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April 8, 2020 41 mins

How does law and order work in a system based on anarchist political theory? In this episode, Robert visits a court for ISIS prisoners and talks to one of the top Judges in Rojava.

Music: "Bella Ciao" by Astronautalis (feat. Subp Yao & Rickolus)

Episode Transcript: https://www.thewomenswar.com/

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Episode Transcript

Available transcripts are automatically generated. Complete accuracy is not guaranteed.
Speaker 1 (00:00):
Welcome to the Women's War, a production of I Heart Radio.
It's the dawn of our second morning in Rojaba, well,
my first boarding in Rojaba, our first full day, our
second day here. Anarchy gets a bad rap, mainly because

(00:23):
the word sounds cool, and so it gets used as
a synonym for chaos, disorder, and violence and awful lot
of the time, many people will laugh when you bring
up the idea of anarchist leadership or anarchist organizations, and
if you happen to introduce yourself as an anarchist, you
often wind up needing to cover a fair amount of
rhetorical ground just to convince people that you're not either
a violent maniac or an adult with the brain of

(00:44):
a teenage skateboard punk from a Disney Channel original movie.
There are a number of different ways to do anarchy,
but the general goal is usually the same, the dismantling
of unjust hierarchies. Murray book Chin was an American and
ideas that wound up shaping the system in ra Java
were originally conceived because they were the system he thought

(01:06):
might best take hold of. The United States. Book Chain
saw massive dense urban areas making laws for rural mountain
dwellers hundreds of miles away, and he saw small town
voters forcing their beliefs on cosmopolitan city dwellers. He thought
both of these things were wrong, and the goal of
libertarian municipalism was to break down these unjust hierarchies. Almost

(01:27):
anywhere you live, if your goal is dismantling unfair hierarchy,
you're going to eventually find yourself looking at your justice system.
And prior to their revolution, Northeast Syria had a famously
bad one. Every town was riddled with massive complexes for
the mukabrat, or secret police. The Assad regime maintained compliance
through an infamous system of torture designed by a former

(01:49):
Nazi s S officer. It was a pretty easy system
to justify tearing down, but it's not always enough to
just remove an injustice. No nation needs mukah barat, but
you do need people to investigate and adjudicate murders, domestic violence,
and other sorts of crimes that we can all agree
are in fact crimes. How does the society based in

(02:09):
Moray book Chain's quasi anarchist principles handle this? On Sunday,
July twenty one, two thousand nineteen, Jake Hanrahan and I
set out with our friend Kabat to learn. We were
both still a little bit hungover from the night before
when a law on our driver picked us up from
the hotel He lived nearby, and he was going to
drive us into Comischelow to pick up Robat to start
our day. Alan is a thin, wiry man in his

(02:32):
early forties. He has an impassive, semi permanent poker face,
and he expresses the vast majority of his emotions through cigarettes.
As a rule, only the very worst cigarettes on earth
wind up in Syria. If it can't pass inspection in
the EU, it winds up in a Lan's pocket. His
very favorite brand, argolis Is. He offers Jake and I
each one and we enjoy a cigarette breakfast. As a

(02:53):
lawn gets onto the highway, Jake and Alan take turns
plugging in their phones and playing different Kurdish militant anthems,
including the song of the y d g H the
Kurdish Youth Movement. Jake was arrested for reporting on for
the anthem of a children's militia. It kind of slaps

(03:18):
pocket pocket bogget. You can tell a lot about this place.
By looking at the window on a morning drive, we
are passed by an ambulance, lights flashing. We see construction
teams working on the roads, which are very notably and
better shaped. In the roads in Iraqi, Kurdistan, we see
oil fields in operation, men and women with a K

(03:40):
forty seven's manning checkpoints and waiting for the bus alongside
one another. And to my right, as we rolled north
to Comischelo, we see mighty trenches being dug to build
more and more tunnels. Archways and billboards covered with the
faces and names of Shahids, the martyrs and the war
against Isis line the highway to every town we enter.

