Letter from accused ‘terrorist’ John Zakhariev, currently on trial in Sofia, Bulgaria

UPDATE (June 6, 2017) : As expected, Zakhariev has been found guilty of ‘training with a Kalashnikov with the intention of carrying out a terror attack’ and sentenced to four years in jail (Australian-Bulgarian John Zakhariev sentenced for terrorism, Nick Miller, The Age, June 6, 2017).

John Zakhariev (above) is a 21yo dual Australian-Bulgarian citizen currently on trial in Sofia, Bulgaria. Arrested in September 2016, John is accused of undertaking weapons training in Bulgaria in order to join Daesh in Syria. He denies all charges.

I was recently forwarded the following letter from John which I reproduce below:


Since the 20th of September 2016 I have been stripped of my liberty and locked up in the heart of darkness otherwise known as Sofia Central Prison. The reason being that the Bulgarian authorities allege that I came to this country in order to train with firearms in order to fight with Islamic State or Daesh. To date, after nearly seven months, neither me nor my lawyer have seen or been presented with any evidence by the prosecution to back up these absurd allegations. One would expect that there would be a huge burden of proof on the part of the prosecution to back up her claims, which she herself has proudly boasted in court is ‘irrefutable’. Yet to date all that the court has been presented with in terms of evidence are as follows:

Firstly, workers from the legal shooting range I attended in Sofia (four times over a four week period), who all testified that my behaviour was perfectly normal and that they never had any issues with me as a client. Furthermore they all testified that I stopped attending the shooting range in early August 2016. This is in complete contrast to the claims of the prosecutor that I continued to attend until the 19th of September. Other witnesses to testify include a police provocateur who was sent to befriend me at the Banya Bashi Mosque in Sofia, Muhammad Dabbousi. In his witness statement he claimed that I said to him that I love Daesh and that me and him have to go and fight alongside them and yet in court he claimed that I was merely talking about them in a neutral manner. He made no mention of the alleged attempted recruitment or anything about me saying that I love them. He even expressed shock when the judge presented him with his original witness statement, leading me to believe that the police wrote his statement for him and asked him to sign it without even looking at it: an all-too-common practice here in Bulgaria with its law enforcement. At this point I wish to note that all the witnesses from the shooting range testified that I was always accompanied by a man to the shooting range. I never went alone. I knew this man as Peter Petrov, who I strongly suspect was a police agent.

Secondly, the prosecution presented to the court statuses which people on my Facebook friends list wrote about the ongoing war in Syria which was pro-opposition in nature. I will now make a point here which is that I never commented, shared or even liked these statuses, nor have I ever corresponded with the individuals who wrote them. The prosecution has further sought to use religious books on my computer as evidence of my support for Daesh even though a court-appointed expert himself testified that the books, though conservative in nature, do not in any way promote violence and cannot be linked to the ideology of ISIS. In my view this further shows the sheer Islamophobia of the case against me where anything even remotely connected to Islam is labelled extremist or jihadist. Yet even more disturbing for me is the court’s unwillingness to allow my defence to present any evidence in my favour. On the 21st of December I told the court that I had already left Islam months before my arrest. I further told the court evidence which could be found to support my claims including a 12 page email I sent to Canadian ex-Muslim Abdullah Sameer titled ‘Notes on Islam’ where I point out several flaws in the Islamic faith and also its claims of being a perfect faith valid for all times and places. I also told the court about some anti-radical Islamic literature which could be found on my computer and which were all downloaded in the same period beginning in early August ’til my arrest on September 20th. I also informed the court about emails I wrote to the Canadian Tourism College and International Guide Academy in Denver, Colorado enquiring about courses available in 2017, which clearly show my intention to continue my studies and not to join ISIS. And finally I told the judge that my Facebook correspondence would prove that I am indeed anti-ISIS since I spent a lot of time on it refuting the ideology of ISIS to its supporters. I even told the judge that I was also in touch with ex-Muslims weeks before my arrest discussing the possibility of setting up a Council of ex-Muslims in Australia similar to the one in the UK. The judge ordered that all this evidence be gathered, which raised my hopes of receiving a fair trial. Yet on May 16th 2017 when after many delays all this evidence had been gathered and presented to the court, the judge suddenly did a 360 and refused to even look at the evidence and calling the request of my lawyer to examine the Facebook correspondence, emails and for an examination of the books ‘groundless’ and ‘unnecessary’ since there was already enough evidence gathered by the prosecution seemingly ignoring the fact that they only ever sought evidence which would support their case.

This decision by the court confirms my fears since day one of my arrest that I would be subjected to a show trial and denied a fair hearing. I have resigned myself to the fact that I will be found guilty even though I will always maintain my innocence and insist that I was the victim of a poorly-attempted entrapment operation, whose pathetic nature would be almost laughable if its consequences weren’t so serious.



See also : Accused Australian John Zakhariev criticised jihadist doctrine before arrest, Nick Miller, The Sydney Morning Herald, May 17, 2017 | Australian-Bulgarian dual citizen John Zakhariev pleads innocence over terrorism charges, ABC/AP, May 17, 2017 | Australian John Zakhariev grim about outlook for his Bulgarian terror trial, Nick Miller, The Sydney Morning Herald, May 17, 2017 | Australian John Zakhariev remains in custody as media barred from court in Bulgaria, Teodor Spasov, The Sydney Morning Herald, April 9, 2017 | Court delays John Zakhariev’s terror case after problems with tape recording, Lisa Millar, ABC, March 18, 2017 | Australian Government sent Bulgaria letter saying John Zakhariev was ‘interested’ in terrorism, lawyer says, Danuta Kozaki, ABC, March 14, 2017 | Aust told Bulgaria about NSW man: lawyer, AAP, March 14, 2017 | Sydney man John Zakhariev, 21, arrested in Bulgaria on terrorism charges, Rachel Olding, The Sydney Morning Herald, March 13, 2017 | Australian John Zakhariev held on terror charges in Bulgaria, Sam Buckingham-Jones, The Australian, March 13, 2017 | Former Sydney private schoolboy arrested on terror charges, Yahoo7 News, March 13, 2017 | John Zakhariev: Sydney private school boy to jailed terror suspect, news.com.au, March 13, 2017.



