Their Blood Got Mixed
struggle, their revolution, and resistance to ISIS.
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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.”
Book Details: SKU: 9781629639444 Author: Janet Biehl Pages: 256
You can preview and get the E-bookbook on Amazon too.
“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
“A spirited portrayal of the everyday life of a revolution at its most basic levels of societal organization and political mobilization. Janet Biehl beautifully shows the interactions, face-to-face negotiations, and debates between the people who come from different ethnic backgrounds in citizens’ councils in neighborhoods and villages. Despite the trauma of war, Biehl shows that these people insist on building a new life and an alternative society to make a break from histories of injustice that have torn apart the people from each other.”
—Sardar Saadi is director of The Rojava Institute of Social Sciences (RISS) at the University of Rojava
“Janet Biehl is one of our most important interlocutors for understanding the radical experiment in democracy that since 2012 has taken place in northeastern Syria. Their Blood Got Mixed breaks down an incredibly complex conflict-turned-social-revolution into a simple—but not simplistic—narrative, introducing readers to the men and women (especially women) who have sacrificed everything, including their lives, to simultaneously defeat ISIS and create a new society. Part history lesson, part reportorial journey, part sociology, this graphic novel explores what makes the revolution in Rojava tick.”
—Wes Enzinna, contributing editor at Harper’s
“How to capture history as it is in the making? Janet Biehl’s art is a powerful testimony of the dedication, the friendships, dreams, and sacrifices that animate one of the most radical moments in world freedom history. This book is a timely aesthetic company our imagination needs in times of planetary dangers. It is a concrete form of solidarity.”
—Dilar Dirik, the Joyce Pearce Junior Research Fellow at Lady Margaret Hall, University of Oxford, and author of The Kurdish Women’s Movement: History, Theory, Practice
“I vividly recall how confused I was when I visited Northeast Syria for the first time to write about the democratic experiment. What both inspired and frustrated me, was that I hardly found anybody who had the time to sit down with me and explain. ‘What was it like?,’ my editor asked me when I returned. ‘They are all running around making a revolution,’ I said in awe and despair. A revolution it is. It’s hard to explain to outsiders because it is different than anything we know. That is why Their Blood Got Mixed touches me: it explains the revolution so clearly, so profoundly, with so much humour also, that it strengthens my hope. The more people know and understand what’s happening in Northeast-Syria, the better protected the revolution is. Their Blood Got Mixed makes a real contribution
—Fréderike Geerdink, independent journalist and author of The Boys are Dead and This Fire Never Dies: One Year with the PKK
About the Author
Janet Biehl, an independent scholar and artist, collaborated with the social theorist Murray Bookchin for his last nineteen years (1987–2006). After his death, she wrote his biography.
Bookchin’s writings influenced an ideological transformation of the Kurdish freedom movement away from Marxism and statism and toward grassroots democracy and ecology.
To observe the implementation of his ideas, she visited northeastern Syria several times and chronicled her observations in numerous articles. She has also translated several German-language books about the Kurdish movement into English. Their Blood Got Mixed is her first graphic novel.
On the 10th anniversary of the Rojava Revolution, it is today a great honour for us at Medya News to be joined by Janet Biehl joining us from her home in the United States to talk about her extraordinary new book called Their Blood Got Mixed which is a graphic novel detailing and depicting the events and ideas behind the extraordinary revolution that took place in the north and east of Syria.
Janet Biehl, an independent scholar and artist, was a partner of and collaborated with the social theorist Murray Bookchin for the last nineteen years of his life.
After his death on the 30th July 2006, Janet wrote his biography, Ecology or Catastrophe: The Life of Murray Bookchin (Oxford University Press, 2015).
It was Murray Bookchin’s writings that influenced an ideological transformation of the Kurdish freedom movement away from Marxism and statism and towards grassroots democracy and social ecology.
To observe the implementation of his ideas, Janet visited Northeastern Syria several times and chronicled her observations in numerous articles.
Janet has also translated several German-language books about the Kurdish movement into English.
However, Their Blood Got Mixed is Janet’s first graphic novel.
The whole book is full of pages of delicate and detailed cartoon type water-coloured loose sketches and drawings with text that take the reader on a journey to Rojava to intimately feel the revolution in a way that words alone would not be able convey in quite the same way.
The beautiful pictures humanise the extraordinary stories that unfold and explain the ideas behind the revolution through the words of the participants themselves who come to life on the pages of this extraordinary graphic novel, through Janet’s wonderful sketches and drawings.
The book in my humble lay person’s opinion, is a masterpiece that will appeal to not only a dedicated and supportive audience but also and perhaps more importantly to a wider audience as it is able to explain and articulate not only the experience of the participants of the revolution and it’s history but also the political ideas behind the revolution through Janets beautifully created water-coloured sketches that make up the whole book.
At a guess and I’d be interested to hear from Janet exactly how many but I would think there must be up to around 800 individually sketched images and scenes that bring the whole story of the revolution to life and gives such an intimate insight and accessible educational experience for the reader.
Each drawing a piece of art in its own right but brought together with words to tell the story of the Rojava Revolution is an absolute delight and such an incredible artistic and political achievement.
Janet explained how the idea came about and how she went about writing the book.
She explained in personal tones how she included the ideas of Murray Bookchin in the book and what Murray would think of how his ideas became part of a blueprint for the Rojava Revolution in North and East Syria.
Please listen to the whole interview for this and much more.