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Are We Losing a Valuable Feminist Project in the Middle East?

Are We Losing a Valuable Feminist Project in the Middle East?

Date and time: Tue, Nov 10, 2020, 11 am to 12:30 pm Eastern Standard Time (UTC-5)

Register here.

Join Ambassador Peter Galbraith, Sinam Mohamad, Amy Austin Holmes, Meghan Bodette, and Anne Speckhard to discuss feminism in Rojava.

ICSVE Panel Discussion featuring:

  • Ambassador Peter Galbraith
  • Sinam Mohamad, Syrian Democratic Council Representative to the United States
  • Amy Austin Holmes
  • Meghan Bodette
  • Anne Speckhard, Director ICSVE

Join via Zoom Meetings (see links below)

The Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria [AANES] established a secular, democratic, and egalitarian-led government in Rojava, wherein women occupy key roles and are co-chairs with men in all-important positions, but these largely unseen strides for women in the heart of the Middle East may be slipping away. The AANES is the only opposition group in Syria with a commitment to equal rights, and the Assad regime government also features very little female participation outside of traditional roles. Turkish-backed rebels, who now occupy land captured from the AANES, have engaged in many acts of gender-based violence as women’s freedoms and opportunities in these areas have quickly deteriorated. In August 2020 alone, armed groups in occupied Afrin kidnapped 11 women, four of whom were allegedly tortured while in custody. Two women in Afrin were reportedly murdered by their husbands in August as well.

What can be done? Can the AANES be used as a model of a secular, egalitarian state in the Middle East, or will it be lost to authoritarianism and violence? ICSVE’s tenth Zoom conference will cover the successes of the AANES feminist style of governance as well as human rights abuses targeting women in Turkish-occupied areas in the aftermath of Operation Olive Branch and Operation Peace Spring. The panelists will look at the gap in women’s rights, equality, and representation between AANES-controlled areas of Syria and Turkish-controlled areas of Syria and discuss how to nurture a very valuable feminist project, unheard of in the Middle East with the exception perhaps of Israel.

Ambassador Peter Galbraith is an author, academic, commentator, politician, policy advisor, and former United States diplomat. From 1993 to 1998, he served as the first U.S. Ambassador to Croatia, where he was co-mediator of the 1995 Erdut Agreement that ended the Croatian War of Independence. He was a cabinet member in East Timor’s first transitional government, successfully negotiating the Timor Sea Treaty. In 2009, Ambassador Galbraith was an Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations serving as Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan. Ambassador Galbraith served two terms as a Vermont State Senator from Windham County from 2011 to 2015, and was a candidate for Governor of Vermont in 2016. He is the author of two critically acclaimed books on the Iraq War, including the bestselling The End of Iraq: How American Incompetence Created a War Without End. Ambassador Galbraith argues that Iraq has broken up into three parts, allowing for Kurdistan’s independence. In the 1980s, Galbraith uncovered the beginnings of the Anfal campaign against the Iraqi Kurds and, in 1988, documented the use of chemical weapons, leading the US Senate to pass comprehensive sanctions legislation (“The Prevention of Genocide Act of 1988”) authored by Galbraith. He was in Kurdistan during the 1991 uprising and his reports–including video footage of the uprising’s collapse – contributed to the US decision to create a safe area. Beginning in 2003, Ambassador Galbraith was an informal advisor to the Kurdistan Regional Government in northern Iraq, supporting the Kurdistan delegation in the drafting process of the 2005 Iraqi Constitution. He is on the Board of Directors of the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, the research arm of the Council for a Livable World.

Sinam Mohamad is the representative of the Syrian Democratic Council (SDC) mission in the United States. She is a top diplomat of the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES) in Syria and also serves on the SDC Presidential Council. Ms. Mohamad has served the Kurds of Syria in leadership positions for a decade. She is a founding president of the People’s Council of Rojava, also known as Western Kurdistan. The People’s Council was founded in 2011, during the first year of the uprising against the Syrian government, at the outset of the Arab Spring. Then, the People’s Council of Rojava served as the governing organization in areas that were liberated from the Syrian government in northern and eastern Syria. Ms. Mohamad has also served as a member of the Kurdish High Commission. The Commission, a Syrian Kurdish leadership organization, was established by the Kurdish National Council (KNC) and the People’s Council of Rojava, in 2012. The Kurdish High Commission later became the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES), which serves today as the governing authority in northern and eastern Syria. Previously, Ms. Mohamad also served as the AANES’ diplomatic representative in Europe. Ms. Mohamad has been a leading advocate for women’s rights in Syria for more than two decades. She was twice nominated to run for Parliament in Syria. Born in Damascus, Ms. Mohamad is a graduate of the University of Aleppo. She is married and has four children.