A few things.

1) This fella’s analysis seems especially apt:


See also : New Islamic State Publication Touts Progress in Clash of Civilizations, Murtaza Hussain, The Intercept, February 13, 2015 | Muslims Around the World Condemn Paris Attacks, Adam Johnson, AlterNet, November 14, 2015.

2) Alternative Libertaire have issued a public statement:

Attentats de Paris : Contre leurs guerres, nos solidarités /// Attacks in Paris : Against their wars, our solidarities
November 14, 2015

A wave of deadly attacks took place last night in Paris and Saint-Denis. The French government has been conducting wars in several countries (Libya, Mali, Syria …) for years. These wars today have an impact on the French territory.

We are confronted [by] attacks aiming to spread terror and to stir up divisions within the population. Alternative Libertaire condemns these attacks: killing people at random in the street [with] the sole purpose of frightening is abject. These attacks are the work of a political movement – the Salafist jihadism – whose first victims are the civilian populations of the Middle East and which has already hit Beirut in recent days. This same political movement that continues to wage war against Kurdish progressive forces in Syria.

Following these attacks, we will witness a securitarian frenzy maintained by political forces who use fear to draw us against each other. Already, immigrants and the Muslim minority in this country are beginning to be affected by political statements and are subject to indiscriminate reprisals.

Strengthening freedom-restricting devices will not prevent new attacks. The state of emergency is the suspension of many democratic rights, the legalization of large-scale repressive measures with regard to various layers of the population that have nothing to do with the attacks.

We stand against government taking this opportunity to ban unionist and ecologist mobilizations to come. All this will lead to [division] and strengthen fears and hatreds. All this will only lead to an escalation between terrorist attacks increasingly bloody and security responses increasingly repressive. The answer is neither the withdrawal nor the militarization of society.

The solution will not come from those who have contributed to this situation by their militarist policies, imperialist, discriminatory, hateful. They use this to impose an increasingly police state and a national unity between exploiters and exploited, which we reject and denounce.

The solution requires the strengthening of solidarity, in the neighborhoods and at our workplaces, and through the consolidation of all those and all those who refuse all regimes of terror. Do not remain isolated! Let’s get together to discuss our responsibilities to the situation, particularly in terms of joint actions of all social transformation forces.

[Translation via Workers Solidarity Movement (Ireland).]


See also : Paris terror attacks: France now faces fight against fear and exclusion, Aurelien Mondon, The Conversation, November 14, 2015.

3) The reaction on the part of local fascists has been predictable. A sample of some of the batshit commentary on the ‘United Patriots Front’ page:


4) This cartoon sums it up as far as the reaction of the far right is concerned:


See also : After the Paris killings (Le Monde Diplomatique) #CharlieHebdo (February 3, 2015) | Kurd/Yezidi forces liberate Sinjar from ISIS: reports/photos/video, UndercoverInfo, November 13, 2015.

“From Melbourne to Ramadi: My Journey” [Jake Bilardi]

See : Jake Bilardi, reportedly killed in Islamic State suicide bombing, planned to attack Melbourne, blog says, Michael Bachelard, The Age, March 12, 2015.

Bilardi’s blog now appears to be devoid of content. He made several posts, of which this was the last.

NB. One of the principal opponents of IS in Syria are the Kurdish YPG (People’s Protection Units) and YPJ (Women’s Protection Units), militias closely connected to the PKK (Partiya Karkerên Kurdistani or Kurdistan Workers’ Party), a Marxist party which, over the course of the last decade, has evolved in a more libertarian direction, influenced in part by PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan’s reading of US anarchist Murray Bookchin. (See : Graeber et al on the ‘Rojava Revolution’, January 5, 2015.)

At least one Australian, Ashley Kent Johnston, has died fighting alongside the YPG. Several other Westerners have been killed fighting with the YPG: Konstandinos Erik Scurfield, 25, a former Royal Marine, and 19-year-old German woman Ivana Hoffman.

Australian authorities, like their counterparts in Europe and the US, regard the PKK as a terrorist organisation, and the PKK is the only non-Islamist organisation on the government’s list of proscribed groups. There’s currently a campaign in Australia (and elsewhere in the world) to have this designation rescinded. You can read more about it here.


“With my martyrdom operation drawing closer, I want to tell you my story, how I came from being an Atheist school student in affluent Melbourne to a soldier of the Khilafah preparing to sacrifice my life for Islam in Ramadi, Iraq. Many people in Australia probably think they know the story, but the truth is, this is something that has remained between myself and Allah (azza wa’jal) until now.

My life in Melbourne’s working-class suburbs was, despite having its ups and downs just like everyone else, very comfortable. I found myself excelling in my studies, just as my siblings had, and had dreamed of becoming a political journalist. I always dreamed that one day I would travel to countries such as Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan to cover the situations in these lands. I was intrigued by the conflicts in these countries and I was bent on understanding the motivations behind violent political and social movements. While the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan, Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State in Syria and Ansar Dine/MUJAO in Mali occupied my mind day-in-day-out, I also took interest in the rise of violent street gangs in Mexico, El Salvador and Brazil. Through my research I found a common link between all these organisations, they are made-up of oppressed and neglected people seeking their own form of perceived justice.

