Tekmîl is the regular organised practice of giving and recieving criticism, utilised by revolutionary civil and military groups in Rojava*. On a frequent basis individuals in organisations such as women’s academies or YPJ units, come together to exchange constructive criticism; every member gets the opportunity to participate and provide criticism to their self, comrades, or to the group on any topic- behavioural to logistical. The mediator, to prevent criticism or the critics from becoming acetic, is hevaliti- which roughly translates to comradeship/ friendship. When we are able to internalise that people criticise us as hevals, from a place of love and mutual interest, the harsh edge of criticism becomes blunted and it becomes an invaluable tool to take us out of ourselves and reassess and embrace dynamism in our lives.
When I first came across this concept in a webinar organised by Kurdistan Solidarity (exploring the intersection between personal and societal revolution), it really resounded with me. The bedrock of the Rojavan Revolution is the decolonisation of the mind which manifests in struggling against the forces of oppression that seep into our psyche and become internalised. Tekmil is revolutionary because it takes us out of the dogmatism of ego, and allows us to connect with not only ourselves but those around us on a deeper level.
Life wasn’t designed to be easy, and anything or anyone that tries to convince you otherwise is deluding you. It seems to me that we live in a constant state of delusion in the sterilisation of our interactions with others. We fear psychological probing because if we get to the core of our psyche we may find the unseemly- the uncategorisable emotions, dormant memories and prejudices. But it is this very ‘unseemliness’ which makes us human and connects us all -if you’ll indulge me- as hevals. This is a reality acknowledged in Tekmîl and the revolutionary process, which require an ability to take oneself back to the drawing board and start again. If we don’t do this and sideline our fear, Baldwin describes the outcome very eloquently:
“To defend oneself against a fear is simply to insure that one will, one day, be conquered by it; fears must be faced.”James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time
The conversations I lament the most come from individuals in two categories: the reserved and the supremist. In the former indivduals do not speak their mind as they are afraid of judgment or that they’ll say something wrong. It seems unfortunate that I must preface anything I say to those who fall in this group that ‘this is a safe non judgmental space’- even after this there are some levels of reservation which remain locked. I find this group proliferate in formalised settings, such as education institutions, and workplaces. Why do we invoke such a distance between each other when we are tied in more ways than we can imagine? This sterilisation pulls us so far from each other. The latter is the supremist who is right and you are wrong. When conversing with them there is no development of ideas- you may be better of talking to a brick wall. Criticism is an attack, and you are the ‘other’ -however they may pad it out. These people refuse to see the grey area that exists between action and intention. They gloss over the remembrance that everyone makes mistakes, harbours prejudices of some sort- and most importantly that for everyone there is a hope of change for the better.
The philosophy of Tekmîl and its implementation in societal structures, links personal and societal revolution. Whilst Rojava seems quite removed from us sitting in the UK, there is much to learn from practices such as Tekmîl and concepts such as hevaliti which I understand as being built on an optimistic, hopeful view for the individuals and the world.
*For those of you aren’t aware, Rojava is an autonomous region in North East Syria where the Kurdish Freedom Movement are organising a society different from the Western conception following the ideology of Democratic Confederalism ( which draws parallels with anarchism) the brainchild of the movement’s leader Abdullah Ocalan. I’ll leave some links here if you are interested in looking into it further.
– London Kurdistan Solidarity’s Twitter Page centralises the latest news and educative opportunities and is well updated https://twitter.com/LDNKurdSol
– The seminar where I was exposed to Tekmil- it is a part of a series which I would recommend https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=260197331957783&id=355288844808376&refid=52
– The Internationalist Commune Website is updated frequently with articles https://internationalistcommune.com
-Likewise Komun Academy has alot of articles https://komun-academy.com
– You can find Ocalan’s writings quite easily online, I’ve also sourced a pdf autobiography of a Kurdish Revolutionary if you are looking for something to read https://spacestudios.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/sakine-cansz-sara-my-whole-life-was-a-struggle.pdf