(04:00):
They are always vividly colored, set on a background of
bright green and revolutionary read. Many women on the street
wear head scarfs and somewhere the full nikop which covers
them from head to toe. But I also see a
great number of women with their heads uncovered, girls walking
to school with back straight and stacks of books held
in the crook of their arms. Freedom of religion and

(04:21):
freedom from it are both visible here. Food is in
clear and ample supply. The markets we pass are bustling
at least as much as those we see in the
k r G there are numerous military checkpoints which do
slow the speed of travel, but they're necessary to protect
people from the ongoing threat of is As sleeper cells.
These checkpoints are all manned by women and men of
the SASH, the military police. Several of the Asaish we

(04:44):
pass have patches on their shoulders that say salak jin Mabe,
which means no life without our leader. The patches feature
a silhouetted portrait of Abdula agolan Apo, the ideological founder
of Rojava. I find this somewhat unset. The veneration of
strong and singular leaders is always, you know, at best,
a risky proposition. But I also can't help but notice

(05:07):
that the Syrian regime and the ISIS flags that had
once been painted over the walls and shutters of buildings
in the towns we passed through. They haven't simply been
replaced by YPG flags. Instead, they've been covered up by
art paintings of flowers and clovers. The only political symbols
that are on display everywhere are pictures of the men
and women who died to build this place. We pick

(05:33):
up Kabat from outside her home and she takes us
to a nearby food stand for breakfast. We eat something
that looks very much like a burrito, but with garlic,
sauce and falafel inside. It is delicious. While we eat,
we go over our schedule for the day. Before heading
over here. Jacob sent me an NPR article about a
judge named Amina who was working to build the legal
code of this new autonomous region. The article was titled

(05:56):
Revenge Is for the Weak Kurdish Courts in Northeastern Syria,
A take on ISIS cases Now. The first part of
that title is a quote from a Kurdish lawyer explaining
why their system explicitly bans things like torture, the death penalty,
and even life imprisonment. Amina is sited in it claiming
that even Abu Baker al bug Dhatti, if tried and convicted,
would only have been eligible for a twenty years sentence.

(06:18):
Her hope is that he could be rehabilitated. This seems
kind of crazy to me, and it seemed kind of
crazy to Jake, but it was also really interesting. So
we told about that we were interested in talking to
Judge Amina, and she set up everything. We arrive at
the courthouse around midday it's actually more of a combination
courthouse jail, although it looks from the outside mostly just
like a house with a large garden. When we enter

(06:41):
the court, the first thing we see is a young
man sitting in a chair. His eyes are covered by
a black blindfold and his hands are bound in front
of him. He sits facing the wall. It's later explained
to me that the blindfolds are so many released prisoners
will not be able to tell where they've been. Judge
Amina and her colleagues are at constant risk of being
murdered just for doing their jobs. Not only are they

(07:02):
targets for ISIS sleeper cells, but as the architect of
Roshava's new justice system, Judge Amina is a wanted criminal
by regime controlled Syria. But char Alasad doesn't look super
kindly on revolutionaries building their own law codes in his country.
She chose to help make a new court system in
her like country as sort of the the old regime
was was pulling back. And I'm curious as to like

(07:25):
as because she practiced law before the Civil war, what
was it she wanted to see changed? Like when she
thought about how she was going to like build a
new system what were the changes she wanted to see
instituted in the new system. Hobbat was the interpreter for
all of our interviews, and we've brought in voice actors
to represent some of our sources. But for now, I'm
gonna let Kabat summarize Judge Amina's answers. And fair warning,

(07:46):
she's a fast talker. If you do have trouble understanding anything.
On our website, the Women's War dot Com, we're going
to have a PDF of the episode script and eventually
all the episode scripts up for you to to access.
So that's the Women's War dot Com. Um, here's Judge
Amina talking through Kabad but wanted to She just said

(08:11):
it's a pyramid. She means that the Syrian justice system
is a top down sort of thing. All power flows
from Assad to the population to be im people. She's
saying that the Rojavan justice system takes place primarily between

(08:34):
the people and each other, rather than having everyone follow
laws dictated from someone or someone's up at the top.
So a we are building from From talking through Kobad,
Judge Amina explained to us that she and her colleagues
were working to replace the old authoritarian vertical power structure
they'd grown up under with a horizontal one. I don't

(08:56):
think Judge Amina is an anarchist, but I suspect the
justice system she helped to build would have met with
Murray book Chain's approval. He believed that society needed to
be altered in fundamental ways, but that taking power was
not the way to do it. Power is the fundamental problem.
Boction wrote this in his book Post Scarcity Anarchism. Quote.
Power to the people can only be put into practice

(09:19):
when the power exercised by social elites is dissolved into
the people. Each individual can then take control of his
daily life. If power to the people means nothing more
than power to the leaders of the people, then the
people remain an undifferentiated, manipulatable mass, as powerless after the
revolution as they were before. So any way, for properties fighting.

