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May 6, 2020 47 mins

In this episode, we visit a training base for Rojava's all-female militia, and talk to young soldiers about their transition from life as slaves of ISIS, to armed revolutionaries fighting for their freedom.

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

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

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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 weird to wake up in the morning and read
about a dictatorial warlord's promise to murder all the people
you're planning to hang out with that day. I can

(00:21):
safely call it a unique experience. We'd ended our night
in Kobani with a huge dinner at a local restaurant
located right next to a soccer field. Young men and
women had played while we all enjoyed cold beer and
hot food. Kabat even had a drink. I had several.
I'd digg in a couple home to have before bed,
and while I walked around the hotel grounds, I got
a feel for Cabani at night. It was a pleasant evening,

(00:43):
and a need to pee woke me up unusually early
the next morning. Once I got back from the restroom,
I made the profound error of unlocking my phone and
checking the news. Sweet Lady Internet informed me that Turkish
President Edwin had made a whole new spade of threats
against Java in the Syrian Democratic four Is. The United
States was still ostensibly trying to mediate in the dispute

(01:04):
between their largely Kurdish allies and the Turkish government, but
everyone in the region knew the United States planned to leave,
which made their actual negotiating position with Turkey practically nil.
The cities we've been traveling through bright, defiant, Kovanni, peaceful, Derik, chaotic, kamishlo.
Ridawin called them all a terror corridor. In meetings with
his own party, he promised to shatter this corridor no

(01:26):
matter how the negotiations with the US to establish a
safe zone along the Syrian borders concludes. His reasons for
this go back decades, and they're tied up heavily in
the deeply complicated history of Turkish domination over the Anatolian Peninsula.
But the most recent justification for violence was, in fairness,
pretty straightforward. P KK militants in Iraq had absolutely assassinated

(01:48):
a Turkish diplomat just the day before Jake and I
had landed in her bill erda Win's contention was that
all of Rojava was nothing but one big, giant safe
space for a terrorist group to operate. In the debate
over the peakk's role in Rojava is yet another super
fucking complicated issue. The people who actually live here talk
readily about who is from the mountains in the p

(02:09):
k K and who is not. We'd actually talked about
this a bit the day before with Kobad. She'd acknowledged
that these old fighters were often more experienced organizers than
local Syrian Kurds, more professional or more experience the local
or sometimes you find this mamas there are also super professional.

(02:29):
So one of then demandin she organized all that moment,
that mama that you met, and now she moved, and
now that our organizatives them. So it's good that beginning.
It would be rank idiocy to deny the influence the
PEKK wields in Rojava, but it would be just as
foolish to act as if everything that happens here is

(02:52):
part of some gigantic terrorist conspiracy to destroy Turkish sovereignty.
The mamas are not militants, have all Salaman Ahim, who
we met at the farm, did not have secret designs
to assault Turkish military basis. Jin War was not a
cover for any sort of militant action. There are very
few simple truths in this place, but as best as

(03:12):
I can ascertain, two things are true. Number One, the
Kurdistan Workers Party or p KK has been responsible for
horrificed acts of violence in the past and is still
responsible for violence in the present day. And Number two,
the p KK also saved tens of thousands of Yazdi
lives during the early days of the war against ISIS.
The early YEPG was heavily dominated by p KK fighters,

(03:34):
and the men and women who invaded Iraq to stop
ISIS from massacring the z Ds were basically all p KK.
If you don't know this history, it's easy to look
at the p kk's assassination of a Turkish diplomat and
write them off is just another extremist group, But you
really can't. Averting a genocide may not wipe the slate clean,
but it damn share earns something in my book. And

(03:56):
it's also worth noting that outraged as Turkey was over
the attack her bill, the Turkish government gives zero fox
about violating another nation's sovereignty to murder a political enemy.
Sacchina Johnsys was one of the founding members of the
p k K, right alongside Abdulaglon. She wasn't faster lucky
enough to escape to Syria when the government cracked down

(04:16):
on them, and in September of nineteen eighties, she wound
up imprisoned in the Arbuqure. Some thirty four of her
fellow inmates were tortured to death during the years she
was locked up. Seeing her friends get tortured to death
was a profoundly radicalizing experience for Sechina and for many
of her comrades. This helped push the PKK to acts
of more extreme violence in the nineteen eighties. While she

(04:39):
was locked up, Johnson's led a series of inmate protests
inside the prison. Her composure and toughness made her a
natural rallying point for the imprisoned insurgents, and by the
time she was released, Sechina Johnson's was seen as a
legend within the p KK. She escaped to Syria after
being freed, received armed training, and became one of the
movement's first female fighters. So Quena's first combat experience was

(05:01):
against Saddam Hussein's Iraqi Army, who were then in the
process of committing genocide via chemical weapons. She was good
at fighting, and she pushed hard for more women to
join the p KK as fighters. Since Johnson's was close
to Abdulagelon, she was able to play a major role
in getting the guerilla leader to embrace the concept of
armed all women units. By nineteen nine three, one third

