tv Azadeh Moaveni Guest House for Young Widows CSPAN October 5, 2019 10:40am-11:19am EDT
i think it is true. they take what they want, men have the choice of women are seen as leaders. this, all these women, the more women that come forward, he's more like genghis khan, or alexander the great. kennedy, clinton, name, jefferson, the mark of a leader in many people's eyes to see a man taking what he wants. >> watch the rest of the interview visit booktv.org. search free jane carol or the title of her book what do we need men for using the search box at the top of the page. next on booktv journalist azadeh moaveni reports on how women from around the world are recruited by isis and the experiences they have after joining. scientist and onto runner gary marcus weighs in on the current
state of artificial intelligence and the future of the field. later we visit rapid city, south dakota to explore the area's literary culture. check your program guide for more information. [inaudible conversations] >> good evening, everyone. my name is gwen hunter and i'm the coordinator at policy books. i'm pleased to introduce our guest. i would like to ask you to silence your cell phone. booktv, c-span, thanks for being here.
tonight i'm thrilled to introduce azadeh moaveni to talk about her book "guest house for young widows: among the women of isis". this is not her first book. she has written for time magazine, la times. she is also co-author of awakening. in conversation with her tonight is senior fellow and director robert mckenzie, brookings institution scholar, policy analyst has written for us. and the baltimore sun. cnn, guardian, new york times. these individuals are outstanding. please join me in welcoming them. [applause]. >> i'm delighted to be here. i was told by the bookstore
before leaving you have to buy this fantastic book. that is the requirement. i am really delighted to be sitting next to my brilliant and brave friend azadeh moaveni who i have known since 1998. there are very few people who know the region as well as azadeh moaveni. she doesn't just parachute in. she has worked on the region for 20 years. could you tell us what brought you to this book? you have written two other books but this is different, something quite different and tell us what brought you to writing this book. >> thank you for coming and thank you to solid-state. happy to be here with you. this book i suppose the genesis
of it came in 2014-15. i have covered the region a long time. i covered the gulf war and a lot of conflicts and moments of instability across the middle east over the years and i always report on how conflict impacted women and girls in particular ways. there was always something from the early days in iraq when girl stopped going to iraq. the conflict in the middle east in the course of my career always stayed in the middle east. there was upheaval but estate in the confines of the region. the first time i was living in the uk in 2014 when all these young people, i was teaching at the time. people from the uk, london and areas i talk were getting ready to go to isis.
and drying people in from regions far beyond that have no impact. i was very dismayed, hurt, upset by the media coverage of young people because many of them were young girls that isis targeted women particularly, specifically girls. the press coverage was exclusionary. these were not european girls anymore. they were in-house horrors for isis, packing lubricants the caliphate, these were 15-year-olds who had been groomed and i thought how ephemeral is your european citizenship after being groomed ever 15-year-old, you're not even british anymore. i wanted to tell the story in an intelligible way from the middle east and europe. >> you covered 13 women and girls in this book, talk about what happens for those who might not remember.
>> guest: those girls became a global sensation. something about images of them walking through metal detectors at the airport went global. they were 15-year-olds in east london in a community that is largely populated by muslim immigrants in south asia, they were pakistani, bangladeshi, what is ethiopian. they were lured into isis through social media. there parent had no idea what was happening and the things they were hearing were not come join a death called. these were popular girls, straight as, they were admired and they started being exposed on instagram and twitter and these platforms a lot of messaging from isis propaganda
about stuff that was real, guantánamo bay, muslim civilians being killed from burma to palestine, they were hearing about islamic hate crimes. they were visibly muslim girls wearing head scarves and they were hearing a lot, they were being persuaded there was no place for them in europe that they couldn't be european citizens, british young girls at the same time. they were lured by the idea that they could join this utopian society where they could be empowered and respected. >> host: what about in terms of islamohphobia, what role did that play? >> it is fair to say for a lot of young people in europe, the ones i ended up interviewing and speaking to. perhaps they hadn't experienced it directly in the south but it
is important to say for americans it is hard to describe the climate of anti-muslim racism. what it would have been like to be a person of color in this country in the 60s. daily slurs, pretty intense degree of racism, hard to get the statistics on getting jobs if you have a muslim name. it is an intense environment in europe for young people and feeling included as a muslim is part of a national identity has been challenging. >> host: you did "in depth" research. talk about how you are talking to the families and communities. what will they tell you? >> guest: the families in the uk were bewildered. they had no idea there girls were being lured into this. a lot of the families, the
parents were first-generation immigrants. this was a scary thing. reporting this i thought that could happen to me or girls but i knew. parents were often working two jobs, had limited english, didn't have a sense how to maneuver life in this new societies. they were focused on getting by and were often religiously conservative. of the girls were spending time at the mall or covering up this was welcome to them because they thought we will preserve our cultural identity or religious values. they didn't have the parenting skills to know a warning sign for a young teenager in the 21st century in the age of isis. >> host: was there anger from the parents that their children did this or was it how did they wind up getting on a train and on a plane to get into syria?
