tv Azadeh Moaveni Guest House for Young Widows CSPAN November 10, 2019 4:01pm-4:41pm EST
for all of us to know that evil can come in those packages. it's so good to hear that it's moving forward but telling the story is important. especially for those survivors to help them heal and that's what we want to do is support you. we also want to let you know that david will be out of the book signing tent on the plaza with his book and you can get autographed copies of the book in the plaza at the 10th sunnybrook and we want to thank you for attending. thank you precip you for suppor the southern festival of books and we will see you next year. thank you [applause] [inaudible background conversations] the new c-span online store now has booktv products. go to c-span store.org to check them out.
good evening everyone. my name is gwen i'm the event coordinator here. i'm very excited to introduce you to our guest tonight. please silence your cell phone since we are being recorded. by booktv, c-span, thank you so much for being here. azadeh moaveni is here to discuss the book "guest house for young widows". this is not her first book, she's in a fantastic writer and
journalist. she is also co-author of iran awakening ãbin conversation with her tonight is senior fellow and director mr. robert mckenzie. [inaudible] these individuals are outstanding in the field and i look forward to hearing what they have to say. please join me in welcoming. [applause] >> i'm delighted to be here. let me start by saying i was told by the bookstore for leaving you have to buy this fantastic book. i'm really delighted to be sitting next to my brilliant
and very brave friend is a day who have not known since 1,998 when we both were in cairo studying arabic. i mention this because there are very few people that know the region as well as ãwith the language skills, she doesn't just parachute income she lived in the region worked on the region for 20 years and so could you tell us what brought you to this book? you've written two other books on the region but different. this is something quite different. maybe tell us what brought you to read this book? >> thank you all for coming and thank you to stayton and bobby i'm so happy to be here with you. this book i suppose the genesis of it came or emerged in 2014/2015. i've covered the region for a
long time. i've covered a lot of different conflicts. in moments of instability across the middle east. over various years. i always reported on how conflict impacted women and girls in particular ways that was always something from the early days and around when girls start going to school after the 2,003 war. the conflicts in the middle east and in my career always stayed in the middle east. there was a great deal of instability but it stayed within the confines of the region and this was the first time i was living in the uk in 2,014 when suddenly all these young people and i was teaching at the time so i was around a lot of young people people from the uk from london from the areas i taught were getting up to go join isis and i was bewildered by that.how suddenly the middle east conflict came to serve out and drawing people in from regions far beyond that seem to have no impact. i was very dismayed and upset by the media coverage of the
young people because many of them were young girls. isis targeted women so particularly in its agreement. specifically girls.the press coverage was very exclusionary. suddenly these were not european girls anymore they were in-house horse for isis, packing lubricant for the caliphate. these were 15-year-olds who had been groomed. i wanted to tell the story in an intelligible way. from both side of the middle east and the side of europe. >> you cover i believe 13 young women and girls in this book. could you start with the three from green and tell us what happened for those who know it might not remember. >> those girls became a global sensation because something about their youth the images of them walking through the metal detectors at the airport what so global. they were 15-year-old if living
in east london in the community largely pop lighted immigrants from south asia. they were lured into isis online. through social media. their parents had no idea what was happening. and the things that they were hearing is not common in join a death cult. these were popular girls, they got straight a's. they were bright, they were the girls that the teachers admired. they started being exposed to on instagram, twitter and these various platforms a lot of messaging from isis propaganda is about stuff that was real burma to palestine. they were hearing about islamophobic hate crimes.
a lot of them were visibly muslim girls they would wear headscarves. they were hearing a lot of being persuaded that there was a place for them in europe that they couldn't be european citizens british young girls and pious muslims at the same time. they were lured by this idea that they could go join this utopian society where they would have a role they could be empowered and be respected. >> you talk about being persuaded by isis using social media, how about in terms of facing islamophobia and anti-muslim incidents. what kind of role did that play? >> a lot of the ãbit's probably fair to say that for a lot of the young people in europe the ones that i ended up interviewing and speaking to. perhaps they had an experience to directly themselves but i think it's also important to say for americans it's hard to describe the intense climate of anti-muslim racism in europe.
it's kind of like what i think it would've been to be a person of color in this country in the 60s. daily slurs, pretty intense degree of racism. hard to get the specifics on getting jobs if you have a muslim name something like: ã1 it's really intense environment feeling included as a muslim as part of a national identity has been challenging. >> in the research you talk about how you were talking to families and communities and what were they telling you? >> the families often in the uk were bewildered. they had no idea that there girls were being lured into this. a lot of the families the parents were first-generation immigrants and this was the scary thing speaking of reporting this i thought, that could have happened to me or it could have happened to girls i
knew. the parents were often working two jobs and had limited english, didn't have a great sense of how to maneuver life in this new society so they were focused on just getting by. they were often very religiously conservative if the girls were spending time at the mosque or covering up a little more more, this was deeply welcome to them because they thought okay we are going to preserve our cultural identity in this quite liberal mill you. they did have the parenting skills to know what was a warning sign for young teenager in the 20th century in the age of isis. was there anger from the parents that their children did this? or was it totally bewilderment like how did they wind up getting on a train and a plane getting into syria because that's a huge leap?
