I have emphasised before the importance of understanding objectively the political and administrative system in the areas of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in northern and eastern Syria. One of the ways to obtain this understanding is through translation and overview of primary source documents.
The Democratic Society Movement (TEV-DEM) served as an umbrella for the coalition of parties in SDF-held areas, led by the Democratic Union Party (PYD). Some early TEV-DEM publications also outlined the internal system of units of governance such as the communes. However, changes to TEV-DEM's structure occurred after TEV-DEM's third congress in August 2018, which included the cancellation of TEV-DEM's political committee and as such the political parties no longer operate under it. Instead, TEV-DEM now serves as an umbrella for various non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in SDF-held areas, though TEV-DEM naturally maintains links with the PYD that continues to lead the political system in the SDF-held areas. It also remains tied to the Democratic Autonomous Administration that has been set up as the governing/administrative face for the SDF-held areas.
The following small book I have obtained and translated outlines the covenant and internal system of TEV-DEM following the third congress in 2018. I was not able to find a copy of it online.
Ideologically speaking, the terminology and principles are all very much in keeping with those espoused by the PYD and Abdullah Ocalan, who founded the Kurdistan Worker's Party (PKK). The institutions outlined in this book are as follows:
- Congress (300 members and to be convened once every two years)
- Joint presidency
- Administrative council (64 members)
- Coordination unit (18 members)
The TEV-DEM committees outlined in this book:
- Organisational committee
- Financial committee
- Legal committee
- Media and archive committee
- Youth committee
- Woman's committee
Finally the regional councils and expanded meeting are described in the book.
Below is the original book with my translation.
Covenant of the Democratic Society Movement
27 August 2018.
Covenant of the Democratic Society Movement
Democratic modernity aims as a solution in the Middle East region to create an ethical and political society, as opposed to nationalist statehood, and to prepare an economic ecological society, as opposed to industrialism, for the destruction that the tyrannical nationalist states have created, and the appearance of their political applications with clarity, have become as decisive lines of evidence showing that it is to be taken as a given now, that societies cannot be controlled through the old method of administration that is mutually acknowledged among the tyrannical states. And it has become a matter of urgency to overcome the age of the nationalist states, and move to the era of the democratic society, and begin with the state of life on the form of democratic nations, and establish federations and autonomous administrations and the foundations of the civil society, in their confederal form. This form ensures care for the development of the democratic criteria and meanings, in order to be able to resolve the problems through mutual agreement, dialogue and peace and to produce the peaceful solutions with the democratic federations. For as federation, brotherhood, and communal life and its mutually inherited cultural traditions have been in the Middle East more deeply rooted and established than the rest of the civil civilisations that have been formed subsequently, that societal fact establishes that individualism will not be able to strike the societal infrastructure of our societies, despite the increasing pressures from capitalist modernism.
And therefore, finding the permanent and root solutions for the issues is not possible with the existence of the nationalist statehood and any other rigid system, and what must be done is to establish the will for transition to the democratic nation, because the preservation of the choice of democracy developed from the foundation, is an inevitable matter in administration and rule. Therefore one must adopt the ethical system, which considers the societal, ethnic, religious and groupist differences and divisions, on the basis that it is the state of nature and secret of the force of the living societies. The system also develops the democratic concepts and values on confederal bases, so that they should be the comprehensive alternative, which comprises all the social cultures in the region of the Middle East and Syria in particular. And what we suggest embodies the solution for the complicated historical and social crises and issues that are rooted in the region of the Middle East. And on the basis of these revolutionary visions, the Democratic Society Movement was formed in Rojava Kurdistan and Syria. And it has undertaken a pivotal role in creating a popular support base of joint participation, which has confronted terrorism and tyranny, and demolished their foundations. For since its establishment it has embraced the third line, adopting in that the democratic policy and its leading role to realise the gains of the revolution in northern Syria. And it is incumbent upon the movement today and in this decisive stage to undertake a new transition in the struggle, through embodying its societal role through the third field.