(05:23):
of the p KKs fighters were female. It's probably fair
to say that Secchina Johnsons was as much a founder
of the Rojavan Revolution as Abdulla Ajolan. Her decades of
advocacy and personal lobbying certainly had a profound impact on
APO and his eventual conversion into an obsessive advocate for
gender equality. In nineteen under interrogation after his arrest, Apo

(05:45):
said this, I started the women's movement to free women
from the feudalism of men and to create a strong
type of women. I wanted lively discussions in relation to that.
I do remember the name of Sacchina john Says. For
her part, Secchina wound up dispatched to Europe to work
on the political side of the p k k's operations,
lobbying the European Union for Curtish sovereignty. She spent nearly

(06:06):
twenty years in France and was a prominent face for
the movement until January ninth, two thousand thirteen, when she
and two other Kurdish activists were gunned down by a
Turkish maintenance worker with strong ties to Turkey's equivalent of
the c i A. All of this was on my
mind in the morning of July twenty five, as I
tore myself away from my smartphone, showered, and stumbled out
into the breaking dawn with a goal of finding a

(06:27):
cup of coffee. Instead, I found Kabat sitting out in
front of the hotel and smoking a cigarette with an
old man who identified himself as Papa Curdie. He invited
me to sit, smoke and talk, and so we did.
We talked a bit about the fighting against ISIS and
the coming war against Turkey until Jake and Alan got
up to join us. Then we all piled into the
car and headed off. We rolled through downtown Kobani in

(06:49):
our way out of town, and it gave me my
first real look at the center of the city. Everything
is very clean, very new. We approach a traffic circle
in the exact middle of the city and my eyes
are drawn to what is easily the largeest television screen
I saw in Rojava. It's mounted to a monument in
the circle, and it displays a twenty four seven feet
of drone footage of the city right after the Battle
of Kobani ended. The footage shows us the same traffic

(07:12):
circle as it was just a few years earlier, lasted
and ruined. Our first stop today is a press office
for the SDF located just outside of Kobani. We need
to secure permission to visit a nearby base for the
YEPJ Rojava is all female militia. This particular base as
the first all Arab training center for the wye PJ,
which up until the last year or so had been
overwhelmingly Kurdish dominated. No journalists had ever been allowed inside

(07:36):
this training center before. As a lawn barrels down the
highway this morning, We've already been turned down more than once,
but Kabat is absolutely committed to turning this no into
a yes. So we park outside, walk in, and start
what became a three hour back and forth between Kabat
and a rotating series of SDF officials people on the academy.

(07:59):
So we're going to discussed with them or we're gonna
see how if they said no media have been in
the academy never, So this is the new we're at
So well, Jake and I sipped coffee and smoked a
lawns hard cigarettes about worked. It was a long, grinding

(08:19):
and interminable process, but these kind of days are also
an unavoidable reality of conflict journalism. As with soldiers, much
of a journalist time in these places has spent hurrying
up for the opportunity to wait. By the third hour,
Jake and I start to suspect that this whole thing

(08:40):
might not actually work out. Kobat received no afterno from
different officials the whole morning. She darted from person to person,
one hand always on her phone as she gently applied
each of her contacts within the SDF. It was a
painfully slow process, but she did eventually get our yes.
We piled immediately into a LANs van, terrified that someone
might change their mind if we were to linger too long.

(09:01):
Once we actually got on the road, we shared a
moment of gleeful celebration, made all the sweeter by the
agony of the weight. Alon produced a pair of cigarettes
for Jake and I spas bash. He grunted at us
with a wiggly smile. Then he turned his eyes back
to the road and put pedal to the metal. We'd
already burned through a lot of the day getting the yes.
Now it was time to make it count. The White

(09:27):
p J Bass is a massive compound in the desert,
surrounded by low, cream colored walls and the yellow rolling
plains of northeast Syria. There is fire in the air
and dust all around us as we drive up to
the entrance, which is lined with dozens of flags and
icons from all the different units in the SDF. Behind
these flags are rows of baby trees, saplings clearly planted
recently when the space was constructed. It's anyone's guess where

(09:50):
Rojava will be by the time they grow to adulthood.
We passed through a gatehouse, and then a lawn grumbles
his van to a slow stop in the middle of
a complex of large, low buildings that looked like the
scilities for a rather humble state university. We see a
few young women sitting out around the steps of a
nearby building, huddled around a couple of books and studying.
If they weren't all wearing military fatigues, this might look

(10:10):
like some progressive women's college in the desert. That impression
fades when we meet our host, Neuras Rocca, the commander
of this training facility. Like most of the women will
meet today, she has adopted a nom de geer. The
standard is to take the name of the city of
your birth. In her case, Rocca. She looks to be
in her mid twenties, although her face seems much older.
She keeps her jaw clinched tight, and my lasting impression

(10:33):
of her face is all stern lines and sharp angles
have all. Rocca presents a powerful air of severity to
the world. This is reinforced by the patch on her shoulder,
which bears a picture of Abdula Agelan in the words
no life without our leader. For all that though, she
is quiet and polite as she welcomes us into this
training facility, which is also her home. We carry our