>> some were very angry. there was a family of a girl she was scottish and became a key propaganda. she had a blog, she had a tumbler blog i think was probably responsible for drawing so many english-speaking girls and her family was furious because not only had she done this herself but she was drawing other vulnerable girls with her. they were angry. i think a lot of other families were bewildered. i think they also felt betrayed because i think initially there was some part of them that felt sympathy for the idea or the dream to have an islamic homeland, to defend other muslims against injustice and i think the sense of intense betrayal was painful in addition to the loss of a child. >> okay. >> any commonalities that come out to the 13 stories that are worth discussing here? or any contrast any outliers like i'm not sure what happened with that particular young girl? >> some of the outliers i ended up not including their stories because as i was trying to figure out who i can get close
enough to come whose account tickets just enough to include there were some early on that i felt were so implausible there was a girl in tunisia who was a graphic art student and she had a pixie cut and she had a little tattoo and the idea that she had 10 months prior joined isis and on her way to syria seemed impossible to me. with time i think i realized actually was very possible. but i didn't include her. if there is a common theme i would say it's very hard because the story of isis in the middle east is so much anchored in specific place. isis arose out of the recent history of syria and iraq. in the aftermath of the 2,003 invasion of iraq and the failed arab spring uprising which open up all this ãfrom egypt to behind syria ã it's very different to the story of isis in europe which was the story of lost second generation youth not fitting. i think one thing that knits
them together is the feeling of exclusion. i start the book with the story of ãa 13-year-old tunisian girl growing up she goes to high school wearing a headscarf and thrown out of school because in tunisia and that area which was very repressive you can go to school in a headscarf he couldn't hold public office he couldn't work in a government building. if you are visibly religious woman you are excluded. it was heavily authoritarian and religion was so policed. over and over whether in syria with families justinian and could have access to politics because of their religious background. the story of poor governance and exclusion and especially of girls. i think growing up under a very authoritarian society that also very patriarchal women are
stuck in a double bind. you have no access to politics to improve your situation which is compounded by your culture and i get isis focused on women and i think nobody else had done that whether in jihadist fear or the repressive regimes. >> of the 13 stories you tell you mentioned the example from tunisia but also europe. whether differences based on country of origin or where the girls were based? >> i think in north africa for example a lot of tunisian women, moroccan women went imagining this would be a better state and islamic state, quite literally as it promoted itself there would be a place they could go work and they could be citizens in a very orthodox and perverse to us that it would be a society that might empower them but i think that was the perception.
i think over time the ãbafter 2014 a focused much more heavily on authoritarian ideology exclusionary violence against other muslims. it became much more of the kind of genocidal horror show project we came to notice. i think differences more across time and what women were responding to the unnecessarily placed. >> on the topics of countries of origin you touched on this earlier i suspect the viewers don't know this but different european countries have dealt with foreign fighters differently. could you talk about some of that unevenness in terms of policy what it means if you're british young woman that travels versus american versus some other country?>> it's really pressing right now because as we sit here there is
a camp in the northeast of syria where 14,000 foreign women and children are being held. the giant isis prison camp full of women from the west, many of them. in other arab countries. what to do with these women. and are they members of isis? are they brides of isis? spices ãbat the crack of the challenge of government figuring out how dangerous they are and what to do for them. >> the response has been really uneven.european countries have been quite reluctant to take women and children back. uk in particular there's a case of the young girl show me my bag and who was one of the three girls who became international story because her citizenship was stripped. russia has taken some women back in the u.s. think from an american perspective taking these women back, monitoring them knowing from simply security perspective.