Indeed the Democratic Society Movement has represented and still adopts an intellectual, organisational and political path, and has engaged with the issues of crisis in Syria and Rojava, with the spirit of the societal revolution, and the feeling of responsibility towards the society. And it has relied on the philosophy of comprehensive change to resolve the lived issues in a fundamental sense, and for the sake of that, the movement has borne in kind the transformation and transition to a societal system that protects rights and freedoms, and cuts the path before any authoritarian mindset, particularly as it has put in place the strong foundations to build a political and social system, represented in the Democratic Autonomous Administration. This administration has been able to operate on a number of levels, as it has built institutions and administrations to organise political, social, legal, economic and security life in northern Syria. And it has been able to extend the bridges of contact with the regional and global countries, in addition to the other democratic movements and patriotic organisations in Syria, in order to strengthen the democratic front, and transition to a democratic de-centralised political system. As for today, and after the Democratic Autonomous Administration reached strong organisational levels, and democratic elections were held, with the participation of political and societal parties and movements in north Syria, and from all the components, the Democratic Society Movement considers that the directive towards supporting and building the NGOs of the third field, as a field independent in its essence, is to be considered a fundamental obligation, because it is not possible for any political system to preserve its democratic course without societal oversight, through which the course is ensured to be correct and the mistakes are corrected.
Indeed any system to which the opportunity for solution is made available, must continually make available all the paths and means, with the aim of successful ideological accountability for nationalist chauvinism, sexism, religious chauvinism and man-made scientism.
The Democratic Society Movement has considered since its establishment that the policy of genocide applied against the Kurdish people and other peoples is still continuing at the hands of the tyrannical systems, with the aim of wiping out the Kurdish identity and existence, and that the struggle of the movement adopts multiple forms and courses, serving the interest of realising the freedom of the Kurdish people, and resolving its issue with a just democratic system, and that this cause should become tantamount to realising security and stability in the Middle East, and the path of its democratisation, and it should be tantamount to a cause of public opinion among the peoples and societies of the Middle East in their entirety.
Therefore, its struggle will be developed in multiple fields, and it is the one that has undertaken since its establishment the organisation of the society on the basis of societal components and groups, which affirm the issue of ethnicities and the particularity of religions and the multiplicity of cultures and their representation in accordance with their free will.
The third field and the civil society are considered in total among the social values and ideas, and the voluntary and charitable actions, and protection of the rights of the social groups that head towards the building of the strong foundations for the democratic system. They arise on the principles of voluntary participation, autonomous independence, free citizenship, and reconciling between particular and public interests, and in order to ensure oversight concerning the securing of rights and acceptance of difference and diversity, which leads to building and improving the societal system in the direction of reorganising the societal environment for the interest of pluralism, openness and peaceful interaction.
The third field also includes contingents of systems of public benefit, in which membership is built horizontally, like NGOs, syndicates, and charitable and intellectual associations, and unions, endowments and centres for studies, which include members from various inclinations and affiliations and do not rely on a specific group, and are interested in defending the rights of their members and their opinions regarding the totality of the issues of general and particular importance.
Indeed the institutions of the third field are sides that offer social services to their members, and to all the societal groups. They also arise on the basis of voluntary participation and free choice, and their philosophy lies in the fact that they are a societal organisation, elevating the society, contributing to resolving its issues and exceeding the concept of intermediary between individual and authority. And they reduce the reliance of the society and individuals on the administration. And the commissions of the administration do not interfere in their organisational framework and assets, and they do not take the form of a governmental office. Also the third field takes up as a program independence and autonomous organisation and the spirit of initiative, and voluntary work, and service in the fields of the public, charitable and patriotic interest, and defending the rights of the societal groups and training them in a professional and academic manner. And it does not strive to reach authority, but it undertakes an active political role, because it engages in the mission of developing the culture of rights, in what supports the values of the democratic transformation, like values of responsibility and accountability, and building the free citizenship that is filled with political awareness: i.e. that it is a societal organisation on the basis of the free citizenship.
And in order that the institutions of the third field can engage in their missions with freedom and effective, they require legal guarantees and a civilian domain, for the gathering of the citizens who have the shared interests and values, for engaging in their right to express opinion with freedom and spirit of responsibility, and constructively criticising the administration and the executive commissions, and engaging in legitimate group (mass) activities, such as peaceful demonstrations and sit-ins and civilian protests.
Indeed one of the foundational pillars of the democratic systems is the third field, through which the society can organise its ranks not only on the professional level, but also it undertakes defending its foundational issues as well, like waging war on the male chauvinist mindset, through developing the struggle of the freedom of the woman, and defending the patriotic causes for the struggling peoples, and the causes of liberation and democratic transformation, and looking for political and social solutions for them. Also it aims to spread democratic values, through incorporating the societal components and groups into its ranks, and developing the culture of defending autonomy, and this is what the Democratic Society Movement strives for in that it should have an active role in supporting and upholding the societal revolution on all levels and elevations, like work, defence, services, culture, economy and others, in order to reach a just political system on the general Syrian level.