(10:57):
gear into a large meeting room in the compound's main building.
The meeting room is rectangular, about the size of a
large trailer. The walls are all lined with ground level couches,
essentially just a network of thick cushions that provide comfy,
low slung seating around the walls of the facility. There
is no APO picture on the wall, but there is
a flat screen TV which is playing coverage from one
of Rojava's local TV news networks. The day's big stories

(11:19):
about the peace talks between Turkey, the US and Rojava's
self administration. We settle in, exchange some pleasantries, and then
Hubat and I slipped rather casually into an interview with
haval Roca. She refers to this training facility as an academy,
and through Hubbat tells us why it was opened in

(11:39):
the first place. While they opened this academy because there
was a necessity for the Arab sect in order don't
understand the corn land which they opened it. This academy
in Arabic. The whole training courses two months and a
full month of it is ideological training, starting with a
class in the history of Syria and then an introduction
to the accuracy with women's rights as the core of

(12:01):
that philosophy. Core education, which is the feminist movements and
specifically the characters who are filmous like and the other
women who are the statute they make a stand in
the revolution history struggling women. This education into the history
of feminist movements eventually dovetails into a history of the YPJ.
The goal is for women here to feel as if

(12:22):
they are part of a struggle that's bigger than Syria
and older than just the ideals of Rojava. So they
are giving share, including this whole movement in around the
world globally. What who are those women, why they are fighting,
who they were fighting, why this revolution take a place?
So all this they are explaining during this feminist movement.
A Roca explains that her goal is not just to

(12:42):
train these women to fight, but to train them to
be leaders in their community. They are preparing those people
who are leading in as as a leaders, as as
you know, commanders, to lead the community, the society to
be knowing their surface. This is what they are trying
to building here. And uh yeah, they are seeing people
from different parts of Syrium. Even last time, there was

(13:04):
a last before they graduated the last group, there was
a Turkmen in this group, and untually anyone speaking promotes
stupid's history. The Rojavan movement has been heavily Kurdish dominated.
Critics of Rojava regularly make the case that it is
really a Kurdish supremacist movement, but Arabs, Armenians, Turkmen, and
members of other ethnic groups make up an increasingly large
percentage of the soldiers in the SDF. So they are

(13:27):
teaching them about the democratic nation because for them, the
core of democratic nation philosophy is the woman free woment,
so without the filment that no one will could be
able to implement. Up to this point, what she's saying
is what we've heard before, but it quickly becomes clear
that she's actually trying to make a more nuanced point
this project and who are going to implement this projected

(13:47):
those people who are teaching them about the democratic nation,
because that was probably unclear to a lot of people.
What have all Rockett was saying through Hubbad is that
in addition to fighting, the women who train here are
expected to go back to their communities and helps spread
democratic values among them. This is the long game for Rojava,
and it's the only real long game that the Kurdish
founders of this movement could hope to have. The STF

(14:10):
has made education and history, politics and ethics as much
of a priority as armed training because they consider spreading
this education to be something that contributes to their immediate
physical security. It's a democratic nation. On all the other
wars here it's a sectarian war, so they're one of
democratic nation, which is diversity and include all the nationalists.
We in the United States are currently receiving a crash

(14:31):
course on what happens when a society loses any kind
of shared conception of history and ethics. At its very worst,
the sort of collapse and shared understanding can lead to
civil wars and ethnic cleansing. Kurds in this part of
Syria are no stranger to ethnic cleansing. They have been
victims and also perpetrators. Kurdish fighters were active participants in
the Armenian genocide of nineteen fifteen to nineteen seventeen. The

(14:55):
Armenian genocide is too complex a topic to cover in
detail now, but it's worth noting that Key denies it
ever happened. Overwhelming evidence proved that somewhere between one and
two million people were killed on the orders of the
Ottoman Turkish government. Many nations around the world have officially
recognized the Armenian genocide. The United States is not one
of them. Before he took office, Barack Obama promised to

(15:17):
change this fact. He did not keep that promise. Top
Obama advisers Ben Rhodes and Samantha Power have recently acknowledged
that they view this as a mistake. Rhodes explained to
Politico every year there was a reason not to. Turkey
was vital to some issue that we were dealing with,
or there was some dialogue between Turkey and the Armenian
government about the past. The main reason Turkey was too

(15:38):
vital to offend is the massive air base the United
States maintains in the Turkish city of Inserlik. The fact
that this air base includes fifty nuclear warheads complicates matters further,
but the issue of the Armenian genocide is not complicated
in Rojava. Abdulla Augelon began writing about the need for
Kurds to atone for their role in the Armenian genocide

(15:58):
in the late nineteen eighties. In two thousand nineteen, on
the International Day of Armenian Genocide Commemoration, the SDF announced
the creation of its first all Armenian military brigade. The
men and women of the YPG and YPJ learn about
the Armenian genocide is part of their training, one way
or the other. The goal of all this is to
promote self defense. One of the basic listens that's we

