The name of the general Assembly of the KCK (and prior to that, the KKK). The Kongra-Gel has five subdivisions: political ideology, social services, political/international, military, and women’s divisions.
  • KRG: Kurdish acronym for the Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq. The KRG has a unicameral parliament known as the IKP (Iraqi Kurdistan Parliament). The KRG has both a president and prime minister that share executive and legislative powers. The President of the KRG is the commander-in-chief of the peshmerga forces. The city of Erbil (known in Kurdish as Hewler) is the capital of the KRG. The KRG governs about 8.5 million people spread over 15,000 square miles in northern Iraq. While the KRG was initially created after years of bloody fighting by a treaty signed by the Iraqi government in 1970, this treaty wasn’t fully implemented until after the first Gulf War in 1992. The KRG was written into the new Iraqi constitution in 2005. There are still boundary disputes between the Iraqi government and the KRG, particularly as the KRG has annexed lucrative oil-fields south and east of Erbil.
  • Kurdistan: An Ill-defined region straddling Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Iran composed of mostly Kurdish communities. Kurdistan is not internationally recognized. North Kurdistan is in Turkey, East Kurdistan is in Iraq and Iran, and West Kurdistan is in Syria.
  • KWU: The acronym for the Kurdish Women’s Union. The KWU is part of the KDP and was founded in 1952. It has a strong impact on the KDP, especially around social services and economics.
  • Mahabad Republic: The Mahabad Republic (aka Republic of Kurdistan) was a short-lived independent Kurdish state situated in northern Iran from 1946-7. It was backed by the Soviet Union and was eventually crushed by the Iranian government when the USSR withdraw support.
  • MIT: Turkish acronym for Milli İstihbarat Teşkilatı, the National Intelligence Organization. MIT was founded in 1965. This is the governmental organization most responsible for coordinating the repression of the Kurds in Turkey today. In US terms, it is the equivalent of a combination of the FBI and CIA. The PKK and other Kurdish organizations supporting Kurdish rights and self-determination are tracked, suppressed, arrested, and killed by the MIT.
  • MSD: Political wing of the QSD formed at the end of 2015. The MSD is comprised of representatives from a wide range of parties, organizations, and movements throughout the QSD’s area of operation.
  • NCSROF: The acronym for the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces. The NCSROF started in 2012 to bring rebel armed groups into a coalition alongside strictly political opposition parties/organizations. The SNC is the largest partner in the coalition, controlling 22 of the 63 members of coalition. Their goal is to create an interim government, a truth and reconciliation committee to look into war crimes, and to be the “voice of opposition to the Assad regime” to the rest of the world. They also helped unify and amplify the Free Syrian Army (FSA).
  • Newroz: New Year’s Day, the most important holiday of the Kurds. This mid-March festival is often used as a political demonstration against Kurdish repression.
  • Ottoman Empire: A massive empire that lasted for over six centuries and included the traditional homeland of the Kurds. The empire was dismembered after losing in World War I and a number of states were born out of the defeated empire, including Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey.
  • Persian: Persian is a word for both a people and a language. Persians are non-arabic people (whom the Kurds are related to) mostly found in present-day Iran. Persian subgroups and languages can be found in such countries as: Iran, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Turkey, Oman, Kuwait, Azerbaijan, and Uzbekistan.
  • Peshmerga: A Kurdish word that translates roughly as “those who confront death.” Peshmerga has been the name of the Kurdish movements’ fighting forces since 1921. Today, peshmerga is the official name of the KRG’s armed forces. There are currently over a 100,000 men and women in the peshmerga armed forces in Iraq (of which, about 35,000 work inside the Iraqi National Armed Forces).
  • PJAK: Kurdish acronym for the Partiya Jiyana Azad a Kurdistanê, the Free Life Party of Kurdistan. PJAK is a large Kurdish militant and political organization in Iran that was founded in 2004. It is strongly aligned with the PKK. There is strong coordination and sharing of resources between the PKK and PJAK. PJAK is a member of the KCK.