But let’s go back a little bit further…

Being the youngest in a family of six, I was always treated as a student by my older siblings, all of whom were studying a variety of different topics. So from a young age I was being used as a study tool by my siblings, being taught Psychology, Biology and History among other subjects. I should be rivaling Albert Einstein if all the information had settled neatly in my memory, but most of it left as soon as it entered. It was my eldest brother’s deep interest in international politics though that grabbed my attention the most and while I may have fallen asleep during some of the ‘classes’, I can still to this day remember many of the things he taught me. In fact the first time I ever heard the words ‘al-Qaeda’ and ‘Usama bin Laden’, they came from his mouth, but as I know he is unhappy with me being here, I can confirm for his sake that, no, he did not ‘radicalise’ me.

From then on, my love of politics only grew, learning from my brother before going on to do my own research. Being just five-years-old at the time of the attacks on the United States on 11 September 2001, my knowledge of the operation was basically non-existent. Despite this, I was immediately drawn to the topics of al-Qaeda and ‘Islamic terrorism’ based on the little information my brother had provided me with. I was intrigued, why would a group of people living in caves in Afghanistan want to kill innocent American civilians? And the even more perplexing, how did such a simple group fly commercial airliners into the global superpower’s trade and defence centres? It was from here that my research into al-Qaeda, Shaykh Usama bin Laden (May Allah have mercy upon him) and groups with similar ideologies worldwide began. I spent every day researching online and reading the books I had begun collecting and I was understandably very pleased when the Victorian state government introduced a laptop-in-schools programme, meaning I could now spend the otherwise wasted time in boring classes reading.

Australia, a nation full of proud nationalists and people who love democracy and what they perceive to be freedom, has forever stood beside the Americans in this war, deploying troops in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Therefore, in the media, the reports every morning when I sat on the couch eating breakfast and watching the news before school had to include a story on the Taliban’s brutality or fears of al-Qaeda operatives hiding in Europe. It was Channel 7’s program ‘Sunrise’ that I turned on most mornings, watching discussions such as, ‘Another attack in America, should we be suspicious about the Muslims in Australia?’ Still, as an Atheist of only 13-years-of-age I couldn’t believe everything I was seeing and hearing, my views of the Muslims were very positive and when it came to organisations such as the Taliban, my views almost six years ago would be considered by the Australian government as extreme and myself an Islamic extremist, although I was still an Atheist, a little confusing I know. I saw the Taliban as simply a group of proud men seeking to protect their land and their people from an invading force, while I did not necessarily agree with their ideology, their actions were in my opinion completely justified. I saw the foreign troops burning villages, raping local women and girls, rounding up innocent young men as suspected terrorists and sending them overseas for torture, gunning down women, children and the elderly in the streets and indiscriminately firing missiles from their jets. Who was I to believe was the terrorist? I saw similar events unfolding in Iraq where the mujahideen of Shaykh Abu Musab al-Zarqawi (May Allah have mercy upon him) as well as other smaller factions were valiantly fighting the occupation. I read of the massacre in Haditha where US soldiers shot dead 24 civilians, majority of whom were women and children as well as an elderly man in a wheel-chair. I read about how soldiers raped 14-year-old Abeer Qasim Hamza al-Janabi in Mahmudiyah before killing her and her family and setting fire to their corpses. I read and viewed images of the inhumane torture in Abu Ghraib prison as well as many other atrocities committed, primarily by the Americans, with also cases of torture, summary executions and massacres of civilians being carried out by military personnel from other nations of the coalition. I was beginning to learn that what the media was feeding us was nothing but a government-sponsored distortion of the reality. The image of the American hero waving the US flag on top of a Hummer rolling through Baghdad was nothing but the soft cover to a brutal untold story.

It was from my investigations into the invasions and occupations of both Iraq and Afghanistan that gave birth to my disdain for the United States and its allies, including Australia. It was also the start of my respect for the mujahideen that would only grow to develop into a love of Islam and ultimately bring me here to the Islamic State, but I’ll get to that later.

Structuring my research, I saw the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as the modern base for understanding the conflicts involving Islamic groups across Africa, the Middle East and Asia as well as sporadic attacks in Europe and the United States. From here I began focusing on the struggle in Palestine, this was the ultimate David and Goliath story, where the world was wanting so desperately to turn the victim into the oppressor and the oppressor into the victim, with much success. I saw the Israeli army tearing down the homes of Palestinian families to make way for a new Jewish family moving in from Europe, I saw Israeli soldiers torturing children for allegedly throwing stones at their heavily armoured vehicles, I saw them shooting innocent people and their treacherous leaders justifying their crimes by claiming that Jews are superior to all other races, stating that Arabs are less than dogs and should be treated as such, pointing to the Talmud as the source of their bigotry. My Atheist secularist views led me to support the aspirations of the Palestinian state and blinded me from realising what the true problem was, not Israel, nor Israelis but the religious ideology that governed them. I began to support the violent resistance in the Gaza Strip, recognising that it was this resistance that kept small pockets of Palestine from the hands of the Jews, even if it does mean that they are frequently hit with airstrikes. Also, the presence of a base to attack Israel from the west was always a sign of hope, especially considering the current aggressive advance of the Islamic State from the East and as well as the bayah to the Khilafah by the mujahideen in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula potentially allowing for attacks from all directions to liberate Palestine.

I could wrap this up very shortly but I want to divert away from my interest in violent Islamic movements for a minute to explain how I developed a wider world view and how I transitioned from being a reluctant-supporter of Islamic militant groups in different lands to become certain that violent global revolution was the answer to the world’s ills.

In the course of my research I decided to delve deeper into the blood-stained history of the world. I learnt for the first time in great detail, the scale of the atrocities committed against the native population of the Americas by both the British and Spanish colonialist forces. About how both nations attempted to completely wipe out the natives in order to build their own respective civilisations, slaughtering millions of innocent people, intentionally spreading disease amongst them and raping the native women in an effort to breed-out the present race. I also learned more about the similar systematic genocide in my own country, Australia, the stories they choose to leave out when you’re in history class at school. I learnt about how the Crusaders rampaged across Europe and the Middle East, seeking to eliminate Islam from the region and restore the rule of the Catholic Church. I learnt about how the British and the French competed with each other to colonise the African continent, the advent of which still today leaves the affected nations facing great difficulties. I was beginning to realise that the cruelness of the world today is nothing but a historical expectation.