(16:20):
are giving it's uh self defense, self defense culture. We
wanted to build in this character of those fighter that
self defense it's a you're right, it's a legal right
for any human beings to have it. Unfortunately, in this
region there have been a lot of different armored actors
and they have been different behaves against the other, different humans.
When we wanted to build them just self defense way

(16:41):
that we don't want any as a literary forces, you
know it to control them, to control their character that's
not occurring ground or whatever. So yeah, we want to
because we want to implement the line the philosophy lines
of Agel and that's it's about the freedom of the woman,
and we wanted the self defense with the freedom and
in the character presentive of the crew kind of the
treat of the woman to be a It's not lost

(17:05):
on me that one group's ideological education as another group's brainwashing.
The Turkish government's contention would certainly be that the girls
and women of the space are all being brainwashed to
serve a terrorist group no better than al Qaeda or ISIS.
Fortunately this was an area in which I was able
to do some more investigation. I could see that haval
Rocca had a notebook full of instructional materials for the

(17:26):
day's courses. I asked if we could see it. She
handed the notebook over and let me take photos of
the training material. I did not have time to gather
a comprehensive collection of every lesson, but I walked away
with the class syllabus in the full text of a
one course unit. The syllabus was for the first thirty
days of the two month training, and it lined up
with what haveval Roca had claimed during our interview. The

(17:46):
first few days focused on rules for behavior and procedures
in the YPJ and STF Basic Order and Military Discipline.
Day six starts with courses on criticism and self criticism,
the tech mill system. We talked about earlier and ysical
and moral values. Much of the course centers around reading
the works of Adlaglan. His booklet The Democratic Nation is

(18:07):
studied on day fourteen, Liberating Life, another booklet is on
day sixteen, Women in the Family, and on day eighteen.
All of these books are available in full for free
on the website Aujalon Books dot com O C A
L A N B O O K S dot com.
You can read them yourself if you want a deeper
understanding of the course material. For our purposes in this podcast,

(18:29):
I'm just going to read some selections I found interesting
from Liberating Life, The History of the Loss of freedom
is at the same time the history of how woman
lost her position and vanished from history. It is the
history of how the dominant male, with all his gods
and servants, rulers and subordinates, his economy, science, and arts,
obtained power. Woman's downfallen loss is thus the downfallen loss

(18:52):
of the whole of society, with the resultants sexist society.
The sexist male is so keen on constructing his social
dominance over women that he turns any contact with her
into a show of dominance. The depth of a woman's
enslavement and the intentional masking of this fact is thus
closely linked to the rise within a society of hierarchical
and statist power. As women are habituated to slavery, hierarchies

(19:15):
from the Greek word hierarchy, a ruled by the high priest,
are established, the path to the enslavement of the other
sections of society is paved. The enslavement of men comes
after the enslavement of women, and another quote housewife iszation
is the oldest form of slavery. The strong man and
his entourage defeated the mother woman in all aspects of
her cult through long and comprehensive struggles. Housewife iszation became

(19:37):
institutionalized when the sexist society became dominant. Originally, the term
hierarchy referred to the government by the priests the authority
of the wise elders. Initially it had a positive function.
We may perhaps even view the beneficial hierarchy in a
natural society as the prototype of democracy. The mother woman
and the wise elders ensured communal security and the governance

(19:58):
of the society. They are necessary and useful fundamental elements
in a society that was not based on accumulation and ownership.
Society voluntarily awarded them respect. But when voluntary dependence is
transformed into authority, usefulness, and a self interest, it always
gives way to an uncalled for instrument of force. The
instrument of force disguises itself behind common security and collective production.

(20:21):
This constitutes the core of all exploitative and oppressive systems.
It is the most sinister creation ever invented, The creation
that brought forth all forms of slavery, all forms of
mythology and religion, all systematic annihilation and plunder, the emotional
intelligence of woman that created wonders, that was humane and
committed to nature, and life was lost. In its place

(20:42):
has been born the cursed analytical intelligence of a cruel
culture that has surrendered itself to dogmatism and attached itself
from nature, that considers war to be the most exalted virtue,
and enjoys the shedding of human blood, that sees his
arbitrary treatment of women and his enslavement of man as
its right. I into remind everyone again that these words
I just read are part of the mandatory training program

(21:05):
for a militia in the Syrian desert. I'll read one
more quote before we move on. The male has become
a state and turned this into the dominant culture. Class
and sexual aggression developed together. Masculinity has generated ruling gender,
ruling class, and ruling state. When man is analyzed in
this context, it is clear that masculinity must be killed. Indeed,

(21:27):
to kill the dominant man is the fundamental principle of socialism.
This is what killing power means, to kill the one
sided domination, the inequality and intolerance. Moreover, it is to
kill fascism, dictatorship, and despotism. After concluding our interview with

(21:54):
Havalaka and taking photos of the course materials, we break
for coffee into smoke. While we're resting, a young woman
wearing fatigues, a bright flower Kafia and Hello Kitty Socks
gently steps into the room. She looks to be in
her mid twenties, with straight black hair, a handsome angular face,
and large, intelligent brown eyes. She introduces herself as a friend, Missie.
She tells us that she is the Wye pj's media