(09:51):
You'll notice she's using the word problems instead of the
word crimes. I thought this was just sort of a
translation issue at first, but over time it became clear
that it wasn't. In her view, there are crimes and
there are problems. A crime like an is as sleeper
cell planning to murder a bunch of people that needs
to be addressed by a bunch of folks with guns.
But problems should not be solved by a bunch of

(10:12):
folks with guns. They should be solved by communities at
the neighborhood level. Society in Rojava is divided up into
local communes representing a few dozen to a few hundred
households each. These communes have a number of committees dedicated
to solving different problems. A lot of issues that we
tend to send and police to deal with, like domestic
disturbances and the like, are instead handled by social committees.

(10:36):
Only the most complex and ugly problems get escalated out
of the committees and into the courts. The local communes
are democratic structures and they include every member of the
neighborhood committee. Members are elected by their neighbors and selected

(10:57):
for their perceived level of wisdom and trustworthiness. A lot
of older men and women, grandmothers and grandfathers, wind up
in these positions. Now, law and order in Rojava is
complicated by the unavoidable reality of tribalism. This part of
Syria is filled with a number of very powerful tribes,
and there are often blood debts going back decades between
one tribe or another. The complicated nature of tribal politics

(11:20):
means that any murder could potentially spawn a brutal series
of reprisal killings that leave numerous people dead. When a
murder like this occurs in Rojava, the police do the
job you'd expect and arrest the killer, at least ideally,
but the social committee also springs into action, and their
job is to stop the violence from spreading. So we

(11:46):
were starting to communicate with this. What happens next is
a series of negotiations between the family of the victim
and the family of the killer. The committee members act
as mediators, gradually working out a way for both families
to remain in the area without gunning each other down.

(12:07):
Judge Amina tells us about one particular set of negotiations
that took six months. At the end of the process,
the arrangement was sealed with a feast, having a big
public party where the family of a murderer and the
family of his victim all hang out. That sounds weird,
and it is weird, but it serves a purpose of

(12:29):
making sure there is a large public show of both
sides squashing the beef. That way, if either family attacks
the other later, the whole community will know who broke
the peace and broke their word are In the Rojavan system,
violence is seen as a community problem as well as

(12:50):
an individual problem. Judge Amina didn't consider justice to be
achieved when a criminal was behind bars. She and the
other architects of the system here thought it was equally
important to try heal communities racked by violent crime who
wanted to forgiveness existence. Rujava still has many of the

(13:10):
same mechanisms of justice were familiar with in the United States.
They have criminal courts in prisons, but the maximum sentence
is twenty years, and the goal of incarceration is rehabilitation,
not punishments. It's not about education. Our prisoners in every

(13:35):
different communities in different ways, so they are prepared different
they are educating. Judge Amina explained that the goal of
her Java's prisons was too prepare to integrate the prisoner
back into society without a murderous mind. I had troubled
disagreeing with this on a moral level, but all the
prisoners I had seen so far in the jail were
suspected Isis fighters. The vast majority of her Java's prisons

(13:58):
were occupied by captured isisman I lived through portions of
the battle from Mosel, I talked to hundreds of people
Syrians and Iraqis who suffered under Isis, the idea that
these people could somehow be fixed with job training seminars
ward with my desire to see them quickly and violently punished,
I had trouble believing that people in Rajava, who had
suffered much more from ISIS than I could ever imagine,

(14:19):
would support de radicalization over punishment. And I told this
to Judge Aminaret More. I want to want to do people.
I asked Judge Amina about the prisoners we've seen on

(14:41):
our way and the ones handcuffed to chairs and blindfolded.
She assured me that the blindfolds and handcuffs would be
removed once the prisoners were processed. It was just a
matter of necessary safety. For the moment, it all sounded
good enough, but of course, you know all I had
to go on with me sitting in a room talking
to a woman verifying how this entire justice system actually
fun and is beyond my ability. It's larger work than

(15:02):
one reporter can carry out. And I asked Judge Amina
how she'd feel about international observers from the UN or
Amnesty International coming into report on the justice system in Rojava.
She said that she and her colleagues very much wanted
the international community to come. This is consistent with other
reporting I've seen on the courts in Rojava, and as
with most things in this place, there's a really pragmatic

(15:23):
explanation that goes along with the idealistic one. See, Rojava
is quite literally under a gun right now. International recognition
and the protection that legitimacy provides, that's a matter of
life and death for these people. If the u N
came in to observe their justice system, it also means
the UN is here and they're not going to get
bombed by the Turkish Air Force. Um So, yeah, there's

