All Episodes

April 1, 2020 33 mins

Robert Evans and Jake Hanrahan are ready to enter Rojava, but first they have to navigate the maze of Iraqi bureaucracy. When they cross the border, they learn that everything may not be as rosy as it sounded from the outside


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

Learn more about your ad-choices at https://www.iheartpodcastnetwork.com

See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

Mark as Played
Transcript

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.
Americans learned about the world through the lens of war.
Before Isis emerged, most Americans probably wouldn't have been able
to tell you what occurred was in any detail. Today,
if asked, those same Americans would probably say, they're the
folks who helped us fight ISIS, or maybe they're the

(00:22):
people Trump just betrayed because modern media cannot abide nuance.
The Kurds in Iraq and the Kurds in Syria tend
to get lumped into the same bucket, but Iraki Curtis
stand and Syrian Rojava are two very different places. The
Kurdish Autonomous Region in Northern Iraq has its origins in
ninete one, when the United States and her allies established

(00:42):
a no fly zone in order to stop Saddam Hussein
from murdering more Kurdish people. This was maintained in one
form or another up until the two thousand two invasion.
As a result, Northern Iraq was spared the worst excesses
of Saddam's regime. After that point, the Iraqi Kurds were
given space to build their chunk of country into something
very much resembling an independent state as a result. While

(01:04):
most of the country fell into violent chaos after the
U S invasion, Northern Iraq blossomed. Its local militious collectively
referred to as the Peshmerga, succeeded in providing an exceptional
degree of security, and with security came economic investment. Over
the course of a decade, Iraqi Kurdistan built rapidly and
capitalized on their substantial oil reserves. Skyscrapers went up all

(01:27):
around the capital their bill and for a time, pundits
claimed the city would soon be the Middle East's next Tobai.
That dream came crashing to the ground in two thousand
fourteen when Isis invaded. Investment money dried up, construction halted abruptly.
The city has recovered somewhat today, but its skyline is
still dotted with dozens of skeletal skyscrapers forever abandoned. The

(01:51):
fault for this is not purely with Isis. Outrageous corruption
within the Kurdish Regional Government or k r G also
played a role. The Kurdish Regional Government is, on its face,
a democratic system, one where women are guaranteed thirty of
the seats in the one and eleven seat regional parliament. Now,
the the KRG Kurdish Regional Government is separate but technically

(02:13):
subordinate to the government in Baghdad. The closest parallel in
American politics would probably be to compare the Kara Ge
to something like a Native American reservation. Although it's it's
still a lot different than that um Iraqi. Kurdistan is independent,
though in in a lot of the ways that matter,
but not all of them. It's still rely on funding
from Baghdad and the like, but they have their own
military force, the Peschi Marka, who are made up from

(02:34):
the militias of the two largest political parties in the region.
It's a little bit like if the Republican and Democratic
parties each controlled half the military, and it works about
as well as you'd expect that to work. Now, everyone
who spends any amount of time in Iraq will agree
that the kaya Ge is much better at running things
than the government in Baghdad. But considering the Baghdad government

(02:54):
spent the winter of two thousand nineteen machine gunning protesters,
this is a pretty low bar. No bis, this gets
done in Kurdistan without a lot of bribe, money, greasing
a lot of palms. The KRG is a hell of
a lot more functional than the government in Baghdad, but
it basically exists to siphon off cash to a handful
of wealthy families. At the top of the heap are
there Barzanis and the Talibanis, whose many scions are basically

(03:18):
Kurdish nobility. Or Bill is a city where you can
see penniless refugees and millionaires driving escalates on the very
same street. In other words, it's a lot like Los Angeles.
Jake and I landed in Sulimania in the early afternoon
July eighteenth, two thousand nineteen. We were met by a driver,
a friend of a friend, who would take us on
the five hour drive to her Bill. Now the drive

(03:40):
shouldn't really be five hours long, but the roads in
between Sulimania and her Bill are filled with potholes in
random debris. We have to slow to a near stop
every few minutes in order to navigate them. Some of
my local friends say the poor state of Kurdistan's roads
is an understandable lapse given the giant war the government
just fought. Others say there'd be plenty of money for
road work if it weren't all going to the barsanis

(04:03):
the patron of the family, Massoud Barzani is worth an
estimated forty eight billion dollars. The state of California, with
roughly eight times the population of Iraqi. Kurdistan spent one
point six billion dollars maintaining its state highways in two
thousand and nineteen. You do the math. Graft is not
the Kyrg's only problem. Rank nepotism is another major issue.