(22:15):
representative at this base. Shortly after arriving, we told have
All Rocca that we wanted to interview some of the
soldiers here about their lives. Have Alla Freene tells us
that her job is to sit in during the interview
and make sure we're respectful of her soldiers. Many of
these women are just seventeen or eighteen years old, and
a number of them have traumatic histories that lead them here.
She wants to make sure we don't press our subjects

(22:36):
to talk about things they aren't comfortable sharing. This concerns
me a bit. The request is not inherently unreasonable, but
it's only proper journalistic skepticism to worry that a media
representative sitting in on an interview might be there to
control or restrict the answers given. By a subject. I
decided to keep an eye on Havla Freen during the interview.
We step away and set up for our first interview

(22:57):
in a small side room. All of the women we
talk to today A volunteered to speak. The first is
of All Kurdistan, a square jawed woman with coke bottle
glasses who gives me very strong librarian pipes. Kurdistan Barran.
She's from original She came for ideological training. She is
a member of the The MMS or Manbij Military Council

(23:19):
is one of the many militias that works under the
broad umbrella of the SDF. Have All Kurdistan joined back
in two thousands sixteen, and during that bloody period of
the war, there was not much time for ideological training.
Now that things have calmed down, the SDF center here
to finish learning. She reached adulthood in one of the
most traumatic and trying circumstances imaginable of all Kurdistan's adolescence

(23:40):
coincided disastrously with the meteoric rise and expansion of the
Islamic State. The soldiers of the Caliphate conquered her home
and she was forced to live under their brutal rule
for years of her life. Did she suffered during ISIS
when it was controlling the Remember what happened? She was
once in the market and she has to argue with
the one of the ISIS members fighters. So they took
her to a jail and she stand the jail for

(24:01):
fifteen days and they're supposed to kill her. So anyhow
she survived. She managed to get out and be released,
and she was waiting on this came. She joined that
it was obvious that if all Kurdistan had more to
say about her time in ISIS jail, But for the moment,
I moved forward with questions. I wanted to know how
all of the radical political ideas of the large Alan
had sat with a young woman just freed from ISIS captivity.

(24:23):
And somehow this education it was sometimes making like a
comparision for me about my ex life en slavery life,
she said, and my new one. You know, I was
like questioning all my ex life. Oh you're As we
moved on, she told us about her first time shooting
a rifle. She found it fun and wanted to keep

(24:43):
shooting after they ran out of bullets. She also told
us about her first time in combat during the grinding
battle to retake Raca from Isis. So somehow, you know,
like our animate wasn't easy and it was eis So
the first time when I went there, I have a
feel I have. I was somehow afraid. I was like,
you know, it's a new for me to to be there.

(25:04):
But at the same time, I was like super concentrating
and you know, take care to do all these things.
When she mentions the importance of paying attention, she's referring
to the fact that every Isis battlefield was absolutely filthy
with unexploded ordinance. This is something I experienced myself during
the Siege of Mosel, stepping through neighborhoods that had been
liberated by Isis minutes earlier. Not only were the streets

(25:26):
filled with duds unexploded bombs from coalition aircraft and artillery
from the Iraqi Army, but the whole fucking place was
booby trapped. To helen back, veteran soldiers would point out
specific wires looped across doorways and the entrances to alleys.
They take me around and show where those wires connected
to piles of high explosives. They'd also point out numerous
abandoned vehicle based i e. D s and suicide vests

(25:47):
littering the ground like straight condoms on the San Francisco
sidewalk um. So before you said you wanted to enjoin
Mark Jars revenge for what happened when you were living
on the Isis and for all the women, then you
went to the capital, to Rocca and chase them out.
Do you feel like you know you've got that revenge? No?

(26:09):
Not yet, I mean she said, like as I said,
like I when I threw myself. If all the woman's
are not free, I'm not the take it didn't take
our evenge and we were going to if we didn't
completely defeated Isis from the roots. Were still are working
on that. I didn't get our revenge it. Jake pressed
a little further, asking how of all Kurdistan believed she

(26:30):
could get revenge for the crimes Isis committed against her
and the other innocent people of Northeast Syria struggling resistance.
We have a determination, this is the only way to
the conversation moves on and eventually we wind up on
the subject of male supremacy and the nicab the full
head covering garment isis made mandatory for all women. How
does she feel when she sees that we were in

(26:51):
rock yesterday and then we're more women than I've seen
anywhere else in Rosia? How does she feel when she
sees that? Does she feel like sort of that those
attitudes of male supremacy that are still very deeply ingrained
are kind of the roots of ISIS. I feel so
pitiful for them, and I saw them. I feel like

(27:13):
for that we have to resist that in order to
say free all though so many this because this closet,
this thing is represented ISIS. It's representing ISIS mentality, which
is enslavered in the woman because of that, wanted to
change one or two to you know. Next, I asked
her how she thinks the men she has served with,
particularly the older men, have adapted to serving alongside women.