The third field and within it the NGOs of the civil society are considered the true guarantee for the societal revolution and the democratic transformation. And without it the democratic process will not be complete and will be exposed to deviation from its course. And therefore the members of the NGOs of the Democratic Society Movement, who are elected in the official commissions for the Democratic Autonomous Administration, must express the aims and ambitions of the societal groups that they represent.
Therefore we consider that the third field has an important and foundational role in the de-centralised democratic system, and from this basis, and on account of the importance of its role in preserving the rights of the society and supporting it, as a foundational pillar in our political and societal system, we consider that for this purpose and for completing the mission in achieving the societal revolution, our ethical and patriotic obligation is imposed on us in supporting and enriching its systems, so that they can undertake their active role in the democratic transformation in northern Syria. On this basis, we have clarified this covenant of the Democratic Society Movement.
The Internal System of the Democratic Society Movement
First: Foundational principles:
1. The name:
Democratic Society Movement
Tevgera Civaka Demokrat: TEV-DEM.
2. The slogan:
A free ecological democratic society.
3. The symbol:
Three rectangles of equal dimensions in parallel horizontally: the green on the bottom, the red in the middle, and the yellow on the top, with the length of the symbol being double its width.
4. Defining the movement:
It is a democratic social movement of the confederal societal type, working to reach the implantation of the ethical, political and ecological society, and realising the freedom of the woman, and relying on the values of societal equality, and co-existence and cultural and ethnic diversity, and protecting the rights of the societal groups. And it calls for respecting the freedom of opinion and thought and belief, and it organises itself horizontally, far removed from the concept of statehood, and it includes NGOs, syndicates, associations, councils and professional unions, in addition to endowments, and centres of studies and training. And it adopts the philosophy of the democratic nation in resolving the societal issues and its organisation.
5. Aims of the movement:
The Democratic Society Movement aims to strive for realising a free dignified life for the societal groups, and realising societal and economic development, and raising the production capacity alongside its support for the democratic and ethnical and political program and protecting rights and freedoms, and that is through:
- Rejecting discrimination on the basis of ethnicity, gender or belief.
- Guaranteeing the rights of the woman and girl and their freedom, and supporting plans and projects particular to them.
- Developing and protecting the general freedom and rights of the NGOs of civil society, and supporting them through all legitimate means.
- Striving to guarantee the right to work and preparing equal opportunities, and improving the means of production and developing it through professional training.
- Developing the democratic culture through establishing centres for training.
- Raising the awareness of the societal groups within the framework of the NGOs of civil society, and making prominent their role in serving the general interest, and he necessity of realising societal justice in building national unity.
- Supporting the democratic transformation and transition from consumerist rigidness to the productive society, with participation in political and economic decision-making, and striving to develop the laws and legislations that serve society.
- Working to realise solidarity and coordination between the NGOs of the civil society on one side, and the members of those NGOs on the other side, and developing the spirit of cooperation and resolving disagreements by friendly means.
- Making active the NGOs of civil society in the field of production and pluralistic societal services.
- Implanting the bonds of brotherhood, cooperation and unity between the NGOs of civil society on the national Syrian level.
- Cooperation with the NGOs of civil society and regional and international worker unions in accordance with the national aims.
- Supporting the rights of the peoples in self-determination.
- Striving for the return of the migrants and departed to Rojava.
Second: Conditions for membership and its invalidation in the movement:
1. For NGOs:
For the acceptance of the membership of the NGOs and institutions of the civil society, the following is required as condition:
a) Every NGO or institution and those within them, must obtain a permit to continue their work legally.
b) They must believe in the covenant of the movement and its internal system.
c) Membership requests are accepted after the administration council agrees to the request submitted in writing.
d) Compliance with paying the monthly membership fee.
e) Membership is invalidated after the agreement of coordination unit of the Democratic Society Movement and its confirmation by the administration council, and that is when there is violation by any NGO of the covenant of the movement and its internal system with clear evidence or striving to infringe on the nature of the work of the movement and its aims.
2. For individuals:
a) Membership of those of expertise and competence and societal personalities is accepted for joining the Democratic Society Movement after the agreement of the administration council.
b) The individuals have the right to exercise all their rights in organisational and societal and administrative work, within the administrative commissions and committees of the movement.
c) The individuals do not have the right to interfere in the international affairs of the NGOs that come within the ranks of the movement.
d) The same procedures are to be adopted equally in invalidating the right to membership for NGOs and individuals.