  • PKK: Kurdish acronym for Partiya Karkerên Kurdistani, the Kurdistan Workers party, the Kurdish militant international organization.
  • PUK: Acronym for the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. PUK is one of the main political parties in Iraqi Kurdistan and was founded in 1975. The KRG’s current president, Fuad Massum, is a member of the PUK. PUK is a moderate socialist political coalition made up of five smaller leftist organizations.
  • PYD: Kurdish acronym for Partiya Yekîtiya Demokrat, the Democratic Union Party. PYD is a Syrian political party that started in 2003, is affiliated with the PKK, and is a member of the KCK.
  • QSD (SDF): Arabic acronym for Quwwāt Sūriyā al-Dīmuqrāṭīya, the Syrian Democratic Forces. This coalition consisting of the YPG/J, al-Sanadid Forces, Syriac Military Council, Jaysh al-Thuwar, and other groups was formed in late 2015 and continues to grow as they make gains against Daesh. Currently they are supported by both the United States-led coalition and the Russians (more so to agitate Turkey than anything else) due to their continued fight against Daesh.
  • Recep Tayyip Erdoğan: The current president of Turkey and the founder of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). He was elected to president in 2014.
  • Rojava Canton: Any one of the three semi-autonomous regions in northern Syria. In late 2012, the KNC and PYD called for a Rojava Republic free of Syrian government control. By 2013, YPG/YPJ forces had liberated 9 cities and numerous villages in the north of Syria with a total population of about 3.5 million.
  • Rojava Confederation (AKA Rojava Republics):: A confederation that consists currently of the three autonomous Rojava cantons: Cizîrê, Kobanî, and Efrin.
  • Salafist: A member of the conservative Sunni religious movement that seeks to emulate the earliest Muslims. Often associated with jihad.
  • SAVAK: An acronym for Sāzemān-e Ettelā’āt va Amniyat-e Keshvar, the Organization of Intelligence and National Security SAVAK was the Iranian secret police under the Shah, operating from 1957 – 1979. SAVAK is famous for both its brutality and its Western backing.
  • Shia: A minority sect of Islam. Shias (sometimes refered to as shiiites) believe that Mohommed’s son-in-law and cousin, Ali, as well as Ali’s descendants (the Imams), are free from human sin.
  • SNC: An acronym for the Syrian National Congress, which was formed in Istanbul in 2011. The SNC sought to be a coalition of oppositional groups, organizations, and political parties in Syria. Many of the founding members are Muslim Brotherhood in exile. Only one very small exile Kurdish party (the Kurdish Future Movement, which has split into two factions) joined the SNC. The SNC joined the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces (NCSROF) in 2012.
  • Sunni: Sunni is the majority sect of Islam. Sunnis follow the teachings of the first four Caliphs after the Prophet Muhammad.
  • TEV-DEM: A shortening of Tevgera Civaka Demokratîk, the Movement for a Democratic Society. TEV-DEM is the political coalition of the Rojava area in Syria. In 2011, after massive protests against the Syrian regime, citizen groups and assemblies formed that were supported by the PYD and PKK. This coalition of groups formed into the TEV-DEM by late 2011. TEV-DEM sought to bring in people other than Kurds living in the region and had some success in getting Arabs, Christians, Yezedi, Assyrians, and Turkmen to actively participate in the TEV-DEM councils.
  • Yezedi: A Kurdish monotheistic, religious minority that has been targeted for complete destruction by ISIS. There are Yezedis in both Syria and Iraq.
  • YPG: A Kurdish acronym for Yekîneyên Parastina Gel, the Peoples’ Protection Units. The YPG was founded in 2004 by the PYD but did not actually become active until 2012. The YPG is a coed militia that makes up the main fighting force for the Rojava region. There are about 45,000 to 50,000 women and men fighting in the YPG.
  • YPJ: Kurdish acronym for Yekîneyên Parastina Jinê, the Women’s Protection Units. The idea for the YPJ appeared as early as 2006 but the YPJ did not become active until 2012. They are an armed, all-female militia, 10,000 strong that alongside the YPG make up the main fighting force of Rojava.