(04:25):
Massoud Barzani was the president of the Kyrgi until June
two thousand nineteen, when he was succeeded by his nephew, Natschervin.
Prior to being elected president, Natschervin was the Prime Minister
of the KRG. He was succeeded in office there by
mass Rua Barzani, Masud's son. There's a lot to love
about this part of the world, but the sheer scale
of the corruption and the unbelievable bullshit regular people here

(04:48):
have to put up with as a result of it,
it's it's just infuriating. We have to wait a day
and a half in our bill for our fixer. My
old friends sang Are to square things away with the
border crossing into Rojava, so Jake and I see the
sites and swing by the mall to pick up a
couple of last minute bits of equipment. I spend most
of my time working my way through Iraqi. Kurdis stands
shockingly good selection of international beers. I settle on Moosehead,

(05:11):
an odd brew from New Brunswick, Canada. I developed an
appreciation for it during my days in Halifax. I had
my first Moosehead on a nude beach in Nova Scotia.
It feels strange, to say the least, to drink one
in the blistering heat of an Iraqi summer. On our
last night in her Bill, twelve hours before we're set
to drive to Rojava, Jake and I are in a
cab on our way to dinner. The driver has the

(05:31):
radio turned to a local pop station, and the music
is a ragged selection of hits from the last couple
of years. There's a lot of talk of champagne, bottles
and clubs and brand new cars and all that sort
of stuff. At one point, the host, who speaks in
flawless English, tells her listeners a story she's heard about
Charlemagne the God. Apparently when he goes on tour. He
flies four of his very good friends around with him

(05:52):
everywhere he goes so that they can hang out and stuff,
and she absolutely cannot get over how cool this sounds.
The host of voice takes on a mournful tone when
she says, I just want that life so bad. The
pain in her voice is palpable. As I listen to this,
I think about Murray book Chin here and her bill.
The primary influences from the United States are pretty obvious

(06:15):
celebrity obsession, displays of conspicuous wealth, marvel t shirt, star wars, posters,
all of the cultural gifts that Hollywood has distributed to
the world. But just a few hours away in Northeast Syria,
the United States's main contribution to the culture there was
the work of an obscure anarchist philosopher. Globalism is a
fucking Roulette wheel. We eat and head back to the hotel.

(06:38):
I go to bed thinking about Murray book Chin and
Charlemagne the God. Jake and I wake up at seven
am on July excited that today is finally the day
we will both see Rojava. All right, Jake, it's Saturday morning.
A feeling man, You're fiting good minute fresh. Yeah. Yeah,
what about what two and a half hours three hours
from the border from when? Yeah, and we like three

(07:05):
hours there? What he messed around for like a couple
of hours waiting from stumps and then go across and
then do another couple I was waiting for stumps on
the OtherSide. Yeah, it will be a long day of
waiting for stamps. Yep. Sangar picks us up in his
brand new Toyota four by four. I first met him
in two thousand and seventeen during the Siege of Mosle.

(07:28):
Sangar probably has the highest tolerance for danger of anyone
I've ever met, and that's saying something. Some of my
fondest memories at the times we drove away from the
death defying trips to the front line, he'd always stopped
at a little shack on the road back to her
Bill and buy us all knockoff Heineken's hen Kins. Those
lukewarm beers in his car tasted better than any alcohol
I've had before or since. As we drive to the border,

(07:50):
Sangar tells us about his previous trips to Rojava. He
goes there to work, obviously, but also for fun. When
Ramadan comes around during the daytime, most of a rack
shuts down and alcohol sales are officially forbidden. On those days,
Rojaba becomes a Kurdish drinkers oasis. So you don't feel
there's ramana in here. I know. It's like um that

(08:13):
the restaurants they have to have like what you call
the big rocks, you know, like they cover, they cover
the restaurant. They're no fun, no, I know, like the
tea shops, restaurants are opening like it's normal. There's no
religion in Rojavva. No, there's no just upper religion, just
up religion. Yeah, you know, like you don't feel it's
romana here. You're feeling you know, yeah if you you