(27:34):
Both have all Kurdistan and have all the friend. The
hPG im mediately is on burst out laughing, had been
away and he is a male. At that point, have
all the friend speaks up. While I wait for Hobbat's translation,

(27:56):
I wonder if you might try to walk back the
claims of lingering bias among male soldiers in the STF.
Those for those others struggle those for those, it's it's
higher than the others, you know. Yea. So the idea,
she said, like, yeah, we cannot change anything. Are not
the history of the oppressed of the woman. It's a
long history, fast out and years ago. So this mentality

(28:19):
have been, uh, you know, take a place in the
community for the women men. Everyone likes still believing in that.
So to change it that it's another they are not
it's gonna attack. Even what she's saying, training there, and
she's referring to the month of required ideological training, have
all A friend admitted freely that the trainers at this
academy we're taking on an almost insurmountable task fighting against

(28:40):
generations of entrenched misogyny. It's like, I need a lot
of time to be changed. So even now we are
with our colleagues, the men colleagues in a different she said,
colleagues there we are. There are our friends, they are
were all commardes, they are and we're fighting together, we're
taking training, we are have a living together. But that
is the end. We have our struggle. We have our
struggle as a woman, because if we did, we're not

(29:02):
going to be free. Ourselves and explained to them how
it's important to understand that for them also, we cannot
get our results from our struggle as much as we
have a man in this mentality, we have to keep
struggling because in order to get this level of equality,
gender equality between us, and they understand how how we

(29:23):
have to share everything together. It's need time and we
are like doing that, right, I said, like as she
he's asking specifically about this elderly men or the demand
who are a little bit other than the others. It's
more difficulties there for sure, because they are they have
this three archy mentality, Uh, you know, more in their

(29:47):
character than the others, so we can't change it faster
so they those for those men, it's higher us struggle.
It's certainly fair to say that of all the Frame
was not shy of admitting the shortcomings and imperfections within
the SDF. I grew less worried that she was sitting
in on the interview in order to somehow restrict the
information I received. Her true purpose for being in the
room became clearer when Jake asked his next question two

(30:11):
things and as well say it's too drama action, don't
feel the post to answer, but I want to know why,
what the argument was in the market with the Isis
guy and what it was like. Kabat translates the question
and we see the reaction of All Kurdistan's face before
she begins her response. She maintains her composure, but the

(30:33):
story that follows is clearly not easy for her to tell.
Of Ala Frine puts a hand on her comrades knee
and looks her in the eyes. She seems it wants
to be telling of all Kurdistan. You can do this,
and you don't have to do it if it's too hard.
So the problems are the argue. It started because she
was fully warning this n villa and everything. But there
is a built, Kabat said, belt there the man who

(30:55):
stopped of All Kurdistan was a member of the his
ba isis Is religious police. She'd been out shopping with
her siblings but was forced to send them home and
head to jail. Of All Kurdistan continued to tell her story,
and of course neither Jake or I could understand what
she was saying, but we saw very clearly the shock
on Hobart's face as the story went on. That is no,

(31:32):
so yeah, they took her to the center. They still
all her gold, money, all the properts that to us
with her, everything towards with him. And also they put
her family his name on unless that's you know, always
they were gonna double checking on them or whatever. And
they first wanted to kill her, you know, excusing her.

(31:52):
Then they changed it to one thousand five lashes. Yes,
lashes as the whipping someone in the back with a
long leather bull whip. I'm sure you're wondering right now,
how many lashes does it take to kill a person?
Can a human being survived fifteen hundred of them? And
the answer is that not all lashes are created equal.
In eighteen forty six, a young British soldier died in
London after receiving just a hundred and fifty lashes, and

(32:15):
two thousand and four, a fourteen year old Iranian boy
was given eighty five lashes and died, but that was
due to the whipper accidentally hitting him in the head.
And two thousand eight, Saudi Arabia sentenced a doctor to
fifteen hundred lashes for prescribing a princess medication that led
her to a drug addiction. The doctor survived, but he
also received only fifty lashes per week until his sentence
was fulfilled. There are cases of human being surviving more

(32:38):
than fifteen hundred lashes in a single terrible beating, and
so haveval Kurdistan's punishment was not necessarily a death sentence.
Receiving that many lashes will, however, completely shred the outer
layer of skin on your back down to the bone.
I have read accounts of modern people who received fifty
two a hundred lashes. They described the pain as incomprehensible.

(32:59):
This lashes. It was by three persons because if one
of them get tired, he will not get it strong,
you know enough, So they try to hold that in
your head. Three strong men wore themselves out beating this
woman's back into bloody ribbons. One thousand, five hundred lashes,
three persons changes, each one of them five hundred to

(33:20):
keep strong as much as I can, and they still
didn't break her mask. And because the woman have a predetermination,
she means that have all Kurdistan's desire to be free,
to escape isis is what kept her alive through the beating.

