Sand, Death and Cryptographic Currency: Decentralized Social Practice in Northern Syria

Sand, death and cryptocurrencies – this story is not as sexy as Love, Death and Robot.

Syria, a Middle Eastern country that has experienced long-term wars and economic sanctions, has continued to depreciate its currency, has been blocked by the Western world and neighboring countries, has no network infrastructure, and is still in the most primitive form of payment. It seems to be a natural base for testing new social governance systems.

Rojava, a Syrian Arab League, a region with a population of 4 million, is exploring the practice of getting rid of economic sanctions and establishing a new democratic society, but this time their weapons are not guns but cryptocurrencies.

“The cost of remittances to Istanbul is currently 10%. We believe that with cryptocurrencies, we can not only reduce costs to 2% in Istanbul, but also globally.”

The initiator of this practice was Taaki, a British hacker who was programmed in an abandoned apartment in London and was known for creating the first bitcoin-driven black market. Taaki is committed to transforming the northern part of Syria into a bitcoin-based economy. To achieve this goal, he wants to start with the establishment of a "technical school."

The idea of ​​setting up the college comes from the months when Taaki fought side by side with the revolutionaries like Erselan Serdem, the Rojava Kurds who believed in anarchic direct democracy. Taaki was economically cut off from the outside world due to the embargo imposed by various countries on Syria and the depreciation of the Syrian currency lira ($1 is equivalent to 500 lire), so he began to imagine how to use cryptocurrency to connect Rojava people and use technology to achieve "Self-sufficiency." He initially planned to organize some educational activities to unite some technical hackers to create a large-scale payment network that can be supported by the ESP 12 WiFi module and counterfeit-proof paper wallets without relying on the central bank or even the Internet. "Lay the foundation.

Gradually, Taaki has more witnesses in establishing the “Bitcoin Society” in Syria. Encryption economic writer Rachel Rose O'Leary has documented Erselan Serdem, head of the Rojava technology development project, in a recent article. Some of the feelings of this social practice in contact.

Here is her story:

At the time of this writing I was at Rojava, the Democratic Union in northern Syria.

The Kurdish majority rebelled against the Syrian regime in 2012 and gained autonomy in the Rojava revolution that began in November 2013.

It is worth noting that Rojava under Syrian rule has almost no investment or support from the central government. The law restricts Kurdish possession of private property. Many people do not have nationality. Rojava people's real estate is often confiscated by government loan sharks. After achieving autonomy, Rojava established a new political model called democratic confederalism, a social system based on the principles of direct democracy, gender equality and sustainable development. Its characteristics of unlimited nationality and no centralization are similar to those of the blockchain.

This is part of the reason why I came here.

I came here because, in December last year, US President Donald Trump announced the withdrawal of troops from the region, saying that he would defeat ISIS and condemned Syria as an endless war of war – he called it "sand and death." "place.

The situation has eased now, but at the time, many believed that Turkey, which borders northern Syria, would launch an attack (Turkey has been launching an offensive against the region since 2016).

What is worrying is that if Turkey seizes control, Rojava's political system will collapse into a centralized state of the nation. There will be no resistance anymore. This is a kind of resistance that I am very concerned about.

I have previously written about the potential of blockchains and cryptocurrencies in the Rojava area. I believe that although the region lacks the basic security and resources provided by the West, it has something that Western countries do not have, that is, the opportunity to establish a new governance system.

To this end, I spent more than a month trying to enter the country, giving my skills in media and cryptocurrency a new network of technical colleges that are rapidly evolving in the region.

On February 25, after I arrived, I heard a critical voice saying that in the process of implementing democratic confederalism, Rojava will soon succumb to familiar pressure and succumb to the already ingrained capitalism in the local economy. Hierarchy.

Erselan Serdem, head of the Rojava technology development project, wants to try to reverse this and they want to create a new economic model that will allow the economy to continue and develop equally. Through the use of new technologies, the development of useful tools for society, the realization of a good relationship with nature of modern democratic (democratic modernity).

Serdem believes that this ideal can be achieved by combining philosophy and technology correctly.

War veterans and social engineers

Serdem is training hackers of various decentralized technologies through the establishment of a college. Participants will explore how to achieve natural resource allocation and management by studying digital governance, cryptocurrency and blockchain technologies. To this end, Serdem recruits people with certain technical skills from Rojava and trains veterans who have been injured in the war from basic programming skills.

Currently, 30 war veterans have participated in the project.

Serdem is not only recruiting students in northern Syria, but is also looking for political hackers and philosophers who focus on reshaping technology. Serdem called these people "social engineers." Software developer and college member Hozan Mamo said that technical colleges can solve problems in civil society, and decentralized governance tools and ideas can help make democratic decisions and control power.

For this "technology + philosophy" concept, Taaki has a more interesting discussion in a previous interview. "Technology is the means or power tool we use to shape society, but fundamentally, we are the drivers of technology," "Without the support of ideology, technology can't survive." Taaki asserts.

On the other hand, the role of cryptocurrency will also be highlighted in Rojava, because there is no electronic payment in Rojava, so Rojava residents rely on the Lira issued by the Syrian government, which means that the region is still economically subject to the central government. .

In order to achieve true economic independence (Rojava could not have been relied upon by anyone), the college is using technology to build the infrastructure and trying to get local merchants to accept cryptocurrencies for complete “self-sufficiency”. Taaki wrote on the college's official website Polytech,

We are training developers and deploying early cryptocurrency infrastructure (such as wireless networks, operating system development and encryption systems) at Rojava.

The college is currently carrying out projects in four directions: self-sufficiency in hardware manufacturing (routers and telephones), cryptocurrency and blockchain decentralization to society, and autonomous networks under cooperative contracts (free education, self-service and freedom) Competing local network providers) and hacker colleges.

Social thoughts triggered by cryptocurrencies

Still, there is a lot of cynicism around this technical college project.

In Rojava, the masses mainly access information through smartphone apps such as Facebook, YouTube and Whatsapp, but the proliferation of information on the Internet and the overuse of smartphones have led to local prejudice and suspicion of technology development, on blockchains and The popularity and application of cryptocurrency technology has had a negative impact.

To solve this problem, Serdem intends to use academic institutions to redefine technology and remove the narrative from corporate interest groups that monopolize social media, network infrastructure, and even hardware in the region.

“Technology is also in different forms. Some technologies are developed by national governments and companies, and some are tools and technologies developed by oppressed people in history, such as decentralized technologies like Bitcoin.”

In addition, before the revolution, the Syrian government deliberately impeded the development of technology in the region, such as prohibiting the teaching of technology in universities, arresting new technology advocates, etc., but fortunately, young people in Rojava are not enthusiastic about technology, but also have strong talents. . Universal decentralization concepts and technologies should be easily accepted.

Technology open source is not the only thing that Serdem is pushing. The college also attaches great importance to philosophy, especially the work of Abdullah Ocalan. Ocalan is a political philosopher who has been imprisoned. He tries to fundamentally restructure society by challenging the social hierarchy and the roots of governance. This work led to the Rojava revolution.

This philosophical ideology has a strong resonance with the ideology held by many cryptocurrency advocates who can apply this idea to the open source movement.

“We are creating a technical community to solve technical problems while cultivating social engineers or politicians in a moral society,” Serdem said before summing up:

"In Rojava, we are working hard to realize the concept of open source, how to create an open source-based society."




Author: Rachel Rose O'Leary

Compile: Jessie

Partial reference article:





Source: Orange Book

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