Third: Financing of the movement:
The financing of the movement consists of:
1. Income from activities and projects that the movement carries out.
2. Unconditional donations and grants, which the movement obtains from NGOs, institutions and individuals.
3. Contributions of member NGOs in the movement, provided this does not exceed by a value of 10% the total of the subscriptions of their members.
Fourth: The organisational framework of the movement:
1. The congress:
a) It is the highest apparatus for taking decisions in the Democratic Society Movement, held once every two years, and composed of the representatives of the administrative committees and frameworks, and delegates from the members of the movement, in addition to delegates from the NGOs of the movement, as they represent their NGOs inside the congress,
b) The works of the congress are opened by the joint presidency, and the congress participants elect a department for the administration of the works of the congress.
c) The number of members of the congress is 300 members, and the members are defined by the NGOs that are part of the movement.
d) The members of the administrative council are considered natural members in the congress.
e) The congress has the right to adopt the competencies of acceptance of the program of the movement and its internal system, or to modify it and draw up the general policies.
f) Considering and deciding on the future programs of the movement's activity.
g) The congress elects the joint presidency and the administrative council.
2. Tasks of the joint presidency:
a) The joint presidency is considered a representative of the movement and a spokesman in its name, and it implements the decisions of the congress.
b) It oversees and directs all the works of the movement, and it signs the correspondences, and it adopts the appropriate decisions in what ensures good course of works of the movement and the realisation of its aims.
c) It submits its reports to the congress.
d) The joint presidency is considered along with the general coordination unit to be the side responsible for the finances of the movement, and all is in the limits of its specialisation and responsibilities.
e) It is considered the side responsible for any aberration in the adoption of a decision that contravenes the law of work and the rulings of the internal system.
f) The joint presidency and the coordination unit and the financial committee have the right in meeting together to sign contracts of selling and buying, or relinquishing properties and public real estate, and to sign contracts of renting out as per decision from the administrative council.
g) It has the right to appoint advisors and experts in the required specialisations.
3. The administrative council:
a) The administrative council is composed of the representatives of the NGOs of the movement and their members.
b) It is considered the highest organisational commission in the movement after the congress.
c) It operates according to the clauses of the internal system, which accords with the rulings that come within the movement.
d) The council is composed of 64 members, who are elected by the congress.
e) It holds its meetings once every three months, and the joint presidency of the movement heads its meeting, or its meeting is held in accordance with a request from the joint presidency and the coordination unit of the movement, or by call from two thirds of the members of the council.
Tasks of the administrative council:
The administrative council undertakes its tasks in accordance with the following specialities:
a) Drawing up the stage policy of the movement in what accords with the decisions of the congress, and assessing the course of works of the coordination unit.
b) Considering and deciding on the future programs of the activity of the movement.
c) It elects from among its members the coordination unit of the Democratic Society Movement.
d) Considering and assessing the reports submitted by the coordination unit and the financial committee of the movement.
e) Verifying the general budget and final accounts of the ending financial year. And it has the right to seek to modify articles or add clauses concerning the annual budget.
f) Supervising the election of the administrative commissions for the regions.
g) It is permitted to hold the meeting of the administrative council with the attendance of the vast majority of the members.
h) It has the right to consider the disputes occurring between the NGOs through a specialised committee.
i) Reviewing the decisions connected with the commissions of the regions, and taking into consideration the suggestions and opinions of the councils of the regions.
j) Establishing branches or opening offices for itself in the regions.
k) In the event of occurrence of vacancies, the relevant NGO informs and refers names proposed to fill the vacancy.
4. The coordination unit of the Democratic Society Movement:
1. It is the highest executive apparatus in the movement.
2. Its members are elected by the administrative council.
3. The coordination unit is composed of 18 members.
Tasks of the coordination unit:
The coordination unit holds its meeting once a month, and it engages in the following tasks:
a) It implements the supreme policy of the movement in accordance with the decisions of the congress and the administrative council.
b) Considering the suggestions and recommendations that come to it from the member NGOs or the individual members, and adopting the appropriate measures in issuing decisions.
c) Working to resolve the disagreements by friendly and legal means.
d) Oversight with the administrative council for the elections of the commissions of the regions.
e) Preparing and establishing the estimate budgets, and setting the aspects of disbursement and expenditure for the various activities, in addition to issuing the data on income and expenditure, and the final budget to be put to the administrative council.
f) The coordination unit has the right to notify any NGO that bears the capacity of membership regarding any aberration that contaminates the path of its work or method of its dealing with the issues of work in the violation of the rulings of its internal system or the general internal system of the movement. It also has the right to intervene to prevent the occurrence of what impacts negatively on the national interest and the interests of the members.
g) Offering the necessary material and morale support 'in the limits of its capabilities' to the member NGOs, to enable them to undertake their obligation in realising their aims, and serving their members and realising their financial requests, after the agreement of the financial committee.