(15:46):
a couple of reasons they do that. To emphasize the
openness of the court system. Judge Amina offered to take
us on a tour of their facilities, and it was
absolutely not a polished affair. We hopped downstairs and she
threw open the door to an interrogation that was in process,
and then beckoned for me to walk in. The first
thing I saw in the room was a young man
handcuffed to a chair sitting in front of a table
with four people behind it and even mix of women

(16:07):
and women. Three of the people are judges and one
is an observer from the village the arrested man came from.
This is the way terrorism charges are handled in Rojava.
The judges were clearly in the middle of questioning the
man when I barged in. We shared a long, awkward glance,
and then they greeted me. The prisoner said nothing. On
my way out of the room, my backpack flipped off

(16:27):
the light switch and plunged the entire room into darkness.
Everyone was very cool about it, but I felt like
an idiot. I didn't, however, feel that what I was
seeing was stage managed or set up in any way
to impress me. Amina shows us everything we asked to see,
including sales where prisoners weight. And I will not say
these facilities are plush and luxurious. They look like a
jail there, they're they're not a place you'd want to be,

(16:50):
but they aren't, you know, filthy, dank or tortuous seeming either.
I would say things are about as comfortable as you
could expect them to be given the resources available. The
willing us to be observed is so consistent and so
pervasive that it's hard not to be convinced by it.
We leave the court pretty impressed with what we've seen.

(17:14):
We start to drive back into Kamichelo. As we drink
lukewarm instant coffee and watch the road go by, three
of us start to chat. Kabat tells us about one
of Rojaba's less reported problems, people firing guns into the
air and celebration. It's a major issue in Syria and
across the Middle East. Since it's also an issue in Texas,
where I hail from, Kabat and I bond over this, Yeah,

(17:35):
shooting into the air as I can't, I can't. I mean,
speaking as a man, I get what you want to
It does sound fun. I know I want I love,
but I know it would be fun. It's like says
I was a kid jake, and I admit that as

(17:57):
men were fundamentally driven to break things, sometimes mostly to
see what it looks like men, we have like a
destructive stream, like all men have a bit of like
you want to grab the smash somethings. When we here
from the Red we saw a couple of guys on
a fifty cow shooting into a quarry. Yeah, it's like, yeah,
it's fun. It's fun. Can guys, I'm not saying it's healthy.

(18:22):
I'm just say something. It's something we do because we're dumb. Okay,
I understand. It's not just the culture. Culture problems problem,
a problem everywhere. There are men. God, when I was
a kid, we used to take stones and we have
like we have like glass phone boxes and we just

(18:44):
smashed them, like no idea, why like ten years old?
Like yeah, where the kids also they have this trend
of destroying. Yeah, men, some of us we can't grow
out joined this joint smashing things instead of building. Right, Yeah,
you really have because of that now destroyed because it's

(19:05):
a oh yes, absolutely, we are absolutely like the kids are.
Throughout the Syrian Civil War, the fighters of the YPG
have been praised is probably the most ethical, least war
crime armed force in the country. Kabbat credited some of
this on the fact that both genders were present on

(19:27):
the battlefield, the existence of the woman with next to
them in religion. Yeah, this is the thing that's always
prevented to act like that sometimes, like you know, when
you are just around otherwise, as we re enter commischela,
I take notes on the things. I see a smiling
boy in a hoodie kneeling, a young woman in military
garb grinning and looking at a colleague nearby in mid conversation,

(19:48):
brightly colored pictures of Shahid's hanging over a traffic circle,
a wall painted with the international symbol for recycling. Jake
and I wanted to spend a day in Rocca, the
former capital of the Islamic State, and go out on
troll with an st F unit. Before we could do that, though,
we'd have to collect the proper permissions, Alan drives us
to an Assais base on the outskirts of Comischelow. We
park outside of failings of nondescript one story white office

(20:12):
buildings surrounded by a low wall dotted with guard posts.
The inside of the facility reminds me more of my
old high school in Plano, Texas than of anything. This
feeling is reinforced after we're ushered into a waiting room
that is filled with kids. Okay, not literally kids, but
eighteen and nineteen year olds. They're all off duty, a
sash taking a tea break before picking up their guns
to go back on duty. Two of them are women.

