By Alice Camilleri Burke
IT has been a year since the Italian anti-ISIS fighter Maria Edgarda ‘Eddi’ Marcucci was sentenced to government ‘special surveillance’ – with a law unused since the Mussolini era.
Controversially, Marcucci has not committed a crime. She has been deemed politically dangerous solely based on a history of peaceful protest. But now she lives in forced confinement, and cannot even travel without police permission.
Redaction Politics spoke to Marcucci on her recent sentence and its wider implications on state control.
What was re-entering Italy like? “It felt like a dystopian nightmare,” she recalls.
The clash with authorities began a year later, in January 2019.
The state informed Marcucci and her four travel companions that the government had requested special surveillance on them because they had joined a a war abroad and had been taught to use arms.
Marcucci points out the problematic side of this: it suggests that those who join ISIS and those who fight it are the same, adding: “You would think that the Italian government would be able to spot the difference.”
Then, at the beginning of 2020, the state authorities tried to contact her.
“I was elsewhere at the time,” she said.
“When I landed at Turin airport, the police were checking documents – they had my photo and they were looking for me.”
They had been ordered to notify her that she would be put on trial. Marcucci was shocked by the large number of policemen, which she described as “unnecessary intimidation.”
The trial was 14 months long. Marcucci was the only woman to be tried out of the five activists, and the only one to be sentenced.
Despite the initial motive for investigation, Marcucci was not sentenced for her time in Syria, but for having participated in previous peaceful protests in Italy, including a clash with a fascist group at university.
“This isn’t a case of penal law, but preventative law – it’s not based on a crime you committed, but on an evaluation of who you are,” she said.
The verdict: Marcucci would be subjected to government ‘special surveillance’ for over a year. Now, all her movements are approved by local authorities. “I must be home by 9PM, and I can’t leave the house until 7AM. The state confiscated my driving license and passport, and my ID is no longer valid for travel. I carry a tiny red book on me at all times where police record my movements.”
“The government said I’ve dedicated my life to opposing authority – if you challenge them in any way, you’re labelled dangerous. That strikes me as a totalitarian paradigm.”
Marcucci tells Redaction Politics how much national support her case has garnered. “[Italians] have rightly asked, ‘how is fighting ISIS a crime?’
“The government only got away with one special surveillance sentence and not five because of grassroots solidarity.”
Her take on state misogyny is clear: “I think it would be naïve not to see the link between my sentence and the fact I’m a woman.
“The state shows huge disregard towards the lives of women every day. I am a woman, why would my case be different?”
She remembers how during the trial, her male counterparts were examined solely on their statements, while she was judged on her appearance, adding: “The prosecutor claimed I walked ‘like a soldier’; that I had a ‘highly aggressive manner’.”
Given the current civil unrest provoked by police brutality, Marcucci’s case seems more relevant than ever.
“There are so many incidents of police rape, so much abuse,” she laments.
“How can you possibly feel protected? It’s good that we are finally asking the question – what is their actual role? To serve and protect? Yeah, the ruling class.”
Since her sentence, Marcucci’s Instagram account, one of the only avenues she has for her activism, has been repeatedly deactivated – and Big Tech may be to blame.
She said: “We know Turkey has been pressuring big platforms like Facebook – there are published exchanges between the Turkish government and Zuckerberg where Turkey requested bans on all displays of solidarity towards Kurdistan’s networks.
“In the weeks right after the Turkish invasion of 2009, all the accounts displaying solidarity to Rojava were shut down”. And what of the relationship between Italy and Turkey?
“It’s no coincidence that Turkey is one of Italy’s main political partners. Some of Italy’s most profitable companies, Ferrero and Barilla, and Turkey, have a billion dollar relationship.
“More than half of Nutella’s hazelnuts come from Turkey. Turkey also happens to be the only country that identifies the YPG and the YPJ as terrorist organisations. So when you persecute their members, you’re acting on behalf of the Turkish state.”
Will she abide by the sentence? An upcoming review in the court of appeals could provide a crucial stepping stone to the European courts.
In the mean time, Marcucci is determined to exercise her freedom.
”I am putting up collective and individual resistance. I live in the words of the Kurdish movement: ‘Resistance is life. Life is resistance. Berxwedan Jiyane.”
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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