that is a huge leap. >> guest: some of them were very angry. there was a family of a girl who was scottish and she became a key propagandist. he had a, blog that is probably responsible for bringing so many english-speaking girls in. her family were furious. not only had she done this herself, but she was drawing other vulnerable girls with her. they were angry. a lot of other families were bewildered and also felt betrayed. there was initially maybe some part of them that felt some sympathy for the ideal or the dream to have an islamic homeland, to defend other muslims against injustice and the sense of intense betrayal was painful in addition to the loss of a child. >> host: in commonalities that come out through these stories that are worth discussing or
any contrast, any outliers come not sure what happened with that particular young girl? >> some of the outliers i did not include their stories because as i was trying to figure out who i could get close enough to come his account i could trust enough to include, some early on i felt were so implausible. there was a girl in tunisia who was a graphic arts student and she had a little tattoo and the idea she had 10 months prior joined isis and was on her way to syria seemed impossible to me. with time, i didn't include her. if there's a common theme it is hard because the story of isis in the middle east is anchored in a specific place. isis arose out of the recent history to syria and iraq in the aftermath of the invasion of iraq and the failed arab spring uprising which opened up hope from egypt to the rain to
syria and yemen. that specific and different to the story of isis in europe which was a story of lost second-generation not fitting. one thing that net them together is the feeling of exclusion. i start the book with the story of a 16-year-old tunisian girl who grew up before the arab spring revolution. and was thrown out of school, which was very oppressive. you couldn't hold public office and couldn't work in a public building. if you were a visibly religious woman you were excluded because it was authoritarian and religion was brief. there was no space for nor in that tunisia. i think over and over in syria families -- could not have any access to politics.
and poor government and exclusion and growing up from an authoritarian society and very patriarchal and stuck in a double bind but have no access to politics which is compounded by culture and isis focused on women and no one else had done that in the jihad sphere or under those oppressive regimes. >> host: of the 13 stories that you tell you mentioned the example from tunisia and one from europe. any differences based on country of origin or where the girls were based? >> guest: in north africa for example a lot of tunisian women, moroccan women went, imagining this would be a better state, and islamic state that promoted itself.
there would be a place they could go and work and be citizens in a very orthodox -- it feels perverse to us that it would be a society that could empower them. over time, the impulse shifted, the messaging shifted. it focused more heavily on sectarian ideology and exclusionary, violence against muslims and the kind of horror show product we came to know and love but it is more across time, then necessarily placed. >> host: on the topic of countries of origin you touched on this earlier and i suspect different european countries dealt with foreign fighters differently.
can you talk about that unevenness. if you are british, american versus some other country? >> guest: that is a great question and it is pressing right now. as we sit here, there's a camp in syria were 13,000 foreign women and children are held, the giant isis prison camp full of women from the west, many of them and other arab countries. what to do with these women? are they members of isis? brides of isis? spouses of isis fighters? how do we assess them? that is at the crux of the challenge for governments in figuring out how dangerous they are and what to do with them. the responses been uneven. european countries have been quite reluctant to take women and children back to the uk in particular. there was a young girl who was one of the three girls who became international stories because her citizenship was
stripped. russia has taken some women back in the us. from an american perspective taking these women back, monitoring them, save her from simply security perspective than allowing them to go free in the desert. >> host: you have talked to the women. are they remorseful? are they regretful or are they defiant? >> guest: there is both. these are the women who came out of the final stronghold of isis. a lot were the most fervent believers. women who came out in earlier moments of 2017. those who wanted to get out earlier tried to. there is a higher concentration among those who were there but many couldn't get out. you had to pay smugglers to get out, had to get your children out.
a lot of women who opposed isis were thrown into prison or had children taken away from them so it was hard to get out. women in those camps are desperate to come back and be prosecuted. we know we have to go to prison, we know we have to be accountable, even if we got there and immediately knew that it was horrible and brutal and we regretted it within weeks of arrival we know we have to pay the price but put us on trial. are we not citizens enough of our home country to be put on trial? >> host: looking back before the rise of isis, almost impossible to this -- folks would build a caliphate. looking forward can you imagine another scenario where and isis like movement or organization develops? tracks so many people from europe and beyond?