(20:34):
One wears a veil, the other does not. The remaining
five or men, three of them have visible tattoos, including
one of the women. Before heading here, I've been told
it was unusual to see tattoos on people in this
part of Syria, but this is apparently much less true
for young folks here. The officer in charge is slightly
older than the rest, perhaps in his mid twenties. He
is also the most heavily tattooed of the bunch. I

(20:55):
can see a hawk on his arm and words written
across both of his forearms. He wears a T shirt
that says black is the New Black. If he'd had
boots instead of sneakers, he wouldn't have looked out of
place at a punk show. I asked him if he
knows any local tattoo artists. The line work on his
inc is pretty good, and I decide then and there
that while I'm in country, I want to get a tattoo.
He gives Cobat the phone number of his guy, and

(21:17):
I wonder fleetingly if this same hookup can maybe find
us weed. But then I remember I'm technically talking to
a cop. Instead, I use the opportunity to ask this
young gender mixed group about genealogy and gender integration. I
want to know how they feel about the changes that
have recently been made. They are instantly awkward, giggling, and blushing.
It was as if I had asked a group of

(21:37):
American men and women at work, why do you all
treat each other like people? Shortly after that, we're called
in to talk with the SASH press officer and to
square away the details of our trip to Rocca. When
that's done, we pile back in the van and head
home to Derek. Cobat asks me if I'm really serious
about wanting to get a tattoo. I assure her I am,
and that the only question is what it will be of.

(21:58):
On our way back, Jake and I talk with Cobat
about our thoughts on the interview with Judge Amina. One
thing I was struck by is how many of the
new structures in the Rojava legal system boiled down to
groups of people sitting around and talking to one another.
Cobat explains that this is a central facet of the revolution.
From the beginning of this project, military units in the
YPG and YPG engaged in what they called tech mill sessions,

(22:20):
where squads would gather together after actions and discuss what
had gone well and what haddn't. The word tech mill
just means report, and tech mil sessions can be called
by anyone in the military or civilian structures of Rojava.
Most often tech mill is done at the end of
a project. I found a write up by a foreign
volunteer in Rojava, Philippe O'Keeffe. He explains that the ideological

(22:40):
justification for this system is rooted in a critique of capitalism. Quote.
Capitalist modernity does not foster equality nor mutual trust. It
divides us and forces upon us as hyper competitive culture
built upon internal and external deception and facades. In this system,
criticism is not seen as a means by which we
can improve our helps and each other, but rather as

(23:01):
a means by which we can attack and destroy our competition.
Our enemies are fellow humans. O'Keefe connects the tech milk
system to one of the foundations of the Rojavan revolution.
Have all. The word hall literally means friend and so
havalti just means friendship. Essentially, quote, it is the idea
that we work together, we help each other, we share

(23:22):
everything from the tangible to the intangible. Not because we
expect something in return, but simply because we are comrades,
that we are humans living, struggling and experiencing life together,
that we are sharing the same purpose of trying to
advance the collective well being. It is the idea that
we can trust and believe in each other and that
we need not fear ulterior intention. By establishing the culture

(23:42):
of Havalti as the basis of revolutionary life, we create
the alternative environment and society conducive to constructive criticism and
the means by which together we improve ourselves and the collective.
This is critical to tech mil because it allows us
to respectfully give criticisms and more importantly, except absorb and
address the criticisms in an efficient manner, free of ego, fear, mistrust,

(24:04):
or conflict. The technical system was initially just a thing
for the military and civil administration, but over the years
it started to spread into the home lives for a
number of the families who are most devoted to the revolution.
So they have this system of the community in the home.
They have, you know, the same in differnce lines. You
have it with the military, or they have it with

(24:25):
each other. So each one of them have a rotation,
to cook, to clean the house, to do, you know, shopping.
They criticize each other at the same level, the children
with the father with the mom. Now, this is all
part of a broader trend and one of the things
that interests me so much about Rojava. The fact that
this place exists at all is due to the tenacity
and the skill of the militias that defended it from isis.

(24:47):
The people of Rojava have responded to this reality, not
by seeding control of their lives to the militias, but
by adopting what Kabbat calls a culture of self defense.
We have this community is publicly at but self defense
culture we haven't here. This is the way that we're
going to protect ourselves for any stress. Whatever Americans wanted
to be thrown all of the stuff. We start by ourself,

(25:10):
We're gonna end up by ourself because we have this
catch off self defense. So what they are doing, they
are organized. You can't see all these different military inside
the cities, plus the front lines and the army, plus
that there is a society militaristic. You know, somehow there
is the mamas and that's like you know, the the

(25:32):
elderly men and women fifties up fifty sometimes like Grandma's
you know, you can't see them. They get the training
and they have their clashes during their during this critical situation.
Always they are starting because I know everyone in the
neighborhood say, we're they we're gonna start to make these checkpoints. Now.
When she says clash, she means a collashf an a

