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WorldAfter Islamic State, women lead the way in a bold democratic experiment in Raqqa

02:00  05 march  2019
02:00  05 march  2019 Source:   abc.net.au

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A bold democratic experiment where women have equal rights rises out of the ashes of former Islamic State territory in north-east Syria — but it But we're in Raqqa , the once notorious capital of the so-called Islamic State , where women were confined to the house and could only be seen in

A bold democratic experiment where women have equal rights rises out of the ashes of former Islamic State territory in north-east Syria — but it could be crushed at any time.

After Islamic State, women lead the way in a bold democratic experiment in Raqqa© Provided by ABC News Members of the Kurdish female military force, the YPJ, have been fighting back on the frontline. Leila Mustapha seems out of place. Almost anywhere else the skinny jeans, leather-bomber jacket wearing 30-year-old probably wouldn't draw a second look.

But we're in Raqqa, the once notorious capital of the so-called Islamic State, where women were confined to the house and could only be seen in public in full covering with a male guardian.

What's more, Leila is the city's new leader.

After Islamic State, women lead the way in a bold democratic experiment in Raqqa
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"Give me a minute to finish my cigarette, just don't film me smoking," she says as she flips back loose hair that's come out of a slicked-back messy bun.

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A bold democratic experiment where women have equal rights rises out of the ashes of former Islamic State territory in north-east Syria — but it could be crushed at any time. news/2019-03-05/ after - islamic - state - raqqa -survivors-empowered-by- democracy /10865548.

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While I wouldn't ordinarily film someone smoking, Raqqa's female Civil Council leader puffing away in her office would've been a simple way to show how far the city has come since it pushed Islamic State (IS) out two years ago.

Smoking was banned under IS and its record on women is atrocious.

But I'm more keen to tour the city with the former civil engineer to find out more about reconstruction efforts. It's midday, and we only have a few hours of winter sunlight left for filming. We also have to leave Raqqa before it gets dark.

The city may have pushed IS out, but it has morphed into an underground network and still poses threats — especially to people like Leila.

"A number of colleagues, a number of people who were close to me, members of the Raqqa Civil Council have been subject to attacks, assassinations," she said.

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After Islamic State , women lead the way in a bold democratic experiment in Raqqa . 5 · 15 comments. "The Turkish Observation Post at Morek has retaliated against the Regime Axis Shelling near the post, and has shelled back on Regime Positions".

“ After Islamic State , women lead the way in a bold democratic experiment in Raqqa . A radical experiment in democracy and women ’s rights is under way in the old badlands of Islamic State . But as Yaara Bou Melhem reports, it could be crushed in an instant.

"We're expected to take precautions, but these precautions don't prevent us from our work."

Religious freedom, gender equality enshrined in law

Leila is a part of the Autonomous Administration of North East Syria, the little-known authority that rules roughly one-quarter of Syria.

The dull name belies a set of principles that could challenge those of many Western countries.

The Kurdish-majority administration is enacting the philosophy laid out by a leftist revolutionary named Abdullah Ocalan.

Equal representation of men and women in all areas of governance are enshrined in law, as is religious freedom.

This democratic experiment is being rolled out in areas that the Kurdish-majority Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) liberated from IS.

The SDF, backed by a US-led coalition, is nearing the last of that territorial campaign with just a sliver of land still under the group's control in the village of Baghuz in the Deir ez-Zor region.

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The US- led coalition against so-called Islamic State (IS) says 98% of territory An intensive aerial bombardment by the US- led coalition helped secure victory in Raqqa for the Syrian Democratic Clearing operations are already under way to uncover any jihadist sleeper cells and remove landmines.

The administration is seeking autonomy within a federated Syria

It hasn't been recognised internationally but on the ground it functions as would any other state, from leading large-scale reconstruction efforts including the opening of schools and hospitals to the more bureaucratic work of registering births, deaths and marriages.

But this young democracy may soon face a far bigger threat than IS.

The US is planning to pull out about 2,000 troops that have been providing support to the SDF campaign against IS. They plan to leave behind only a small peacekeeping force.

When that happens, the Kurdish-led authority will lose its protection.

Turkey has pledged to invade northern Syria and smash the Kurds. It fears autonomy here will embolden the 15 million Kurds inside Turkey to rise up with similar demands.

"When the coalition pull out from here we know that there are other people who are worse than ISIS who want to fight us," SDF Commander Simko Shikaki says.

"We will watch the situation, and once Turkey attacks we will have a response for it."

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“ After Islamic State , women lead the way in a bold democratic experiment in Raqqa . While I wouldn't ordinarily film someone smoking, Raqqa 's female Civil Council leader puffing away in her office would've been a simple way to show how far the city has come since it pushed Islamic State

WASHINGTON — When President Trump took office in January, the Islamic State controlled about 23,300 square miles of territory across Iraq and Syria. Now, as an American-backed militia declared on Tuesday that it had liberated Raqqa , Syria, the capital of the extremists’ self-proclaimed caliphate

'A life that we didn't even dream of is being built'

Fatigued with war, young people are taking control of what they can. In a bar in the town of Kobani, close to the Turkish border, I meet with a 19-year-old journalist about to get married.

"The situation is peaceful for the time being. So we thought we'd get married now," Bercem Abd al-Kadr tells me.

Her fiance Azad Ahmad is a little more optimistic about the future. He's a 26-year-old fighter with the YPG, the Kurdish military force.

"The hopes for the future are bright, democracy is being built. A life that we didn't even dream of is being built," he tells me while smoking a shisha.

"As a Kurd, the Kurdish flag is being raised."

What makes their union exceptional is that their marriage will be a civil rather than a religious one.

The Autonomous Administration of North East Syria has brought in civil marriage, allowing people from different religious groups to legally marry.

It may seem like a small detail, but it's radical in a region where sectarianism and tribalism dominate and where Islamic law had previously prevailed.

Bercem and Azad invited us to their vibrant and very Kurdish wedding party. It's a time to celebrate, but there is also the lurking prospect of a conflict with Turkey.

"If needed, he will go to war and I will continue working," Bercem says on the day of her marriage.

"We did not want them to win, so that's why we got married."

Pictures: What is the 'Islamic State'? (Deutsche Welle)

After Islamic State, women lead the way in a bold democratic experiment in Raqqa
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