Amy Austin Holmes is currently a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and has recently been awarded an International Affairs Fellowship at the Council on Foreign Relations. She has a Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University, with expertise on U.S. security relations and contentious politics in Europe and the Middle East. Dr. Holmes previously served as an Associate Professor of Sociology at the American University in Cairo, and has held Visiting Scholar positions at Harvard University and Brown University. A former Fulbright scholar in Germany, she is the author of Coups and Revolutions: Mass Mobilization, the Egyptian Military, and the United States from Mubarak to Sisi (Oxford University Press 2019) and Social Unrest and American Military Bases in Turkey and Germany since 1945 (Cambridge University Press 2014). Having spent a decade living in the Middle East through the period known as the Arab Spring, she has published numerous articles on Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Tunisia, and Bahrain. Professor Holmes is the first person to have conducted a field survey of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) based on numerous trips to all six provinces of Northeast Syria between 2015-2019. Her current research is about governance challenges of the semi-autonomous Kurdish-led region of northern Syria. This includes a focus on the protection of minority groups exposed to ethnic cleansing, as well as the dilemma of repatriating ISIS detainees.

Meghan Bodette is an independent researcher studying North and East Syria, with a focus on the Kurdish women’s movement and women’s rights in the Syrian conflict. She holds a degree in international politics from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service.

Dr. Anne Speckhard is Director of the International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism (ICSVE) and serves as an Adjunct Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Georgetown University School of Medicine. She has interviewed over 700 terrorists, their family members and supporters in various parts of the world including in Western Europe, the Balkans, Central Asia, the Former Soviet Union and the Middle East. In the past five years, she has interviewed 245 ISIS defectors, returnees and prisoners as well as 16 al Shabaab cadres and their family members (n=25) as well as ideologues (n=2), studying their trajectories into and out of terrorism, their experiences inside ISIS (and al Shabaab), as well as developing the Breaking the ISIS Brand Counter Narrative Project materials from these interviews which includes over 200 short counter-narrative videos of terrorists denouncing their groups as un-Islamic, corrupt and brutal which have been used in over 150 Facebook and Instagram campaigns globally. She has also been training key stakeholders in law enforcement, intelligence, educators, and other countering violent extremism professionals, both locally and internationally, on the psychology of terrorism, the use of counter-narrative messaging materials produced by ICSVE as well as studying the use of children as violent actors by groups such as ISIS. Dr. Speckhard has given consultations and police trainings to U.S., German, UK, Dutch, Austrian, Swiss, Belgian, Danish, Iraqi, Jordanian and Thai national police and security officials, among others, as well as trainings to elite hostage negotiation teams. She also consults to foreign governments on issues of terrorist prevention and interventions and repatriation and rehabilitation of ISIS foreign fighters, wives and children. In 2007, she was responsible for designing the psychological and Islamic challenge aspects of the Detainee Rehabilitation Program in Iraq to be applied to 20,000 + detainees and 800 juveniles. She is a sought after counterterrorism expert and has consulted to NATO, OSCE, the EU Commission and EU Parliament, European and other foreign governments and to the U.S. Senate & House, Departments of State, Defense, Justice, Homeland Security, Health & Human Services, CIA, and FBI and appeared on CNN, BBC, NPR, Fox News, MSNBC, CTV, CBC and in Time, The New York Times, The Washington Post, London Times and many other publications. She regularly writes a column for Homeland Security Today and speaks and publishes on the topics of the psychology of radicalization and terrorism and is the author of several books, including Talking to Terrorists, Bride of ISIS, Undercover Jihadi and ISIS Defectors: Inside Stories of the Terrorist Caliphate. Her publications are found here website and on the ICSVE website. Follow @AnneSpeckhard

This is the tenth discussion in this series of panels discussing ISIS Foreign Fighters and terrorist rehabilitation. The first panel, “Issues of ISIS Prisoners & Repatriations in a Time of COVID,” can be reviewed here. The second panel, “Can an ISIS Terrorist be Rehabilitated and Reintegrated into Society?” can be reviewed here and the report that was inspired by this panel can be found here. The third panel, “Can We Repatriate the ISIS Children?” can be reviewed here and the report that was inspired by this panel can be found here. The fourth panel, “Terrorist Rehabilitation in the Dutch Prison System,” can be reviewed here. The fifth panel, “Into and Back Out of ISIS: An ISIS Defector Speaks Out,” can be reviewed here. The sixth panel, “Fighting ISIS Online: An Introduction to Breaking the ISIS Brand,” can be viewed here. The seventh panel, “Talking Terrorist Propaganda with a Pro,” can be viewed here. The eighth panel, “Terrorism Prevention, Intervention, and Rehabilitation with Juveniles,” can be viewed here. The ninth panel, “Community-Focused Interventions Against Terrorism,” can be viewed here.

The panel will each speak briefly and questions will be most welcome with a lively discussion to ensue! Questions can be posed using the Zoom chat feature or by Twitter to @ICSVE

You are welcome to share this invitation with interested colleagues.

The event will take place on Zoom at 11:00 am EDT:

  • New York 11:00
  • Los Angeles 08:00
  • Mexico City 10:00
  • London 16:00
  • Geneva 17:00
  • Amman 18:00
  • Addis Ababa 18:00
  • Bangkok 22:00
  • Sydney 01:00

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