(25:52):
K forty seven? What about is talking about? Here are
local networks of men and women, most of whom are elderly,
who have taken responsibility for armed self defense of their
communities onto themselves. You cannot believe it. It's not clash, No, no, no, no,
it's super real. Believe me. Look, I mean, and you
haven't been in the like when the time, it's like

(26:15):
any celebration, any thinks. So they have everyone just organized,
starting from the neighborhoods whenever we passed there. And they
are more strict than the normal size, to be honest.
They are taken over responsibility under our fifties. So they
are like doing those of the jet generations of the eighties,
you know. So they are over me always just my
eyes up and I just saw them with this elderly

(26:37):
you know and have this clash, and they are super nice.
It's true. Do you think for some of them that's
probably like the first time in their lives as women
have been allowed to have some kind of exactly and
they are accepting, integrating, adapting. Now this all brings up
the natural question how much honesty can we trust her
about to express about this place, which is after all

(26:57):
her home. When you're working as a journalist in a
place like Iraq or Syria, your experience of the country
is deeply colored by your fixer, their opinions and their relationships,
their biases and their beliefs. Jake and I needed someone
whose relationships with the SDF were good enough to get
us access, but we were also worried about working with
someone who was literally aligned with the powers that be
in the region. As a journalist, you never want to

(27:19):
work with a man, even if he happens to be
a woman. Between their obsession with a delage alon and
strident left wing political views, the military forces of Rojava

(27:39):
have been accused of brainwashing their members. Patches saying no
life without our leader did not exactly squash that worry
from my mind, and we were certainly concerned with the
possibility that habbat herself might wind up somewhere on that spectrum.
What do you think about people that you know? Some
people say, oh, they're just brainwashing everybody. What do you
think about it? No, I mean you're gonna suggest something,

(28:02):
you're gonna implement it, and if it doesn't work, if
it's out of your nature, it will be clear the outcomes.
It's it's proof it that it's everyone more happier, more
feel value as a human beings. So which kind of
brainwashing if it's not relevant to your you know, mind
and and and even your feelings, it's deeper than just
you know, brainwashing. Yeah, let's say people say there's a

(28:26):
lot of criticism. Yeah, it's it's the no one oblished anyone.
I mean brainwashing in a way like if it's on
behalf of the community and they sit by their own eyes,
you know, you feel it, you see it, you live it.
Like my family they don't know. I go into the
front side, but I go I'm going nuts because of anything.

(28:47):
I like that. I can't find myself, part of me
it's there. It's something you cannot even express it. You know,
it's no wants it with me in full independence. I'm
not a part of an institution. I'm doing this because
I found myself there. The more we talked about this,
the more Kabat began to share about herself and her
own motivations for doing this work. There was an element
of patriotism to it. The Rojavan revolution had made life

(29:09):
better for people here in her eyes, and she supported that.
But Kabat was also not anyone's zealot. You lived the
commission on your whole life. No, my father, he is
working in the oil fields, so he moved from different
citiesen and so we are seven siblings, each one of us.
But my other siblings, each one of them in a
different city, some of them in the village and spropol commishially,

(29:31):
some in hask in uh where else. Young village has
four cities, which eangered her out seven houses, and now
my parents are which is the city of the oil.
And again the fact that Kabat lives alone is hugely significant.

(29:51):
This is simply not done. Even given the revolutionary spirit
that has overtaken Rojava. Young women tend to live with
their families or communally in cooperative farms or military units
like the White p J not alone. To just break
this rules also of the community. That's for the woman
to have a house, she had to get married and

(30:12):
it will be the house of the man. For me.
It's again we are struggling on the civil side as well,
not just you, not to break all this outdates customs
and traditions. So I said, okay, I'm gonna live by myself.
I can't have a house without get married. And my
mother she was like, no, it's shame, and how people
are going to speak about us and this. Hey, I said,

(30:35):
I'm fully independence woman. I don't need a man to
have a house. I have a house and I have it.
And then I can't see the reaction of the famous
and I think, wow, like you want to we wish
we can do the same. And I'm sure it's just
you open you pad the way for the next generation
next year after that. It's a bit super normal for
the woman in framption to live by theirselves. Whether or

(30:57):
not you trust about it is up to you and
aimed to be a perfect judge of character or motivations.
All I can say is that by the end of
our first full day in Rojava, Jake and I were
at least completely convinced of her sincerity. That doesn't mean
we agreed or understood everything she believed. For one thing,
Jake and I had both spent large chunks of our
careers face to face with the bloody consequences of ices
IS ideology, the idea that the Rojava and legal system