I continued to read; America’s land grab in Mexico as well as their brutality towards the Filipinos after the Spanish, who were themselves no better, signed over control of the archipelago to the Americans. The Portuguese soldiers who rampaged across East Timor, the British who seized control of many of the Pacific Islands, enslaving the populations on the pretext that non-Whites were created to serve the White race.

Continuing forward and the world bore witness to two World Wars, the second more brutal than the first. US, British, French and Australian forces imprisoned captured Axis soldiers in internment camps, torturing them and executing them as a source of entertainment. When US forces entered Japan they proceeded on a systematic campaign of massacring civilians and raping the local women before delivering the infamous nuclear bombs to Nagasaki and Hiroshima. The crimes committed by all sides in these wars are far too many to innumerate, so I’ll leave the rest of them for you to discover on your own. Then as the American war machine was kicked back into action in the Cold War, the world again witnessed more of their brutality, particularly in Korea and Vietnam. Today, they hail as heroes their soldiers who fought in these wars, history will always record though that they were nothing but a gang of rapists, murderers and brutal cowards who loved to inflict pain on an already aching population. Then there was their trade embargo, economic sanctions and isolation of Cuba due to its Communist leadership which left the people of this small Caribbean island in unimaginable poverty. Then there was their economic and military support for brutal rebels and dictators throughout Latin America simply because they were anti-Communist. El Salvador, Chile, Brazil, Nicaragua and Argentina are just some examples of countries torn apart by extreme violence and whose people suffered under animalistic rulers due to American intervention. Today, the people of El Salvador are still seeking to identify the victims of the anti-Communist American-backed regime that slaughtered all who were associated with the Communist rebels, even those who had only seen the world for a mere three days. Argentina and Brazil are still seeking more information on the Nazi-style prison camps set-up by their own respective American-backed dictators and Chile still mourns their own 9/11, when on the same day in 1973 the Americans supported Pinochet’s coup and subsequent iron-fisted rule, during which thousands were killed and many more tortured and disappeared on allegations of dissent.

The Cold War, I noticed, bore great similarities to the current conflict gripping the world today. Yesterday the Americans were openly backing the tyrants simply to impose their own ideology on the people and today, they realised this backfired and has led to hatred of the US across Latin America so now they have tried to be smarter about how they colonise and only some have managed to see through the facade. Whenever America goes to war now, they claim it is simply humanitarian intervention. Take their recent airstrikes against the Islamic State, they hyped-up the story of the Yazidis trapped on Mount Sinjar, making unsubstantiated claims of genocide before admitting the situation was greatly exaggerated and it was not much of an issue. But this correction came after the first missile had been fired and therefore, they were already in, so… ‘Well, we can’t pull out now’… Now as a result, every day the Americans are firing missiles at innocent Muslims in both Iraq and Sham.

It was also through these two successive American-led campaigns to impose the Democratic system upon the world that I woke up to the reality of what this ideology was, nothing but a system of lies and deception. The democratic system focuses heavily on providing the people with so-called freedom, allowing the citizens to select their leaders, alter laws if they feel the need and ultimately have the people decide the way their country is run, but this is far from the reality and there was no statement that summed this up greater than the words of the former Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, “The people who cast the votes decide nothing, the people who count the votes decide everything.” The reality of democracy became clear to me, place in people’s mind the idea of freedom and convince them that they are a free people while oppressing them behind the scenes. On top of this the Western world throws celebrities and false reality into the spotlight to distract the people from what is really going on in the world, hence the widespread political ignorance among Westerners. This was the turning point in my ideological development as it signaled the beginning of my complete hatred and opposition to the entire system Australia and the majority of the world was based upon. It was also the moment I realised that violent global revolution was necessary to eliminate this system of governance and that it I would likely be killed in this struggle.

I saw people screaming, “Where is the Democracy?” in supposed democratic states and it made me hopeful that perhaps people were waking up to the reality but as it turned out they were still deceived despite their moment of anguish. I found a people though who had lost all hope in the democratic system and the United States and so I had to learn more, they were the gangs of the Americas. While their brutality is unforgivable and the suffering they have inflicted on innocent people, unimaginable, their underlying rationalisation is the unheard tale of the failed democratic system. I remember watching documentary-after-documentary about the Mara Salvatrucha in El Salvador, the Amigos dos Amigos in Brazil, Los Zetas in Mexico and the various street-gangs in Los Angeles. The elite prefer to portray them as simply groups of young men looking at making some quick cash and who love killing and mayhem but when asked what the real reasons for the establishment of their gangs are, the founders of these criminal organisations as well as their members always seemed to agree that they had the right to steal, rape and murder because the government and police force were doing the exact same to them in their communities. They all referred to the government as gangsters and the police force as well and rightfully so. They are predominantly from poor communities unfairly targeted by law enforcement and government policies and they are denied the opportunity to integrate into the system and build a regular life, so turning to a gang becomes their most viable option. I don’t want to go much deeper into my studies into the gangs in this region because I wish to return to the conclusion of my story, but this was something that only confirmed my understanding of the deception of democracy and that this is something that can only and must be destroyed by violent revolution. What would replace it though? Socialism? Communism?? Nazism??? I was never quite sure.

Sorry for the long detour but I felt it necessary to give the full story, I’ll now start to wrap things up, you can take a break and finish it a bit later if that’s enough reading for you at the moment.

