I did this interview with Claudio Locatelli in February . Claudio is an Italian journalist, media activist, & YPG Kurdish fighter.
This is a transcript of the first part of the interview.
Claudio: I’m Claudio Locatelli. I come from Italy and I was a YPG fighter. So I was fighting in the People’s Protection Unit in the North of Syria in the battle of Tabqa, Iraq, and I’m usually a media activist and journalist in the Middle East and Europe. And I have always been active in society.
Linda: How long have you been back in Italy?
Claudio: I came back in October and I have been in Rojava for seven months and a half, more or less, and exactly the end of February of the last year. Actually, it was exactly one year ago because today is the 27th. So it was exactly the 27th of February I took off with the plane towards Iraq. From Iraq I passed to Syria. I crossed the border to Syria.
Linda: Why did you join the Kurdish forces in Syria?
Claudio: Well first of all, because there was a big enemy and the enemy was not only ISIS. The enemy was whatever is considered oppressive and a patriarchal society, and ISIS is a theocracy, patriarchal society and oppressive. And that was intolerable for me and was unacceptable. So that was the main reason. The second reason was what the Kurdish society and the DEMCON- the democratic confederation together with the rest of the people in the area Christiana, Yazidi, Turkmen, and many other people of the area… they are building something different from ISIS. Something where the women are included, have the same dignity of the men. Something that takes care of the ecology.
Something that really cares about democratic, social, and inclusive values.
That’s what the second main reason is… as a media activist and journalist, I was already in the area especially in the Eastern part of Turkey in 2014 in 2015, and I was an international observer during the Newroz day Kurdish festivities, because there was a risk of attack or military presence of Turkey. In that period at the end… sorry at the end of August of 2014 and then in 2015 there was a big issue; the Yazidi genocide. I remember clearly in my mind, the imaging on the television these people escaping from Iraq, from the Sinjar mountain. Many women were enslaved by ISIS. For me that was the limit. I
couldn’t accept more that… in this world.. in 2018, there was a strong force like ISIS that was enslaving women, and raping them, as a low. This for me was unacceptable.
Linda: Can you please explain how the fight against patriarchy and these ideas, how they play out in Rojava?
Claudio: Absolutely, that is why this is one of the main points, absolutely something that also in Europe or I guess also in Australia is an issue. For example in my country, in Italy, the salary the income of the month is based on your gender, if you are male or female more exactly. So it’s absurd because in my opinion, if you work well, if you work, if you do something, whatever you’re doing, the income or whatever other things are connected should not be based on whether you are a man or woman. That in
Rojava is something really important. For example, the general commander of the Iraq operations is a woman. I really don’t remember a general commander of the army of Italy being a woman. So this is one of the big revolutions in Rojava. The patriarchal system is also an economical issue because the capitalists/the modern economical system is really using the submission of the women, the oppression of the women as a system.
You know typically you imagine the women in this kind of western society, as the women that stay in the kitchen, that take care of the babies, that provide the assistance for the man to go to work. That is absolutely creepy in my opinion because we don’t consider it (in Rojava instead they consider it): the woman as a full person. There’s the problem. In
Rojava, the entire struggle is fair to women. When we liberated Raqqa, the entire liberation of the town was dedicated to the women. From us from the women, moreover the YPJ, the female section unit, is a specific unit of our army completely composed by women and the main target is to protect women.
So to create a safe environment where women have the same right and condition of the men.
Linda: The argument in western countries is often about not using violence and changing people’s minds by talking rather than violence. You’ve been in an actual war against ISIS and others. What do you say as a response to those arguments now?
Claudio: That’s a very interesting topic. I’ll give you an example. If you are in the winter, I guess you use the ‘jacket,’ if you are in summer I guess you use a t-shirt. So you are not using a t-shirt in winter and the opposite. That’s the point. The necessity of the times, also with violent methods like weapons, sometimes can be necessary. I don’t think that is ‘the way,’ I don’t think that is ‘the way’ in every case.
It’s ‘the way’ in the winter, using the example of before. So we tried to send an ambassador… I don’t know this word in English, people that we send for diplomacy.
Linda: …. ambassador, yeah.
Claudio: Ambassador, thank you. In Tabqa, at the end of the campaign of Tabqa, almost at the end. There was many… surprises on a hill in front of us, so we tried to send an ambassador. You know what happened? ISIS sent him back in pieces in a box. They killed this guy. He was probably 20 or 21 years old and he was killed and sent back in a box. So how can you react to this? With talking?
We tried but actually you can’t really live accepting that an oppression like this can continue everyday, instead of fighting. I’m not for violence, in the majority of contexts, in 99% of the contexts, but I am ready to fight to defend what is right against the oppression when it is necessary. That is my idea on the concept.
Linda: You’ve come back to Italy from the trenches and this topic of violence when it is appropriate or not, in Italy does for example fascists who are quite nasty… What’s your opinion of how to deal with those people?
Claudio: If talking about the Nazis, we can say… racist action because in theory it’s supposed to be at that part in Italy, fascism, Nazis fascism. According to the law but unfortunately for some reason, some ridiculous reason, in the last years, more people and people are joining these extreme right-wing movements. That are actually against our laws, actually against our constitution, actually against our values but the people don’t take this seriously.
I want to tell you something. Also, with the real fascism in 1936, 1937, 8, 9, 40, so during the second World War the people really didn’t take seriously the Nazis and the fascist movement. You remember also Hitler was elected in election. So according with
the question that you asked me, we are to proportion the reaction.
If the Nazis and the fascists become again a violent political movement in Italy, we are to be ready to defend ourselves. To defend our values and to defend our people. In the meanwhile we are to keep an eye on the situation and be purposeful, why, why is something like this? Because our main target is collect the people. We cannot collect the people if we scare the people, but at the same time we are to make the people understand it’ll be more scary if fascists take the power again like they did in the past.
Of course, the way, the method will be the same of the fascism of the past but the logo will be probably different. They change name. In Italy the call Forza Nuova or for example CasaPound. It’s two names really represent two fascist parties.
Transcription by Silvia A.