5. Committees of the Democratic Society Movement:
The administrative council after the holding of its first meeting elects the general coordination unit and the members of its committees, in accordance with the established categorisation, with three to five members for each committee, from the representatives of the NGOs of the civil society, and the representatives of the professional syndicates, and the representatives of the workers' syndicates and the individuals, provided that each committee includes one member from the members of the coordination unit.
1. The organisational committee: it is the one responsible for the organisational works of the movement, and it organises the framework of its committees in the regions as well, and it puts in place a program plan for work, through which is realised the preparation of opportunities for individuals to join the NGOs of the movement. And it supervises the training of the NGOs that have joined and the nurturing of the society. And it has the right in contact and coordination including what supports the aims of the education and training commission and its programs in nurturing.
2. The financial committee: it is the one entrusted with the financial and economic affairs of the movement, and it submits its reports to the coordination unit of the movement and the administrative council in a regular and transparent sense. And it does not have the right to define the aspects of disbursement and agree to new projects and expenditures without the agreement of the joint presidency and the coordination unit of the movement.
3. The legal committee: it is entrusted with reviewing the application of the clauses of the internal system of the movement and it is the one responsible for defending the rights of the social groups and the NGOs that are part of the movement. And it submits suggestions for legal projects tantamount to recommendations to the official authorities. And it expresses its opinion concerning the totality of the projects of the laws issued from the Democratic Autonomous Administration.
4. The media and archive committee: it is the one responsible for archiving the official records and correspondences of the movement, and publishing the statements, declarations, events and activities that the movement carries out.
5. The youth committee it is the one responsible for tracking the work of the youth groups and contributing to raising the awareness of the youth and affirming the importance of their role in building the democratic society, through the youth NGOs and sports clubs within the movement.
6. The woman's committee: it is the one responsible for tracking the affairs of the woman professionally and legally, and it raises the awareness of the woman and affirming the importance of her role in building the democratic society, and the means of organising herself within her particular capacities. And the committee is considered the one responsible for all that concerns the woman in the committees in general and the protection of her rights.
6. The councils of the regions:
They organise themselves in proportion with the supreme commissions, and they are confederal organisations that include in their administrative commissions delegates of the NGOs of the civil society in the sectors and areas of the regions, and they constitute the basis in supporting the congress with the delegates. And the proportion of the councils of the regions is defined in accordance with the extent of the organisations and the density of the members.
7. The expanded meeting:
The expanded meeting is held between the two congresses by decision from the administrative council and the coordination unit and its joint presidency and that is when I is necessary. The expanded meeting is to be attended by all of the members of the administrative council and delegates from the councils of the regions. And the numbers of the delegates are specified by the administrative council. The expanded meeting is to put forward all the administrative and organisational issues, and to put in place the plans and programs of stages, and to overcome the obstacles at the level of the administrative council and the coordination unit of the movement.
Fifth: General rulings:
1. The coordination unit sets up a committee to oversee the elections for the member NGOs and in coordination with the administrative council.
2. Every member NGO in the movement is to continue its works in accordance with its particular autonomous quality, with the necessity of its compliance with the clauses of the internal system of the movement.
3. When any of the NGOs of the movement holds internal elections or changes its administrative officials, it must provide notification through referral of a letter to the movement regarding what occurs from replacement and changing of new delegates, in order that its delegate can be removed or replaced from the administrative council or coordination unit and they can be removed from the records, and the names of the new elected delegates can be added by them.
4. The NGOs of the civil society and the professional and worker syndicates are to choose among themselves, in order to make clear their delegates and their representation in the congress and the administrative council.
5. Each of the committees of the movement is to prepare the mechanism of its work, provided it submits that in the first holding of a meeting of the administrative council, which will discuss in its capacity all the mechanisms and establish them.
28 August 2018.
Third congress of the Democratic Society Movement TEV-DEM