it is a big question but was it a singular moment because of what happened with iraq and the arab spring? could this happen again? >> guest: it was a singular moment. the arab spring uprisings were such a shattering, momentous moment for the region, there was so much hope and women were so involved in those protests, at the forefront of them and kind of this precipice and collapse of all of that country to country created a unique circumstance where there was a great deal of disorder and raised expectations that were dashed especially for women coming at the same time as this moment in the syrian and iraqi story. i think it was unique and isis was the first group that used that language. no one had called for a caliphate before in these terms and it awakened and conjured so
much longing for being in a different state from indonesia, to europe. at the same time it tainted the idea, it polluted the idea. i don't see potential for a kind of jihadist idea. >> in europe, in terms of communities, the impact has been significant in terms of islamohphobia. how are they dealing with all this? >> muslim communities in europe are watching very closely to see what happens to young muslims from france, belgium, germany who went. what would be their fate? would they be prosecuted and aided the same way as a
15-year-old white danish girl who made a horrific mistake. that is one thing. the stakes are high for the judgment of european muslims. at the same time i think there has been a terrible shadow cast over muslim society in europe because so much political activism or preoccupation or concerns, frustrations and grievances of the young people in europe that isis very much preyed upon, are seen now in the lens of counterterrorism. if you are young person in high school or the uk and you start going to free palestine marches you will show up on counterterrorism policies and might get a knock on your door. a lot of state support for muslim women and domestic violence, other issues under the umbrella of counterterrorism.
it is -- faith has been securitized in the path of this and that is very polarizing and one of the terrible legacies for muslim communities. >> host: let's open it up to the audience for some questions. if you could state your name and affiliation. >> i'm from new america. you talk about the women who returned to their countries, the government feels that having them repatriated, has there been -- those home governments using girls as a narrative after all, were they punishing them or watching them? >> that is such a good question because this question of how to produce counter narratives or
challenge the next forum that tries to tap into the same frustration and desires young people still have, all the sentiments are still, those grievances and longings are still there country to country. by and large it is not been terribly easy to use former radicals or returning women to talk about their experience and dissuade others and it is because there is one small aspect of their message that is largely welcome. it was a mess, it was destructive. the islamic curse is upon them but all the other stuff they said about muslims being unwelcome in the west, about the american political order, the political economy of the
middle east in which all these repressive governments are and have been allies of the united states and are responsible for all this brutality and torture and repression. no one's mind has been changed about that stuff. all of that is not very welcome because in the end, foreign-policy is a part of this and your counterterrorism policy or the impact at home of what you are doing a broad you are working at cross purposes so the women coming back and the men coming back are not great at carrying the message they need to. >> to build on that question your book contest a lot of traditional notions of gender and the role of women in these organizations. do you think there is increasing scope in europe for discussion about how to engage
youth and young women from communities that were marginalized >> there is an awakening to the importance of engaging young women whether it is muslim women in europe or women in societies like tunisia, morocco and these different countries that women were recruited from in high numbers. often that is done through a securitized lens. you will have what seems like a grassroots women online digital magazine for young female muslims and women -- in 6 months it will emerge that is being funded secretly by the foreign office so it is kind of the realization or importance of engaging with those communities and women in those communities but it is so
transactional the women are great, come help us fight terrorism rather than let's make sure you have english classes and make sure you have shelters against domestic violence so you can be more independent and safe in your community and maybe be better parents and better actors within your own range. >> to your point this is all being securitized and throws a wet blanket on civil participation and makes it harder. >> that is why there is real division. the atmosphere certainly in britain, there is tremendous distrust and animosity between communities and the government. >> host: other questions? >> you were talking about change over time and i was wondering about the message sold to these women changed over time, how the message was shifting and things were
developing. >> such a great question. the sophistication of isis's messaging and the context to context was stunning. i don't think anything was prepared for that, the way recruiters and especially women recruiters counto country, region to region tailored the message recruitment ideas and narratives to that particular moment in time. it changed over time. and to go help fight the dictatorship in syria. and fighting against imperialist, the collective family. that was a narrative initially
and tailored to specific societies like tunisia. and the domestic political climate, and we have to go militant. i think over two years, the platforms close. and it was the essence of the project was more revealing than the messaging. it was an apocalyptic, millinery all, violent, transnational jihadist group with mercenary territorial intention that sounded like an and began to sound like it. >> you talked about social media as an amplifier and accelerator and you mentioned
the young woman using tumbler. did you see differences in the way they tried to reach audiences across europe based on gender or age? >> women reached out to women, women invoked graphic mimas that would appeal to them. for women, images of this romantic adventure, there were pink graphics where you could walk off not a honeymoon. one of the london girls, i just learned honeymoons are her own, i am really sad. it was very feminine. it was kind of timing them with images, ideas that were at the same time romantic, professional, intellectual,
religious, but women are very feminized, aesthetic language. >> because you were able to talk to women in these camps after the fact, when they got there on the ground and this is not what we thought it was via tumbler, how did their views change with the situation on the ground or this is not what i thought it would be? >> there were some girls who were clearly traumatized. we have to remember some of them got married 2 or 3 times, they had maybe 3 children, men of different nationalities who died and the title takes its name from these guesthouses where women went after they were widowed and they would wait to be assigned so moving constantly because they were in the midst of a war.