(08:35):
cannot smoke everywhere here, you know, like you cannot smoking public,
you cannot smoking with But like there it is so
rare to find someone who's fasting with Ramanani. No one ramana.
So that's even like for drinks beer, and you're like,
I don't find them easily. That's great. The radio continues

(08:56):
to play as we drive along, mostly hip hop ballads
of Hollywood wealth at ex Us. They make for a
strange contrast with the yellow Sun racked countryside of northern Iraq.
Much of Kurdistan is gorgeous, but not this area. We
roll past dismal, gray villages and over broken roads to
the tune of bubbly pop music. We noticed an unusual
amount of Iraqi military traffic on the road to the

(09:18):
Syrian border. No one knows why precisely, but we assume
it's due to something that happened on July sevente the
day before we landed in Iraq. While I was still
in the sky, two unidentified gunmen had walked into an
Herbille restaurant and opened fire on a group of Turkish diplomats.
One of those diplomats was killed, along with a civilian. Now,
nothing more than that was known at the time we landed,

(09:40):
but I will say that one of the people we
talked to you just assumed this had been an attack
carried out by the p k K. If you'll think
back to the last episode, the p KK is that
left wing militant group founded by a Dola Agolan that
the the U S and Turkey both considered to be terrorists.
As Kurdish Turkish militants, they have a fraud relationship with
the cur Dish regional government in Iraq. Now their FELLO occurred.

(10:02):
So a lot of the actual people who live in
northern Iraq under the ki rgs you know, domain or
at least broadly sympathetic to the p kk's goals. But
the kara Ji's government, dominated by the Barzani family, has
been making increasing diplomatic overtures and having more and more
conversations and making more deals with the Turkish regime for
years now. They want better relations with Turkey for variety

(10:23):
of political and practical reasons, but this has been regularly
stymied by the fact that the PEKK has a bunch
of bases in northern Iraq and regularly attacks Turkish soldiers. Meanwhile,
Turkey regularly bombs northern Iraq, which the KYRG is not
super happy with either. It's a messy and it's a
fraud situation, and it complicates relations between Rojava and the

(10:44):
Kurdish regional government in Iraq. Iraqi. Kurdistan is also one
of the most capitalist places on the planet and Rojava
system is very much founded by far left radicals uh
and particular among these radicals are members of the p
y D or the Democratic Union Party of Syria. I
really apologized for all the acronyms. There's just no other
way to tell the story. The p y D is

(11:05):
the largest political party in Rojava, and most of the
early organization in the region after the Assad regime pulled
out was done by the p y D and its members. Now,
the Turkish government considers the p y D to be
terrorists as well, and says they're basically just a wing
of the p k K. And to make matters more complicated,
there's a lot of p KK involvement in the p
y D, So it's a mess. The whole situation is

(11:27):
almost unbearably complex and and and messy and complicated. But um,
the most important thing to know at this point is
that it wasn't exactly strange for us to see the
Kurdish regional government sending more soldiers to the border with
Rojava in response to a p KK assassination in their capital.
Stuff like that has happened before. And I spent a
lot of the ride talking the situation over with Jake

(11:49):
and sang Are and trying to make sense of it
all in my own head. I know it's confusing. As
we talk all this over, we wind up hitting the
first border checkpoint at around noon, a place called pesh Kebar,
a small crowd of perhaps two people are already waiting

(12:11):
to cross. These are Syrian civilians. Many of them fled
the civil war years ago. They recently decided the situation
was safe enough to return, and they're headed back for
a long awaited reunion with their families. A few months
from now, after the Turkish invasion, many of these same
people will become refugees yet again. We leave the air

(12:32):
conditioned comfort of Sangar's car and head to the office
where our fate, or at least our ability to cross
legally into Rojaba, will be decided. She's going to okay,
come and then we go to the music. All right.
Quadrett is the gatekeeper of the border control station. She's
one of the few women I've met in Kurdistan who

(12:53):
holds a significant role in the government. She is essentially
the intermediary for the people who decide which journalists are
journalists enough to get to go to Northeast Syria. Of course,
Jake and I worked with Sangar to set things up
ahead of time, but having things set up ahead of
time means almost nothing in a place like Iraq. We
are led into a small room with surprisingly good a
c where another Western journalist waits for his credentials. Quadrat