(31:20):
supported some kind of forgiveness for these people. It seemed
almost obscene to us. Well in my head, you know,
as a Western, I even having like that, I've deserved
that and don't deserved the period educating or whatever. Look
at the Western it's completely different. The ISIS with the
Western wants specifically that I, I, meand them. They are not,
like the city, completely ideological. She's talking about the difference

(31:43):
between foreign ISIS fighters and local ones, and this is
a meaningful distinction. In Syria and in Iraq, a number
of local supported ices for a period of time because
quite frankly, they didn't have many other options. The night before,
when we've been drinking with our friends, one of them
had told us about arian rebel commander he embedded with
a few times at the start of the civil war.

(32:04):
That guy eventually wound up joining ISIS, not because he
was ideologically drawn to Isis, but because all of his
sons had died fighting the Syrian regime, and Isis was
the only group who would give him more bullets and
more guns to keep fighting the regime. Foreign fighters, the
people who leave places like England or the United States
to go fight for Isis, well, those are very different
sorts of people, and Hubbat had no time for them.

(32:26):
The lying that are like it's very clear like oh
poor me, I didn't do anything else, just a cooking there,
la la la. But it's very obvious like no, for those,
I'm sure this program is still not gonna work. But
for the Syrian because you are have this social approach,
cultural approach, you know, and you check them as a
human beings, and all of them, and even I met

(32:48):
to Isis, they were in the jail Syrian from They said, like,
when we have been in the front lines with the ISAAC,
they lose part of you know, handicaps, they are losing
their legs. But for the normal Syrians of Leans who
got caught up in something bigger than themselves, I believe
those men and women deserved another chance at life. This
is a powerfully different attitude than the one I encountered

(33:08):
most often when I visited the refugee camps around Mosel.
I mean I remember when near the end of the
fight again Mosel, I talked to a lot of people
who like had been run out of like they've been
tortured by us IS or something, and like we were
talking about a refugee camp and they'd say something along
the lines of and when I get back home, I
know who I'm going to turn in to the to

(33:30):
the Iraqi police, and like then they're going to get
there's and then it'll be on the other foot. And
it's like like you could you already see the cycle
of violence starting up again, and it has with the
Shia militias who have just been very brutal um and
it's just gonna there's gonna be another Sunni uprising. There's
going to be And like everything everyone in Mosel was
like in another ten years, there will be more fighting

(33:51):
on the sitting. Yeah, it's just gonna take a little
bit of time. This is what we do on at
this example, because as as that on islence attract more violence,
we don't want this revenge, it's revenge, it's we don't
want that. So when you you forgive them, you give
them a chance. Let's see. Kabat spoke with deep passion

(34:12):
about the importance of forgiveness and her fervent belief that
radicalization and terrorism must be treated as social problems, as
the result of flaws and the culture, rather than as
individual problems a result of the terrorist in question just
being a bad person. I'm sure to do a lot
of Americans. This may sound like naive, hippy dippy nonsense,
but Hobart is anything but naive to the consequences of terror. Now,

(34:33):
my brother had been murdered by eyes Is like my brother,
So I went to I'm always making the eyes Is
never have a hit against them, and I don't feel that,
you know, sometimes I feel pitiful for them. Really, I
feel like, oh my god, no, never even hey, do

(34:56):
you know what, I don't even when I go to
the Rose camp, so usually I know all the girls there.
So I got to the action and I was like,
I wanted to make a coffee. So I asked the
eyes Is why she was. Canadia said how's your coffee?
And she was like, what do you wanted to make
coffee for me? And said yeah, And she was like,
oh my god. Since the years, no one you know,
have they asked me this question and not for sure.

(35:17):
We were going to have a coffee old woman together,
you know, and then I said, and she was like,
oh you're so sweet. You can't touch people where you humanity?
I cannot say, like you devil lords of what the point?
I don't have any And even I cried too much
with her story. Well I cannot stop crying, like you know,
we have to help you, like you know, I help

(35:39):
many of them with the lawyers. There is international lawyers
and always, like I started, sometimes they give me numbers
or names. So I passed to the lawyers like help
them because if we want to because if we wanted
to stop this, do not repeat it again. If we
wanted to repeat it again. The Sweden case, I remember,
there is this very fair was switten isis uh you know,

(36:05):
very famous on the Twitter and and they always make
it calls for Islam things like that, and he have
been kids and his wife also you have five or funds.
So for me, I play a basic role in order
to push the media this within India where highlighted that case,
to push the politicians to kim and take those our
fun Why because for me, all of them have been malnutrition.

