Imagining the Commune - Democratic confederalist approaches to law and conflict resolution
Abstract: In the midst of an ongoing civil war, the people of North and East Syria have been building society based on the ideas of direct-democratic and decentralized self-administration. Differently put, they have embraced the principles and ideas of democratic confederalism, which is the political ideology developed by PKK founder Abdullah Öcalan. Security forces, schools, hospitals, local councils, reconciliation committees, courts, and many other institutions have been set up by the local self-administrations in North and East Syria. In doing so, the people have managed to create an oasis of relative peace and stability in an otherwise hostile environment. This thesis seeks to determine the characteristics of law and conflict resolution systems in North and East Syria, and assess to what extent they have been influenced by the ideological development of the PKK. For this purpose, Marxist, anarchist and legal pluralist understandings of law and justice are used. The scope of study is limited to the social contracts of North and East Syria, its various legislative and decision-making bodies, as well as the courts and reconciliation committees. The conclusion of this thesis is that law and conflict resolution mechanisms in North and East Syria are characterized by legal pluralist understandings of law as well as restorative justice approaches to justice. It is established that the legal system of North and East Syria can be described as a strong legal pluralist system of law containing some elements of weak legal pluralism. Policy-making bodies such as local councils, as well as the reconciliation committees, are primarily organized, self-administered and democratically controlled on the local level. The reconciliation committees and their processes are particularly consensus-oriented, whereas the People’s Courts are more oriented towards retributive justice. It has been shown that these institutions of law and conflict resolution have been influenced by the political ideology of democratic confederalism, which advocates decentralized decision-making processes within self-administered communities.
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