(13:16):
looks our paperwork over and deliver some bad news. We've
been denied. Permission to cross the y is not immediately clear.
We appear to have run a foul of Iraqi bureaucracy,
so we continue to sit and wait. Time sledges by
minutes than an hour than two. We wait with a motley,
quiet assortment of other reporters from around the world. They

(13:36):
filter in and out, and all of their approval processes
seem to go much better than our own. From over
in Rojava, Kabbat are soon to be. Fixer texts us
that we have a three pm appointment with the sash
Kurdish military police to get our approval pass to work
in Rojava, as it's already well passed. One Jake begins
to suspect we will not make it in time for
this meeting. He winds up being right. Only after interminable

(13:59):
weight do we find out what the problem was that
when you sent an email come on go was they
filled to the online media right radio. It turns out
that some of the papers I submitted to the Iraqi

(14:19):
government listed my employer as I Heart Media rather than
I Heart Radio. This would not be an issue anywhere
else in the world, but to the iraqis the word
media made us sound like a PR firm and the
only one journalists to crossover. Quadrette understands the mistake here,
but both of her hands are tied up in the
red tape that makes up roughly three fourths of the
mass of the Iraqi government. The only man who can

(14:42):
turn our no into a yes as a fellow named
Dr Hamide. He's in charge of approving reporters. Unfortunately, Dr
Hamid lives in Sweden, where it is currently night time.
We call him repeatedly for more than an hour, texting
and dialing on multiple phones. Hello, Dr Hamide, this is
Robert Evans with I Heart Radio. UM. I'm calling because

(15:03):
we're here at the border crossing station and we're trying
to get across and we've already got, you know, an
emailed approval, but they're saying that we need your approval
to get across, and there was some sort of confusion
about us being a media company or a radio company.
At two thirty six pm, still waiting in the press
office with quadrat I wright encircle the phrase fuck borders

(15:24):
in my notebook. It is a sentiment I felt often
throughout my adult life, but rarely so acutely. Rojava, this
place I've been reading about for years is right over there.
I could literally swim across the Tigris and be there
in thirty minutes, but because of a line on paper
drawn by dead French and British assholes, I cannot. It's frustrating,

(15:44):
to say the least. But at the end of it all,
Dr Hamid's approval finally comes through a little after three PMLA.
Before we can go, there's still a little more bureaucracy
for us to weather though. First we're questioned by the
Iraqi Ritish Asaish in the mildest way possible. They ask
us basic questions about our plans and then stamp our documents.

(16:06):
The whole process takes around thirty minutes, and it mostly
consists of us handing our passports to numerous cops, who
passed them around to other cops, who passed them around
to more cops before handing them back to us. It's
a perfect illustration of bureaucracy in a nutshell. We bid
goodbye to Sangar and we take our place in line
for the bus into Rojava. Everyone else on the rickety

(16:26):
steel contraption is either a refugee or Assyrian with business
interests over in Iraq. Many of them are young children,
excited to be back home. We cross the bus rumbling
over a massive pontoon bridge. Crossing the Tigris is always
a strange sensation for me. The river has an almost
mythic presence in my mind. Growing up. It felt like

(16:48):
the kind of location Indiana Jones would stumble onto during
an adventure. It feels sacred and heavy, with the strange
kind of gravity that only the deepest history imparts to
a place. But it is in the end to another river,
and our crossing is uneventful. We are officially driving across
Rojava for the first time. On the other side of

(17:09):
the Tigris, it's a quick, dusty jaunt to the border
crossing station. The contrast is immediate and obvious. On the
Iraqi side of the border, everything was clearly temporary, prefabricated
office buildings, trailers and tarps, things that can quickly be
torn down once the political situation changes. The Rujavan border
control station however, is a massive stone edifice with a

(17:29):
large duty free building still under construction and a suite
of permanent offices. In front of the station is a
billboard covered in the brightly colored faces of young men
and women soldiers in the WHITEPG and J who died
fighting isis The meaning of all of this is quite clear.
Rejava paid for its sovereignty and blood and it's here
to stay. Something in the air seems to change the

(17:51):
moment we cross the border, and it's more than just
the quality of the buildings. We see women in uniforms,
suddenly sizable numbers of them clearly doing important work. Even
the women out of uniforms seemed to carry themselves differently.
And the first of these women that we meet is
our fixer, Kabat. She's in her mid twenties, about five
ft six and thin, with a warm smile, piercing eyes,