(36:27):
They were in the suffering, already have this. So if
we didn't help them after a few years, we were
going to have five jihadis instead of on. Syria has
been at war now for almost a decade. Everyone is
tired of bloodshed and killing. This exhaustion has driven Rojava's
humanitarian policy towards ISIS prisoners at least as much as
ideology has naivety is believing that more executions and more

(36:50):
incarceration and more torture can possibly solve a problem like isis.
How about Feelings on this were fully crystallized into has
An eighteen when she watched the very last stronghold the Caliphate,
a place called the Goose Fall. I went there to
just because I had loose many friends, my brother, like
I wanted to fil something victoria or whatever. No, there

(37:10):
is no victory, all of us losing all of us.
There is no victorian this just because it happened. We lost, Yeah,
all of us. Look to this mal nutrition babies of eyes,
what they are just victims, you know, you know, yeah,
there are mal nutrition thousands of Look so why if

(37:37):
some insane people wanted to destroy this world? We're not
gonna for sure to all of us being said, no,
we have to repair it. It's again someone destroying. You
have to be, you have to bid. We have this ideology. Okay,
I saw everything, all of there is something new, just
no way. Near the end of the day, we crossed

(37:58):
back into the rik home for one more night. On
our way in we see some graffiti written on a wall,
the Kurdish phrase that translates to we shall take revenge
for the martyrs of the homeland. It's a sign that
despite what Kabbat and Judge of Mina told us, not
everyone here considers revenge to be for the week. This
is not a place of unanimous voices, and in truth,
I Rajava is truly democratic. That's what you'd expect, disagreement,

(38:21):
pain and confusion over the issue of whether or not
to forgive the people who fought to dominate them, just
as there's deep confusion over the thorny question of gender equality.

(38:42):
Our evening ended with a dinner at a prominent local
restaurant and all women's cooperative that had been organized with
help from the Women's Economic Development Committee. Projects like this
are increasingly common in Rojava. A compromise between the realities
of capitalism and leftist political theory. The food was incredible,
and I'm not generally a fan of eggplant, Syrians do
something with it that makes it taste almost meeting. It's

(39:02):
just it's amazing. It was also incredible to see a
large and prosperous business, and the chunk of the Middle
East that we were in owned and operated and entirely
managed by a collective of nine women who all share
work and share profits. After dinner, Cabot and I sit
down with one of the co owners and I asked
just how this place got started? One on my name,

(39:29):
She said, Municipal Council. There. It's one of the bottom
up governing organizations that manages most daily life in Rojava.
It took a lot of convincing to get some of
the older men in the group on board with the
idea that a woman run business would work, but eventually
the municipal council decided to back the project and helped
provide funding for it to get off the ground. After
a few months, the co op was successful enough to
stand on its own. Just kind of project and cooperative

(39:55):
blankets run Bible and it's all run. Possible to her
ten years ago before the road. You know, I didn't
need a translator for that answer. We bid goodbye to
about for the night, and Jake and I set out

(40:15):
on a vain quest to buy beers. The bustling market
streets of the recold many treasures, particularly cigarettes. But in
the end we have to rely on a boy in
our local motel to bias a case of beer. It's
kind of the opposite of the way things work in
the United States. Two adults asking a child to buy
them alcohol. I pay about fifteen dollars for a dozen
tall boys, and Jake and I go up on the
roof to drink him in moderation, and me too mild excess.

(40:39):
As I stumble, rather piste down the stairs towards our room,
the hotel manager stops me. There's been a mistake, he explains,
I've been overcharged for the beers. He gives me back
like four or five dollars worth of Syrian money. Since
I didn't really know the price of the beers to
begin with, I never would have noticed the fact that
I'd been overcharged. His honesty here is a small thing,
but it surprises me. I'm used to a rack where

(40:59):
hotels and bars understandably try to get every possible diame
out of Western clients. Rujava so far has been filled
with little moments like this, moments of shocking, honesty and
compassion from a place that's been racked by war for
a full third of my lifetime. There's this odd sort
of assumption we have in the West, spread on by Hollywood,
that war and violence must by necessity make people harder, colder,

(41:19):
more ruthless, And I think the truth is more nuanced.
War can harden the hearts of a culture and its
people and turn them away from compassion, but it can
also be the catalyst for something very different, a verdant
bloom of compassion growing out from a field of blood.
The Moory The Women's War is a production of I

(41:41):
Heart Radio. For more podcasts from my Heart Radio, visit
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