…With the so-called ‘Arab Spring’ revolutions only giving rise to new dictators in the lands of Libya, Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen, it also gave birth to new mujahideen and even the nationalist, democratic uprising in the land of Sham was the beginning of the return of the Islamic State and Khilafah in the region. It was around this time that my love of the mujahideen began changing from a political admiration to a religious one. I had begun researching different religions, seeing that they were key to many of the conflicts taking place in the world today and during this new period of study I found myself deeply confused by all of these outlandish and odd religious systems, that myself as an Atheist had never been exposed to. However, it was Islam that for me stood out as easy to understand and was shockingly consistent with established historical and scientific facts, which for an Atheist is about as likely as Earth colliding with Pluto. Slowly but surely I began being drawn towards the religion and it was no longer a political interest for me but the truth I had been circling around for years with my research into the mujahideen.

Just as I had been eager to gain knowledge of the political world, I had now opened a whole new realm of knowledge and was keen to learn as much as I could about the religion. The more I learned, the more I came to understand and make connections with my previous research. Then things took a turn, something I did not fear as an Atheist but began to fear as a Muslim, was supporting the mujahideen, convinced that I had been ‘radicalised’ by violent terrorist organisations. So, what I can say is one of the most shameful periods of my life, the research I had been doing all these years and the beliefs I had held so strongly to despite no-one around me sharing them were thrown aside.

However, as I read through the Qur’an, I couldn’t help but make strong associations between the speech of Allah (azza wa’jal) and the chaotic scenes around the world today. For example, Allah (azza wa’jal) says, “And when it is said to them: ‘Make not mischief on the Earth’, they say: ‘We are only peace-makers.’ Verily! They are the ones who make mischief, but they perceive it not.” [Surat al-Baqarah 2:11-12]. Is this not the reality of the kuffar today? Who claim to be helping to free the people while doing nothing but increasing their suffering. As my realisation of this reality re-kindled my previous views about global revolution, I began to truly understand what I had focused on studying for more than five years, the motivation of the mujahideen: The doctrine of jihad and it’s superiority in Islam. As the Messenger of Allah, Muhammad ibn Abdullah (peace and blessings be upon him) said: “The head of the matter is Islam, its pillar is the prayer and its peak is jihad.” I now for the first time truly understood why there were Islamic armies from Mali to China, from Chechnya to Indonesia, it was an obligation upon every able Muslim to fight, an obligation that a person who dies without having fulfilled, he dies upon a branch of hypocrisy as stated by Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him). So after my period of peaceful, submissive, down-trodden aqeedah, my return to the path of ‘radical, terrorist’ aqeedah began and the more I learned about the concept of jihad, it’s benefits, it’s importance and the rewards for taking part in military operations to raise Islam in the land, the more I desired to join the mujahideen. As I learnt more about the aqeedah of groups such as al-Shabab in Somalia, Boko Haram in Nigeria and Ansar al-Sharia in Yemen as well as various other organisations across the world, my support for such groups grew and grew. My main interest though was the mujahideen in the land of Sham, I found myself drawn to Jabhat al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham. Knowing the many ahadith regarding the blessings of the land of Sham I was eager to make hijra and join either of these two organisations. Despite my eagerness though, I met one key roadblock, how was I to get in? I had no contacts to assist me. After failed attempts at finding a contact I gave up all hope of making hijra.

As the war in Sham progressed and the Islamic State in Iraq and Sham appeared and the ongoing fitnah in the region was ignited, I found myself still on the side of Jabhat al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham, agreeing with the assessment of the mischief-makers that the Islamic State were from the khawarij. I believed it a duty upon others to slaughter the mujahideen of the Islamic State and had no respect for them, falling for the many lies being spread against them. It was my conversations with brothers from the State online though that began getting me to question my view of the organisation and the stories I had heard about it. As the Islamic State began to expand, seizing the cities of Raqqah, Fallujah, Mosul, Tikrit and others, Allah (azza wa’jal) Himself exposed the lies of the liars and humiliated the enemies of the State, a clear sign that they were upon the truth. Slowly but surely, I would come to love the State, recognising that they are the only people in the region establishing the Islamic system of governance, providing services for the people and most importantly they possess a sound aqeedah and manhaj that has led to their correct and effective implementation of the Sharia. It was this realisation that once again increased my desire to make hijra but once again I failed to find any contacts. This time was different to previous attempts at leaving though, I was growing tired of the corruption and filthiness of Australian society and yearned to live under the Islamic State with the Muslims. I now had the determination to finally remove myself from this land. I continued my search for a contact, even at one point considering simply crossing the border alone without any assistance. Finally, I made contact with a brother online who promised to bring me across the border, it was a risky decision to trust someone online but I was desperate to leave and was confident the brother was genuine. Fearing possible attempts by the increasingly-intrusive authorities in Australia to prevent my departure I began drawing up a Plan B. This plan involved launching a string of bombings across Melbourne, targeting foreign consulates and political/military targets as well as grenade and knife attacks on shopping centres and cafes and culminating with myself detonating a belt of explosives amongst the kuffar. As I began collecting materials for the explosives and prepared to start making the devices I realised that the authorities were oblivious to my plans but if anything was to attract their attention it would be my purchasing of chemicals and other bomb-making materials and so I ceased the planning of Plan B and sat waiting until everything was prepared and I could exit the country undetected.

Without revealing any sensitive information about how I entered the Islamic State, I’ll skip to the moment I entered the city of Jarablus in Aleppo province. I felt a joy I had never experienced before, the first time my eyes spotted the banner of tawheed fluttering above the city, everything felt surreal, I was finally in the Khilafah. At this time I couldn’t help but remember that moment a few years ago when I told myself that there will come a day where I will fight to overthrow the democratic system, that day had come, just not in the way I had expected. After a difficult and long journey in Jarablus, I put my trust in Allah and signed myself up for a martyrdom operation and was promptly sent to Baiji in Salaheddine province, Iraq. I sat for one month in Baiji before my failed operation arrived. After I witnessed the mistakes made, I turned to fighting in the city before once again registering for a martyrdom operation, a decision that would bring me to the large yet modest city of Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province. And that is where I sit today, waiting for my turn to stand before Allah (azza wa’jal) and dreaming of sitting amongst the best of His creation in His Jannah, the width of which is greater than the width of the heavens and the Earth.