some of them lost children because they were giving birth and highly traumatized, some of them looked glassy i'd, just traumatized and not particularly regretful, they seemed having come out of a war and felt the other side would have raped them if their husbands hadn't raped the other women and they were not really there. some of them were a little bit older, had had taken kids there. the difference between a 21-year-old and the 15-year-old can be significant and they were like women you would meet. some of them are educated, had jobs and wanted to go back and be teachers and they were very regretful. and seemed to be waiting for the time to be able to go back.
>> i missed the beginning of your talk. the women you spoke about, some in europe, they left the camp. and if so, with their families, how they talk to you. >> guest: there was a whole -- i spoke to women who tried to go and in the early days, easier to talk to women who hadn't gone yes. they often wouldn't talk to a disbeliever. >> host: when you say they blocked, what does that mean? >> guest: there was a point
that lots of girls were young women were going, passports to the police in london confiscated 3 dozen passports and girls from the same thing. there was an epidemic and they had their passports taken away or there was a girl who didn't have her passport taken away, she was stopped and they went again and were stopped again. tunisia band travel under 35. and completely -- into the been the search for a young woman from tunisia, they were under 35. it was a blanket travel ban because there was such an exodus. to finish axing -- women were apprehended from going. i spoke to families of girls who had gone. i spoke and we developed a
relationship from afar over the phone and in 2017 the cities started to fall and it was possible ago to that part of syria and i spoke to women in the camp and early on there was a piece in the new york times to kick this off. i went looking in southern turkey for those london girls. i was on their trail land in southern turkey there were women who were early isis defectors and they had gotten out, girls who'd grown up in their hometown and studied marketing and one studied english literature. their families weren't able to leave and they joined isis, their families had started to collaborate. hard to survive, not going to cooperate with them in some way.
i went with him a few times and spoke to them very closely. kind of patchwork of different levels of access across different places. >> on this topic of isis defected and some really powerful voices. and 70 or 80,000 twitter accounts. and those voices would be really powerful. and there is a very ferocious critique of isis in the muslim community from political islamists who are basically unpalatable.
in europe and certainly in parts of the region. i think the blockage of moderate political islam is part of the story. if you come from the political worldview, they went way to too far, they are deviant and brutal but we would like to have a strain of politics from this perspective, there isfor that in the region. simple muslim activism and political identity, there's not a lot of space for it and that is where the critique is powerful. >> other questions? >> two final questions. this is being recorded by c-span. you cover the region for 20 years and have done
extraordinary work. any advice for young researchers in the region? >> for me -- in arabic. learning the language and being able to interact and relate in a genuine way with people is i think most journalists do not and that is partly reflective of tendency to have terrorism rather than regional beats. in the era of isis and the last 15 years a lot of newspapers assign people to copy terrorism. if you are a the terrorism reporter you might not know the history of post-2003 iraq so intimately. you wouldn't have been standing
there when the army was descended and lining up to get salaries and standing under the sun and there was no one to pay them and they couldn't go home and take care of their families. if you unravel the story of isis it goes back to that in part, but if you arrive at the thematic experts, it is hampered by this so it comes with regional linguistic expertise which to my mind is the way to understand these movements with rather than branding them as deviation as a religious phenomenon. >> host: this is the next one, this is her third book and i suspect it to be a fourth book and we will be here 3 to 5 years from now again but between now and then i would encourage all of you to read this. i think it really is a brilliant book, thrilled to be up here with you and it does
contest so many simplistic notions of gender and the role of youth in the young women in these groups so i encourage all of you to buy the so join me in thanking azadeh moaveni. [applause] [inaudible conversations] >> booktv continues on c-span2, television for serious readers. >> good evening, welcome, thank you for supporting your local independent and employee owned bookstore. c-span is here so make sure all cell phones are on silent. a couple other events we