Rojava: A safe haven in the middle of Syria's brutal war

Story highlights

  • Rojava is a small strip of land in northern Syria that's home to a remarkable revolution
  • Power vacuum left by the war has allowed Kurds to create a secular, multicultural community

Rahila Gupta is a freelance journalist and writer. Her books include "Enslaved: The New British Slavery." Gupta visited Rojava in northern Syria recently during research for a forthcoming book co-written with Beatrix Campbell, "Why Doesn't Patriarchy Die?" Follow her on Twitter: @RahilaG. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely hers.

(CNN)As world leaders grapple with how to end the Syrian war, most people in the west are struggling to look beyond the bombs, destruction and refugee crisis to understand the tangle of alignments that is Syria.

What is often hidden from view is that a strip of land in northern Syria, known as Rojava, contiguous with south-eastern Turkey, is home to a remarkable revolution. And I do not use the term "revolution" lightly.
Since the Arab Spring in 2011, Rojava's predominantly Kurdish population of around 3-4 million has effected a bottom-up transformation of society into a direct democracy, organized into three self-governing, Swiss-style cantons.