I guess I was always destined to stand here as a soldier in the army of Shaykh Abu Musab al-Zarqawi (May Allah have mercy upon him) considering the great respect I had for him even before I entered Islam. May Allah accept him among the best of shuhadah and allow me to sit with him in the highest ranks of Jannah.”

Graeber et al on the ‘Rojava Revolution’

Below I’ve republished David Graeber’s recent interview with Pinar Öğünç about his recent (December) trip to Rojava as part of a small international delegation to the area. I’ve also included links to several articles of relevance. A good collection of links on the ‘Rojava Revolution’ is available by way of libcom; there’s also a disco thread on the libcom forum inre Graeber’ views here.

See also :

Syria: Abuses in Kurdish-run Enclaves: Arbitrary Arrests, Unfair Trials; Use of Child Soldiers, Human Rights Watch, June 19, 2014 | International Crisis Group: Flight of Icarus? The PYD’s Precarious Rise in Syria, May 2014 | Syria’s Kurds: A Struggle Within a Struggle, January 2013.

“A revolution in daily life”, Peace in Kurdistan, December 22, 2014 (an account by Becky of the delegation to Rojava which ‘discusses how power is being dispersed among the people in Cizire Canton’).

Impressions of Rojava: a report from the revolution, Janet Biehl, ROAR, December 16, 2014 | Ecology or Catastrophe: Visit to the YPJ, December 7, Amuda (December 22, 2014) / “Poor in means but rich in spirit” (December 30, 2014) / The Revolutionary Days of July 2012 (January 4, 2015).

MACG withdraws from Australians for Kurdistan, Melbourne Anarchist Communist Group, December 7, 2014 | Australians for Kurdistan (Facebook) | Anarchist Federation [UK] Statement on Rojava – December 2014, December 1, 2014 | In Rojava: People’s War is not Class War, International Communist Tendency, October 30, 2014.

• VICE News on Kobane | The Rojava Report (News from the Revolution in Rojava and Wider Kurdistan) | TAHRIR International Collective Network on Kurdistan.

Whose side is Turkey on?, Patrick Cockburn, London Review of Books, Vol.36 No.21 (November 6, 2014) | An Interview with Revolutionary Anarchist Action on Kobanê: “We are Kawa against Dehaks”, October 27, 2014 | In Defence Of Anarchism: Tearing Down The Links To The Butchers Of ISIL, Andy Fleming, New Matilda, October 21, 2014.

KNK : Kurdistan National Congress
KRG : Kurdistan Regional Government
Peshmerga : KRG-aligned military units
PKK : Kurdistan Workers’ Party
PYD : Kurdish Democratic Union Party
PYG : People’s Protection Units
PYJ : Women’s Protection Units
Rojava : self-declared autonomous Kurdish republic in northern Syria, consisting of three non-contiguous cantons, Afrin/Efrîn in the west, Kobani/Kobanê in the centre and Jazira/Cizîrê in the east


“No. This is a Genuine Revolution”
David Graeber and Pinar Öğünç
December 26, 2014

Professor of Anthropology at the London School of Economics, activist, anarchist David Graeber wrote an article for the Guardian in October, in the first weeks of the ISIS attacks on Kobane (North Syria), and asked why the world was ignoring the revolutionary Syrian Kurds.

Mentioning his father who volunteered to fight in the International Brigades in defence of the Spanish Republic in 1937, he asked: “If there is a parallel today to Franco’s superficially devout, murderous Falangists, who would it be but ISIS? If there is a parallel to the Mujeres Libres of Spain, who could it be but the courageous women defending the barricades in Kobane? Is the world -and this time most scandalously of all, the international left- really going to be complicit in letting history repeat itself?”

According to Graeber, the autonomous region of Rojava declared with a “social contract” in 2011 as three anti-state, anti-capitalist cantons, was also a remarkable democratic experiment of this era.

In early December, with a group of eight people, students, activists, academics from different parts of Europe and the US, he spent ten days in Cizire -one of the three cantons of Rojava. He had the chance to observe the practice of “democratic autonomy” on the spot, and to ask dozens of questions.

Now he tells his impressions of this trip with bigger questions and answers why this “experiment” of the Syrian Kurds is ignored by the whole world.

In your article for the Guardian you had asked why the whole world was ignoring the “democratic experiment” of the Syrian Kurds. After experiencing it for ten days, do you have a new question or maybe an answer to this?

Well, if anyone had any doubt in their minds about whether this was really a revolution, or just some kind of window-dressing, I’d say the visit put that permanently to rest. There are still people talking like that: This is just a PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) front, they’re really a Stalinist authoritarian organisation that’s just pretending to have adopted radical democracy. No. They’re totally for real. This is a genuine revolution. But in a way that’s exactly the problem. The major powers have [committed] themselves to an ideology that say[s] real revolutions can no longer happen. Meanwhile, many on the left, even the radical left, seem to have tacitly adopted a politics which assumes the same, even though they still make superficially revolutionary noises. They take a kind of puritanical “anti-imperialist” framework that assumes the significant players are governments and capitalists and that’s the only game worth talking about. The game where you wage war, create mythical villains, seize oil and other resources, set up patronage networks; that’s the only game in town. The people in Rojava are saying: We don’t want to play that game. We want to create a new game. A lot of people find that confusing and disturbing so they choose to believe it isn’t really happening, or such people are deluded or dishonest or naive.

