‘I didn’t go to Rojava just because I’m a good person who wanted to help the Kurds. I wanted to live in a world of women’: Eddi Marcucci’s story on the YPJ frontline revealed

By Alice Camilleri Burke

EDDI Marcucci was not a born activist.

Raised in Rome and studying philosophy in Turin on a scholarship, she found herself on the frontlines against ISIS just a few years later.

After reporting on the heroics of the YPJ in Syria, she found herself stranded in the war-torn nation – but accepted by the group as one of many women on the frontline.

Redaction Politics has spoken to Maria ‘Eddi’ Edgarda Marcucci, 29, a young Italian woman whose journey to Syria in 2017 received national media attention when she decided to join the YPJ in their fight against ISIS and Turkish occupation. 

Marcucci was receiving funding to study philosophy in Turin, but when the foundation withdrew its funds, she suddenly found herself at risk of homelessness, having to find a job to survive.

The situation sparked her political activism. “We had no money to pay our fees or rent. So we occupied a student house,” she said.

Marcucci then joined NOTAV, a local grassroots movement against a high-speed train line project across the Valsusa valley.

She said: “My family is from Naples, where ecological disaster is rife. The land there has been struck by toxic contamination, and tumours are endemic. That’s exactly what would happen in Valsusa if they were to build the train line; it would destroy the ecosystem irreversibly.

“My childhood suffered from that – it was incredibly painful to watch so many people I cared about die slowly. So when I moved to Turin, I joined the movement straight away.” 

But how did she go from a local movement like NOTAV to the frontline in Syria?

“I’d been following the Kurdish struggle for a long time. But it was only in 2013 or 2014 that I decided to get involved.”

Reading about the terrors of the Sinjar massacre and attempted genocide of the Yazidi people, Marcucci felt like ISIS was “unstoppable” at the time, having just beaten the Syrian army in many areas.

But revolutionary forces had been successful in opposing them from the Syrian and Iraqi mountains, managing to create a humanitarian corridor for the oppressed Yazidi people. “When I realised that the HPG, the YPG, and the YPJ had done this all by themselves, that really caught my attention,” she said.

“That’s when I started to research their work – how they came from a revolutionary land that was putting democratic autonomy into practice.”

“I didn’t go to Rojava just because I’m a good person who wanted to help the Kurds. I wanted to live in a world of women. It can make you feel strong and powerful, being part of a global frontline. I really felt understood there.” 

Eddi marcucci

In September 2017, Marcucci began reporting on the war in Syria for an Italian independent news site, ‘Info Aut’. Although a war zone at the time, an independent region within the country, Rojava, had recently become a promised land for progressive politics, and its inhabitants were pioneering a system of self-government based on radical democracy, feminism and social ecology. Marcucci became fascinated with the YPJ, especially the feminist elements which had inspired victories.

She said: “The Kobane resistance was a historical turn of events – and who made it a game changer? The women of the YPJ. They were the protagonists in that victory.” 

As soon as the chance came up, she decided to join a delegation that was travelling there. Once they arrived, Marcucci contacted YPJ fighters to arrange an interview. She only intended to stay for a couple of months, but her plans soon changed; Marcucci soon found herself drawn to their way of living, free of the patriarchy and of capitalism. The delegation she had travelled with was struggling to get back to Italy due to the 2017 Kurdish independence referendum that was taking place in Iraq at the time. 

She recalls: “One day, a chance to cross the border came up and I realised I didn’t want to go back. I went to the people in charge, and said: ‘Take me to the YPJ. I want to join’.”

The YPJ accepted her among their ranks, and told her she would find other internationalists there – Eddi remembers a British fighter among them, Anna Campbell, and said of her:”I was already fascinated with alternative systems, and when you’re faced with a million people doing something completely different – defeating ISIS and building an alternative to capitalism – you can either go home, or you can stay and learn how they’re doing it.” 

Eddi remembers how surprised she was by her family’s reaction to her staying in Rojava: “My father was in such denial about me being in a war zone. When I spoke to him, he said – ‘If it makes you happy, go for it. We’ll be here waiting for you.’ They were worried – but I’m an adult and I didn’t need their permission. But it really mattered that they were supporting me.”

Alice Camilleri Burke is a writer and journalist based in London. She is interested in stories of marginalised communities, as well as feminism, intersectionality, film and literature. Follow Alice on twitter @alicecamburke

Featured Image: Courtesy of Eddi Marcucci

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