(18:12):
and an immediate get the funk to business attitude. She
rushes us through the bureaucratic necessities, hurrying the border officials
along when they go too slowly for her, liking the
people who run things in Rojava, the p y D
and the SDF from the Sundry, other acronym organizations and
ministering this place. They're all recognized as terrorist groups by
the Turkish government. If any of these organizations were to, say,

(18:34):
stamp a journalist passport, it might cause that person a
lot of unpleasantness when they had a layover and is
stand bull on the way back home. So instead of
stamping our passports, the Rajavan authorities give us a thin
strip of paper with our personal information and several stamps
on it. This is our internal passport. The whole process
of getting it takes about a half hour, and then
we're in the van. Alan Kabat's chain smoking driver takes

(18:57):
off down the highway, giving us our first good look
at the land itself. Wow, it's beautiful. As soon as
we get past the hill and it's just like mountains
and valleys and hills and green, more grain than you
see in Iraq. This would not remain true for our
whole trip through Rojava, but it was definitely true of
the first couple of miles of terrain we saw. After

(19:19):
crossing the border. We get to talking with Kabat and
I try to sound out some of her opinions. I
mentioned that when we were in our bill Jake and
I had driven past the Barzani family palace, a massive
compound significantly larger than a city block. Yeah. Yeah. Kabat

(19:40):
immediately defined capitalism as something we don't want in ro Java,
which was interesting to me, but she also acknowledged that
the system in place was a very weird hybrid of
capitalism that was kind of duct taped to leftist political theory.
Java has taken a lot of criticism for this from
Western leftists and even from some foreign volunteers. Kabat, for
her opinion, expresses that this kind of hybrid system is

(20:02):
really the only option right now given the realities of war.
We are that we're protected to that level. They are
still yeah, because it's too confused to build a new system,
which she is not. And it's interfare and everything. So
now it's unshapped, you know, it's like just completely our system.
It's not to it's half capitalists have communists have nothing.

(20:27):
I don't know. It's like a cultural best all the
are the culture. It's just not clear state, you know, shaped,
it haven't been shaped it. So we are struggling to
always be aware, like, look, we don't capitalist system. We
don't want to the communist completely system. We donna something
which is stud with our touchant or you know, history

(20:49):
and everything. But for sure not as a couch. This
is everywhere now, she said, but for sure not as
the KRG there. And she's stating her opinion that in
her eyes, most of the believers in the Rojava project
are looking for something new, something that hasn't been done before,
that will work better than the stuff that has been
tried there in other places in the world. And there's

(21:11):
not really widespread agreement on how that new thing will
work in every instance, or exactly what it will be.
But they have looked at the border, at the thing
going on right next to them, and they have decided
that that's something they don't want to have. As we
roll into Derek, the first city we see in Rojava,
it's obvious that this region does not have the same
rampant wealth disparity we saw across the border. No one

(21:34):
is rich in Rojava, or at least they don't appear
that way on the surface. But no one seems crippling
lee poor either. We don't see any fancy New German
cars or glittering malls. We do, however, see miles and
miles of tunnels being constructed by the SDF defensive preparations
for the imminent Turkish invasion. I mean, is it kind
of like kind of just accepted that that's going to happen.

(21:58):
It's always all the about said, like we haven't seen
the arient. Yeah, you know, always that The funny thing
that how we prepared after all these sizes if it's
everyone attack us? But now when were they are preparing?
That's mean there is something very big, you know. So

(22:20):
we are a friend? Why you are prepared? We use
it to not prepare. It's an awkward subject, namely due
to the fact that the invasion of Rojaba can only
happen if the United States pulls its troops out and
abandons the region to Turkey's dictator. Are I take it
people don't have a lot of faith in the United
States is going to continue? Yeah, exactly, we don't. Never never,

(22:45):
We're not great friends. The Turkish border is so close.
We can see the massive wall constructed by Edwin's government,
a towering concrete edifice topped with wire and backed by
guard towers. It's the kind of wall Donald Trump dreams
about at night. The knowledge that NATO's second largest army

(23:05):
sat looming behind. It was deeply unsettling to all of us,
but Hubbat seemed to take the looming specter of doom
in stride. It's infuriating. Yeah, I don't know. Maybe the
election will make a difference. Which election the in the
United States? Day by day? That makes sense. Yeah, we're

(23:40):
gonna struggle for sure, we are not. It's good if not.
We're started. Isn't there saying around here that's like struggle
is life? For resistance is like something like that. Even
but Gianna, how much you resistance? How much you are alone? Yeah.