(33:41):
For a few seconds, Jake and I just sat in
silence processing the story we've heard to recover from that
kind of injury to be able to like going to
the world and like that's a serious injury, just make
a in the whole. But she did recover, and once

(34:05):
she did, she used the same determination that had seen
her through the beating to affect her escape from ISIS
controlled territory. Once she was free, she joined the SDF.
If she had a weapon training and comrades with the
same no man would ever whip her again. We take
a break after that and then sit down to interview
another young fighter. As before, have All a Friend sits

(34:27):
in on the interview. Our next subject is younger than
have All Curdistan and gives her age is nineteen. She
wears camo fatigues with curly hair that has slicked back
on top. She tells us she spent four or five
years of her life under DASH control and gives her
name as Because I am not great at reading Arabic,

(34:49):
for the rest of this episode, I will refer to
her as have All Revenge Revenge Friend. You have to
admit it's a pretty badass nickname. I asked her what
specific moments come to mind when she thinks about revenge
her brother joint having included with the ISIS. So she
wanted to take revenge those ISIS members who are who
are recruiting all the others in order to using them

(35:11):
as a tool, I guess, or in a very dehumanizing
way against the other population. But the how how they
destroyed our country, So I wanted to take revenge of order.
I asked her how her brother explained his decision to
join ISIS at the time. So, my brother, who has
already liked this religious background a friend, he was always

(35:32):
like uma in different mosques for the others look like
So once he decipted for a party five days and
he completely disappeim that when he returned back with you
what that he's having included with the US because my cousin,
he is a mere inn dash and he included my
brother and the mirror is a leader within the Islamic state.

(35:54):
About revenge lived under ISIS for almost five years, basically
the entirety of her adolescence. She only escaped because the
STF eventually liberated her hometown. I asked her, what was
the very first thing you did once you realized you
were free? So the first thing Hobart said, veil there
in case it was unclear because as I said, so

(36:17):
blush as to that closet, which she is completely dehumanizing,
I guess us and looking to us not as a
human being. I asked her next if she can remember
the very first time she saw a woman carrying a gun.
Her voice almost breaks as she answers to the dentist.
And I saw a woman with a wakman and I

(36:40):
was looking to make a conversion. How oss how she
is there? And in short, she first saw a woman
of the y PJ. After escaping Isis control. The sight
of a free woman with a rifle was shocking, mind blowing.
After so many years under Iceis control, she decided to join.
I asked her how it felt the first time she

(37:00):
held a gun of her own. My dream it was
to join the And it was like I always I
feel like it's an illusion or imagine I never I'm
gonna happen. So whenever I was just doing that, I
hold it. When it was for me, like I hope
for myself, it was like already I have there a
courage and wild to holded this hope for my teacher,

(37:22):
to hold myself. You know what felt like. I was
ready for that. I was a dreaming about it. I
have a sporting you, so I dreamed about this my
dream of my left year. Next, I asked what would
she do if a man ever tried to make her
put on a knee cob again? The woman and our regions,
for sure, we're going to try to deface myself. We

(37:43):
conclude our interview with of all Revenge have all A
Freen gives her friend a cheerful poke on the cheek.
I find the gesture striking, and I tell her son,
you talk about friend that her pride and her friends
has written all over her face when they talk, and
her pride Linda Chicken, She didn't Tobacco said, I don't

(38:22):
want to. She as a WANs They struggled and then
they get the achievements and they I cannot highline sprint
and I'm proud of thing. Have Alla Frien had initially
not been willing to give an interview herself, but I've
grown increasingly interested in her throughout these interviews. I started
this process suspicious of her, but her relentless positivity and
supportiveness towards her comrades had thoroughly won me over. I

(38:44):
ask again if she might want to talk, and this
time she says yes. My name is a free Maso.
I joined the YPG myself. I'm from a Freen. My

(39:07):
family's origins had a lot to do with me joining.
My family loves their homeland. This had a big effect
on me. When my brother was martyred by ISIS had
an even bigger effect on me. I was thinking about
it for a year. Joining the military is not easy thing.
For a year until throughout all I was thinking about it,

(39:32):
Will I go? Could I do it? I dwelled on
it a lot because as a civilian person, your life
will pass into a new life. That is, you take
on a new life through your own choice. This created
a big contradiction in me. I go, I don't go,
I go. What happens? I joined like everyone else have

(39:55):
Alla Freen is shoeless. Well inside her socks have bright
English words written across them. Never give up. When I joined,
of course, I was scared. At first. I told myself
I wouldn't tell my family. No matter how much a
family loved their homeland, they love their child even more.
And so when I joined, I didn't tell my family.
I said I was just going to school and that

(40:17):
i'd be back soon. When I had arrived to the
Haval's they passed the information to my family that I
had joined the y PJ. At that time, my father
came to me. I'll never forget what he said. He
told me, this is your spirit. Then you have chosen
the way that's before you. Who am I to keep
you from this? But know also that if you betray

(40:39):
this movement and come back home, I will throw you
out of the house. But she made it through her
training and she joined the wye pj's media center, essentially
acting as a reporter or a pr agent for the militia.
After receiving the basic YPJ training, I joined the media center.
The first time I went to the front, I didn't
go as a fighter. The first combat I ever saw