Since October we see a rising solidarity from different political movements from all over the world. There has been a huge and some quite enthusiastic coverage of Kobane resistance by the mainstream medias of the world. Political stance regarding Rojava has changed in the West to some degree. These are all significant signs but still do you think democratic autonomy and what’s been experimented in the cantons of Rojava are discussed enough? How much does the general perception of “Some brave people fighting against the evil of this era, ISIS” dominate this approval and the fascination?

I find it remarkable how so many people in [the] West see these armed feminist cadres, for example, and don’t even think on the ideas that must lie behind them. They just figured it happened somehow. “I guess it’s a Kurdish tradition.” To some degree it’s [O]rientalism of course, or to put simpl[y] racism. It never occurs to them that people in Kurdistan might be reading Judith Butler too. At best they think “Oh, they’re trying to come up to Western standards of democracy and women’s rights. I wonder if it’s for real or just for foreign consumption.” It just doesn’t seem to occur to them they might be taking these things way further than “Western standards” ever have; that they might genuinely believe in the principles that Western states only profess.

You mentioned the approach of the left towards Rojava. How is it received in the international anarchist communities?

The reaction in the international anarchist communities has been decidedly mixed. I find it somewhat difficult to understand. There’s a very substantial group of anarchists -usually the more sectarian elements -who insist that the PKK is still a “Stalinist” authoritarian nationalist group which has adopted Bookchin and other left libertarian ideas to court the anti-authoritarian left in Europe and America. It’s always struck me that this is one of the silliest and most narcissistic ideas I’ve ever heard. Even if the premise were correct, and a Marxist-Leninist group decided to fake an ideology to win foreign support, why on earth would they choose anarchist ideas developed by Murray Bookchin? That would be the stupidest gambit ever. Obviously they’d pretend to be Islamists or [l]iberals, those are the guys who get the guns and material support. Anyway I think a lot of people on the international left, and the anarchist left included, basically don’t really want to win. They can’t imagine a revolution would really happen and secretly they don’t even want it, since it would mean sharing their cool club with ordinary people; they wouldn’t be special any more. So in that way it’s rather useful in culling the real revolutionaries from the poseurs. But the real revolutionaries have been solid.

What was the most impressi[ve] thing you witnessed in Rojava in terms of this democratic autonomy practice?

There were so many [impressive] things. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of anywhere else in the world where there’s been a dual power situation where the same political forces created both sides. There’s the “democratic self-administration,” which has all the form and trappings of a state -Parliament, Ministries, and so on -but it was created to be carefully separated from the means of coercive power. Then you have the TEV-DEM (The Democratic Society Movement), driven bottom-up directly-democratic institutions. Ultimately -and this is key -the security forces are answerable to the bottom-up structures and not to the top-down ones. One of the first places we visited was a police academy (Asayiş). Everyone had to take courses in non-violent conflict resolution and feminist theory before they were allowed to touch a gun. The co-directors explained to us their ultimate aim was to give everyone in the country six weeks of police training, so that ultimately, they could eliminate police.

What would you say to various criticisms regarding Rojava? For example: “They wouldn’t have done this in peace. It is because of the state of war” …

Well, I think most movements, faced with dire war conditions, would not nonetheless immediately abolish capital punishment, dissolve the secret police and democratise the army. Military units for instance elect their officers.

And there is another criticism, which is quite popular in pro-government circles here in Turkey: “The model the Kurds -in the line of PKK and PYD (The Kurdish Democratic Union Party) -are trying to promote is not actually embraced by all the peoples living there. That multi-[?] structure is only on the surface as symbols” …

Well, the President of Cizire canton is an Arab, head of a major local tribe in fact. I suppose you could argue he was just a figurehead. In a sense the entire government is. But even if you look at the bottom-up structures, it’s certainly not just the Kurds who are participating. I was told the only real problem is with some of the “Arab belt” settlements, people who were brought in by the Baathists in the ‘50s and ‘60s from other parts of Syria as part of an intentional policy of marginalising and assimilating Kurds. Some of those communities they said are pretty unfriendly to the revolution. But Arabs whose families had been there for generations, or the Assyrians, Khirgizians, Armenians, Chechens, and so on, are quite enthusiastic. The Assyrians we talked to said, after a long difficult relation with the regime, they felt they finally were being allowed free religious and cultural autonomy. Probably the most [intractable] problem might be women’s liberation. The PYD and TEV-DEM see it as absolutely central to their idea of revolution, but they also have the problem of dealing [with] larger alliances with Arab communities who feel this violates basic religious principles. For instance, while the Syriac-speakers have their own women’s union, the Arabs don’t, and Arab girls interested in organising around gender issues or even taking feminist seminars have to hitch on with the Assyrians or even the Kurds.

It doesn’t have to be trapped in that “puritanical ‘anti-imperialist’ framework” you mentioned before, but what would you say to the comment that the West/imperialism will one day ask Syrian Kurds to pay for their support[?] What does the West think exactly about this anti-state, anti-capitalist model? Is it just an experiment that can be ignored during the state of war while the Kurds voluntarily accept to fight an enemy that is by the way actually created by the West?

Oh it is absolutely true that the US and European powers will do what they can to subvert the revolution. That goes without saying. The people I talked to were all well aware of it. But they didn’t make a strong differentiation between the leadership of regional powers like Turkey or Iran or Saudi Arabia, and Euro-American powers like, say, France or the US. They assumed they were all capitalist and statist and thus anti-revolutionary, who might at best be convinced to put up with them but were not ultimately on their side. Then there’s the even more complicated question of the structure of what’s called “the international community,” the global system of institutions like the UN or IMF, corporations, NGOs, human rights organisations for that matter, which all presume a statist organisation, a government that can pass laws and has a monopoly of coercive enforcement over those laws. There’s only one airport in Cizire and it’s still under Syrian government control. They could take it over easily, any time, they say. One reason they don’t is because: How would a non-state run an airport anyway? Everything you do in an airport is subject to international regulations which presume a state.