(24:13):
During our drive into Derek, we noticed that dozens of
metal storefronts have been painted with three leaf clovers. On
a deep laugh under background, Kabat informs us that those
metal grades used to be covered in Syrian regime flags.
Once the regime was gone, she says, people in town
decided to paint them over with something more feminine. As
we head to our hotel for night, Kabat explains that

(24:33):
tomorrow we will visit the city of Kamishlo. Kamischlow's very
name is a matter of political significance. Like the Turkish government,
the Syrian government for years suppressed Kurdish identity. This meant
suppressing the Kurdish name of the city Kamischlow, in favor
of something more Arabic. And we see not the people.

(24:59):
How I've been fire than tortune because of this all
during the regime time. I remember one of the doctor
because he just tried his name and they said they
to place that clinic is okay, and he have been arrested,
that tortured because of the Remember, it's like identity, you know, think,
I'm just I'm sure it's the same thing in Turkey, right,

(25:24):
Kurd's being murdered because they use their language. You're like, yeah,
but it's funny how many years I change in the
name of the places to Arabic names and never starve
in population is still using the naches, you know. The
conversation comes to a close as we roll up to

(25:44):
the Inn Deir Hotel, which I will come to learn
it's probably the nicest hotel in all of Rojaba. It's
so new that the interior walls shine largely because some
of them are still wrapped in glossy protective plastic. The
air conditioning works as long as there's power, which is
mercive about eight of the time. There's a large TV
in one corner of the lounge, and when we enter,

(26:05):
it's showing the Kevin Hart Ice Cube movie right along.
The subtitles are all in Arabic. This will prove to
be the single most baffling thing I see during my
journey through Java. The hotel is occupied primarily by foreign reporters.

(26:25):
Habat checks us in and negotiates on the price while
Jake and I sit down and have our first good
coffee of the day. For a while, we just sit there,
taking in the fact that we've made it. We're here.
Journalists from the BBC and Vice filter in and out,
and we meet a photographer from Greece along with a
female Welsh journalist, who sit and have coffee with us.
A few minutes later, Jake's friend Shea enters. Now, Shia

(26:48):
is a mountain curd. He lives somewhere on the edge
of Iraq and Iran. He's a tall, lanky young man
with a quick wit and a general air that reminds
me of my comedian friends back in Los Angeles. Jake
and Sheia had pre obviously worked together, and now Shia
was leading another team of reporters through Rojava. It's late
in the afternoon by the time we check into our rooms.
Kabat bids us farewell for the night. It's an hour

(27:10):
or so for her to drive up to Komischla, where
she lives. She and a lawn will return in the
morning to start our first full day in Rojava. The
sun is beginning to set, and then wasn't the Islamic
call to Prayer begins to play. I head up to
the roof of the hotel with my new colleagues to
watch my first sunset in Rojava. This is the nicest

(27:50):
part of Java. Yeah, I'm glad. We are glad we
came here. Derek is a lovely town with some elevation
to help you take it in. My first impression is
that it's green and clean, although you know, rather run down.
It is full of people bustling, but not crowded. The
other journalists tell me that Kamischelo is a very different place.

(28:13):
It's doubled in size from four thousand to nearly a
million people since the start of the revolution, and they
describe it as dirty, dangerous, and strained, a symbol of
the precarious nature of Rojava itself. After a while, I
ask my new friends what they think about this place.
How real is this Rojavan revolution really in their eyes?
Everyone agrees that what's been achieved here is significant. The

(28:35):
difference in women's rights alone is staggering. The serried militias
of the STF are obviously good fighters, but in terms
of the fantastic promises of the Rojavan constitution and the
transformative theories of Abdula Jelan and Moray book Chin, well,
they have doubts about these. In particular, my colleagues wonder
how deep the changes of this revolution will really prove.