(41:01):
was in Telera Fat. Perhaps you've heard of it. It's
towards Shabbah. When you, as a woman, have just joined
the military, you wish to fight and experience war. Though
we as women are completely against war. When you see
your society and your people under authoritarianism, you are forced
to defend your own society. That time, I didnifire my

(41:22):
gun because my comrades didn't allow me. They said, you
are part of the media team. They protected me from threats.
I had my weapon as well as my camera, but
recording was my goal in the fight. I can play
a role as part of the media team. My goal
was to communicate to the public the reality of the war.
Have all, a friend did not consider the defeat of

(41:43):
ices to be the end of the y PJ struggle.
She comes from no surprise, the city of a Frien,
which is currently occupied by Turkish BacT Islamist malicious. There
is a pain inside me. The occupation of a freen
has increased my thirst for events. Every piece of news
from these people have been kidnapped, to those historical landmarks

(42:03):
have been destroyed. Every new story like this increases my pain.
This pain also pushes me to take revenge. But the
liberation of a friend and the victory in the war
against Turkey was not nearly the end of her ambitions.
Like Koreum Schamid, the head of the Woman's Economic Development
Center we interviewed back at the beginning of our journey,
a free Massa is a true believer. Now the goal

(42:25):
of every fighter in YPJ is to liberate her mind.
Because yes, it's true we have joined the y PJ,
and thus we liberate our bodies. But this is not enough.
We also have to liberate ourselves from the capitalist system.
Throughout history, the first city states were built on the
basis of exploiting the woman. If we go back to history,

(42:46):
we see that it was the women who created everything
in natural societies. Before the rise of city states, women
were leaders. But after the system of city states was
built up by men, they began a pressing women for
the first time history. Throughout the last four thousand years,
a system has been built up over the woman. It
doesn't allow her to work, to go outside, to take

(43:08):
up the gun, even in her own home, she is
not allowed to express her opinion. Even when you get
married and should live a shared life, you cannot express
your own opinion. You aren't free to say what you want.
Our goal is to bring an end to this mentality.
We don't say that women should take a higher position
than men. Our goal is a quality between women and men,

(43:31):
to make it possible that our society can live with
a free mentality. Neither women nor men should be the oppressor.
There should be equality. I have many many more questions,
and I wish I could have stayed there for hours
asking them. But this is a military trading academy, and
our interviews have come up against one of their daily
training exercises, a long march in full gear with rifles. Jake,

(43:54):
Kobot and I are invited along, and so we lace
up our boots and head into the scorching heat of
the rojab In afternoon, the training platoon has already marched off,
so we hop into a Lawns van to catch up
with them. We're hopping out. We're about to be on
control with the White PG training union. Notches about let's
see here about young women, nearly all of whom are

(44:23):
carrying kalashnikovs, wearing fatigues and heads wrapped against the desert heat,
some wearing hats, somewhearing Caffia's. It's an interesting mix of colors,
from the the b DU camouflage which could come straight

(44:43):
out of the US military, to the colorful, beautiful head scarves,
some of them with floral prints and little silver dangly
bits on the end, some women choosing to walk with
their heads completely uncovered, others and ball caps. Most of
them are clearly very new to holding a gun. Others,
like of all Curtistan, carry their rifles with an easy

(45:06):
familiarity born from hard use. We march with them for
a while, and eventually the column comes to arrest by
the shade of a copse of small trees. As they rest,
the different squad leaders, including have All Curtistan, move around
and help their comrades with minor uniform issues, instructing them
on how to readjust bits of gear or the best

(45:28):
way to relax while carrying an a K forty seven.
I'm struck by how profoundly different this feels from the
stereotypical image of a boot camp. No one here is
yelling at anyone. Instead, instructors and students make frequent gentle
physical contact, touching each other on the arms and shoulders.
They giggle toss pieces of grass at one another during
playful arguments. Yet all the same, they learned the proper

(45:51):
way to march with their guns and move in gear
through the hell of Assyrian summer. The White Pj's reputation
on the battlefield speaks to the fact that the style
of training is effective. After a few minutes of rest,
the unit packs up and moves out, continuing its marks
through the desert, I stand and watch them pass. I
look at of all Curdistan, marching with her back straight,

(46:11):
despite the mass of scars that lurk beneath her uniform shirt.
Like her, nearly all these young women spent years of
their lives living under Isis, forced to wear long black
robes covering them from head to toe. Even in scorching
hundred and ten degree days like these, they were helpless,
the unarmed victims of a death worshiping colt built on
hateful masculinity. As they march past me, I split my

(46:34):
gaze between their trumping column in the Turkish border wall,
which looms as ever on the horizon. For all I know,
there are bullets for every one of these young women
waiting just a few miles away on the other side
of that fortification. And yet the tears that threatened at
the corners of my vision are not tears of sorrow,
because there is one thing, and only one thing that

(46:56):
I know for certain. These women will never be slaves again.
Shout Chou chou partijiano or game sin do be moy.

(47:19):
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