Do you have an answer to why ISIS is so obsessed with Kobane?

Well, they can’t be seen to lose. Their entire recruiting strategy is based on the idea that they are an unstoppable juggernaut, and their continual victory is proof that they represent the will of God. To be defeated by a bunch of feminists would be the ultimate humiliation. As long as they’re still fighting in Kobane, they can claim that media claims are lies and they are really advancing. Who can prove otherwise? If they pull out they will have admitted defeat.

Well, do you have an answer to what Tayyip Erdogan and his party is trying to do in Syria and the Middle East generally?

I can only guess. It seems he has shifted from an anti-Kurdish, anti-Assad policy to an almost purely anti-Kurdish strategy. Again and again he has been willing to ally with pseudo-religious fascists to attack any PKK-inspired experiments in radical democracy. Clearly, like Daesh (ISIS) themselves, he sees what they are doing as an ideological threat, perhaps the only real viable ideological alternative to right-wing Islamism on the horizon, and he will do anything to stamp it out.

On the one hand there is Iraqi Kurdistan standing on quite a different ideological ground in terms of capitalism and the notion of independence. On the other hand, there is this alternative example of Rojava. And there are the Kurds of Turkey who try to sustain a peace process with the government. How do you personally see the future of Kurdistan in short and long terms?

Who can say? At the moment things look surprisingly good for he revolutionary forces. The [KRG: Kurdistan Regional Government] even gave up the giant ditch they were building across the Rojava border after the PKK intervened to effectively save Erbil and other cities from IS back in August. One KNK [Kurdistan National Congress] person told me it had a major effect on popular consciousness there; that one month had done 20 years worth of consciousness-raising. Young people were particularly struck by the way their own Peshmerga fled the field but PKK women soldiers didn’t. But it’s hard to imagine how the KRG territory […] will be revolutionised any time soon. Neither would the international powers allow it.

Although democratic autonomy doesn’t seem to be clearly on the table of negotiation in Turkey, the Kurdish Political Movement [?] has been working on it, especially on the social level. They try to find solutions in legal and economic terms for possible models. When we compare let’s say the class structure and the level of capitalism in West Kurdistan (Rojava) and North Kurdistan (Turkey), what would you think about the differences of these two struggles for an anti-capitalist society -or for a minimised capitalism as they describe?

I think the Kurdish struggle is quite explicitly anti-capitalist in both countries. It’s their starting point. They’ve managed to come up with a kind of formula: One can’t get rid of capitalism without eliminating the state, one can’t get rid of the state without getting rid of patriarchy. However, the Rojavans have it quite easy in class terms because the real bourgeoisie, such as it was in a mostly very agricultural region, took off with the collapse of the Baath regime. They will have a long-term problem if they don’t work on the educational system to ensure a developmentalist technocrat stratum doesn’t eventually try to take power, but in the meantime, it’s understandable they are focusing more immediately on gender issues. In Turkey, well, I don’t know nearly as much, but I do have the sense things are much more complicated.

During the days that the peoples of the world can’t breathe for obvious reasons, did your trip to Rojava inspire you about the future? What do you think is the “medicine” for the people to breathe?

It was remarkable. I’ve spent my life thinking about how we might be able to do things like this in some remote time in the future and most people think I’m crazy to imagine it will ever be. These people are doing it now. If they prove that it can be done, that a genuinely egalitarian and democratic society is possible, it will completely transform people’s sense of human possibility. Myself, I feel ten years younger just having spent 10 days there.

With which scene are you going to remember your trip to Cizire?

There were so many striking images, so many ideas. I really liked the disparity between the way people looked, often, and the things they said. You meet some guy, a doctor, he looks like a slightly scary Syrian military type in a leather jacket and stern austere expression. Then you talk to him and he explains: “Well, we feel the best approach to public health is preventative, most disease is made possible by stress. We feel if we reduce stress, levels of heart disease, diabetes, even cancer will decline. So our ultimate plan is to reorganise the cities to be 70% green space.” There are all these mad, brilliant schemes. But then you go to the next doctor and they explain how because of the Turkish embargo, they can’t even get basic medicine or equipment, all the dialysis patients they couldn’t smuggle out have died. That disjuncture between their ambitions and their incredibly straightened circumstances. And … The woman who was effectively our guide was a deputy foreign minister named Amina. At one point, we apologised [that] we weren’t able to bring better gifts and help to the Rojavans, who were suffering so under the embargo. And she said: “In the end, that isn’t very important. We have the one thing no one can ever give you. We have our freedom. You don’t. We only wish there was some way we could give that to you.”

You are sometimes criticised for being too optimistic and enthusiastic about what’s happening in Rojava. Are you? Or do [your critics] miss something?

I am by temperament an optimist, I seek out situations which bear some promise. I don’t think there’s any guarantee this one will work out in the end, that it won’t be crushed, but it certainly won’t if everyone decides in advance that no revolution is possible and refuse to give active support, or even, devote their efforts to attacking it or increasing its isolation, which many do. If there’s something I’m aware of, that others aren’t, perhaps it’s the fact that history isn’t over. Capitalists have made a mighty effort these past 30 or 40 years to convince people that current economic arrangements –not even capitalism, but the peculiar, financialised, semi-feudal form of capitalism we happen to have today -is the only possible economic system. They’ve put more effort into that than they have into actually creating a viable global capitalist system. As a result the system is breaking down all around us at just the moment everyone has lost the ability to imagine anything else. Well, I think it’s pretty obvious that in 50 years, capitalism in any form we’d recognise, and probably in any form at all, will be gone. Something else will have replaced it. That something might not be better. It might be even worse. It seems to me for that very reason it’s our responsibility, as intellectuals, or just as thoughtful human beings, to try to at least think about what something better might look like. And if there are people actually trying to create that better thing, it’s our responsibility to help them out.

(This interview has been published by the daily Evrensel in Turkish.)