(28:56):
When push comes to shove with the Turkish government. We
get together. Jake and I are new friends in Shia,
and we head to a local restaurant for food and
numerous tall bottles of FS, a Turkish beer. While we eat,
Siah tells us about one of the Arab tribes in
the area, the Akashant, near a town called Hassekah. They're
a tribe who has been integrated effectively into the SDF,
despite the fact that they're very traditional beliefs clash with

(29:19):
the leftist ideals that have made Rojava an international Darling
some people will point to this compromises evidence that the
Rojavan project is a farce. These local tribes hold distinctly
regressive attitudes towards the role of women and religion in society,
but Sia says the sdf's acceptance of them as a
wise and pragmatic acknowledgement of on their ground reality. He

(29:40):
tells us, if you want to make an impact and
keep things settled, you have to go through the tribes.
In general, Sia is fatalistic about the future of Rojava.
He mean says no words in stating his belief that
the whole project is likely doomed since there's almost no
chance the Americans will continue to keep troops in the region.
That said, I also detect a certain tinge of pride
in his voice when he talks about what's been accomplished here.

(30:03):
When I show him the internal passport I received at
the border station, he tells me take good care of
that it was bought in blood. He explains that the
current situation, the stability Rojava enjoys, and the fact that
a formal border crossing even exists, these are all direct
products of the sacrifice of thousands of lives. I tell him,
I've been reading over the Rojavan Constitution, and I ask

(30:24):
how much of it he thinks is real. He tells me,
when it comes to the constitution, most of it's happening,
but when it comes to the communalism, most of it's
not happening. Syrians are used to a hundred years of
entrenched bureaucracy. Now she speaks almost as many languages as
I have fingers, and he rattles through them over the
course of the night. As he communicates with driver's white
staff and orders the last round of take home beers

(30:46):
from the manager of the restaurant, he seems to be
as fluent and Kormage, Kurdish and Arabic as he is
in English. Someone asks him what language he dreams in,
and he responds dreaming has no language. Align my drunken
brains finds significant enough to take down in my notebook.
We returned to the hotel and stagger up to the
rooftop for our nightcap. One of my new friends tells
us about his first days in Syria at the beginning

(31:08):
of the civil War, when the YPG and J, the
two militias that make up most of the SDF, were
two relatively insignificant groups in a nation that had rapidly
filled with militants. He credits their success with their great
fighting ability, but also expresses doubts that the most revolutionary
promises of Rojava will ever be achieved. Journalists and fixers
tend to be cynical people, and I am not surprised

(31:29):
that our new friends have little faith in the Rojava revolution.
What I find most interesting is the one thing they
all seem to agree on. The gains for the women
of Northeast Syria have been staggering the greatest success of
this revolution so far. One by one we finish our beers.
There's a general agreement that we should all get to bed.
It's late and we've each got to be up early.

(31:50):
But for a few more minutes we find our eyes
drawn to the lights of Rojava spread out before us.
I look down at my phone catch the time, an
express shock that Jake and I have only been in
country for a few hours. It already feels like so
much longer. There's something about this place that seems to
suck you in and dilate the passage of hours until
they feel like days. I mentioned this, and Shia nods

(32:11):
in agreement. He tells me that time here is elastic.
I had to bed thinking about that at the end
of my first night in Rojava. My expectations of this
place feel elastic. Two. They swelled during my first few
minutes across the border, which is a pretty natural reaction
for me, at least to the giddiness of seeing a
new part of the world, and of course meeting Cabat

(32:31):
and observing the differences between Rojava and Iraqi. Curtis Stan
swelled my expectations even further, But then a long talk
with my colleagues contracted me. I drift off to sleep,
wondering just how I'll feel about all this in another
twenty four hours. The Moldy the Women's War is a

(32:55):
production of I Heart Radio. For more podcasts for my
heart Radio, visit the i heart Radio app, Apple Podcasts,
or wherever you listen to your favorite shows.
Advertise With Us

Popular Podcasts

Dateline NBC
Stuff You Should Know

Stuff You Should Know

If you've ever wanted to know about champagne, satanism, the Stonewall Uprising, chaos theory, LSD, El Nino, true crime and Rosa Parks, then look no further. Josh and Chuck have you covered.

The Nikki Glaser Podcast

The Nikki Glaser Podcast

Every week comedian and infamous roaster Nikki Glaser provides a fun, fast-paced, and brutally honest look into current pop-culture and her own personal life.

Music, radio and podcasts, all free. Listen online or download the iHeart App.

Connect

© 2024 iHeartMedia, Inc.