>> you been to the camp and talk to the women. are they remorseful? are they regretful?or defiant. >> both. these are the women who came out of the final stronghold of isis. a lot of them were most fervent believers. women who came out in earlier moments when rucker fell in 2017 there were those who wanted to get out earlier tried to. there's a higher concentration of real hard cries but many couldn't get out. he had to pay smugglers to get out. he had to get your children out. a lot of women who opposed isis were thrown into prison or had their children take away from
them. we know we have to be accountable even if we got there and immediately knew that it was horrible and we regretted it within weeks of arrival we know we have to pay the price. please at least put us on trial are we not citizens enough of our own country to put on trial. it would've been almost impossible that the small group of folks would build a caliphate looking forward can you imagine another scenario where an isis movement organizations develops. and attracts so many people from europe and beyond? >> was this a singular moment because of all that happened with iraq and all that happened with the arab spring but could this happen again you think? >> i think it was a singular
moment probably. 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 and at this moment the precipice and the collapse of all this. country to country i think created a unique circumstance. coming at the same time as this moment in the syrian and iraqi story i think it was unique and i think isis was the first group that kind of use that language. no one really had called for a caliphate before in these terms. i think it awakened and conjured so much longing for being in a different state as muslims from indonesia to europe.
i think at the same time it tainted the idea. i think it is colluded the idea. i don't see a potential for kind of jihadist revamp of this idea. >> in europe in terms of communities the impact the blowback on communities has been significant in terms of islamophobia. how are they dealing with all of this in the aftermath? >> i think muslim communities are watching very closely to see what happens to young muslims from france and belgium and germany who went, what will be their fate? will there be prosecuted and aided in the same way as a 16-year-old white danish girl 15-year-old white dutch girl who made a horrific mistake. i think that's one thing. i think the stakes are high for the judgment of european muslims. at the same time, i think there
has been a terrible shadow cast over civil society. muslim civil society in u.s. because so much of the kind of political activism or preoccupation or concerns frustration and grievances in europe that ice is very much played upon a kind of singing now in the counterterrorism. if you're young person in high school in the uk and you start going to free palestine marches you will show up probably on counterterrorism police and make it a knock on your door. a lot of the state support for muslim women ngos domestic violence these kind of other issues are under the umbrella of counterterrorism. it's as though fate has been securitized and i think that's very polarizing and i think one of the terrible legacies of this for muslim communities.
>> watson open up to the audience for some questions. if you could state your name and your affiliation. [inaudible question] >> that such a good question because this question of how to produce counter narratives and how to challenge the next forum or the next whatever it is next but tries to tap into the same frustrations and desires that young people still have. i think all those sentiments are still and grievances and
longings are still there. country to country. i think by in large it has not been terribly easy to use former radicals or return women to talk about their experience and to dissuade others. i think it's partly because there's only one small aspect of their method that i think is largely welcomed. they say isis was horrible it was a myth, it was destructive. the political economy of the middle east in which all of these repressive governments have been allies of the united states and are responsible for all of this brutality and torture and repression.
no one's mind has been changed about that stuff. it's kind of the overlay and i think all of that is not very welcome because in the end it fits your foreign policy that supported this in your counterterrorism policy is fixing the impact at home or what you're doing abroad you are working at cross purposes. the women and men coming back are often not great at carrying the message they need to. >> just to build on that question, your book can contest a lot of notions about gender, agency and the role of women, do you think there is increasing scope in europe for discussion about how to engage youth but specifically young women from communities that have been marginalized? >> i think there is an
awakening to the importance of engaging young women. whether muslim women in europe or women in societies like tunisia morocco, these different countries that women were recruited from in high numbers. i think often that's done through a securitized lens. you will have what seems like a grassroots women online digital magazine for young female muslims and then within six months it will kind of emerge that's being funded secretly by the foreign office. the realization or the importance of engaging with those communities and women in those communities is fair but it's really becomes host transactional and instrument choice. 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 that you can be more independent and
safe in your community and maybe be better parents and better actors within your own right. >> to your point this is all being secured to isis it throws a wet blanket on civil participation in all of it seems that much harder. >> absolutely. i think that's why there's real division. i think the atmosphere now certainly in britain i think there is tremendous distrust and animosity between immunities and the government. >> other questions? [inaudible question] that's a great question because i think the sophistication of isis messaging and the spoke
spoke menace and context to context was stunning. i don't think anyone was prepared for that the way that recruiters and especially women recruiters country to country region to region tailored the message the recruitment idea of the narrative to that particular moment in time and space. it certainly changed over time. early narrative almost everywhere was about aiding other muslims in need that were being hurt anymore to go help fight the attic tater in syria to live a pious life to help build the muslim homeland to join other muslims in fighting against the imperial west. the collective family. that was the narrative initially. also tailored to specific
societies. the message was come othersfor moderate political islam in this country anymore. we have to go militant because they closed us down and there was a coup in egypt that effectively achieve that. over about two years the platforms closed a lot of the propaganda was the young woman were killed. the very much became the essence of the project was more revealed in the messaging it was an apocalyptic highly millon aerial violent transnational jihadist group with mercenary territorial inattention that sounded like. anna began to fall so micah. >> you talk about social media you mentioned the example of the young woman using tumbler. did you see gender differences in the way they were trying to reach audiences across europe based on gender or age women reached out to women women
invoked themes, graphic means that young women would appeal to them. there was certainly for women images of this romantic adventure in the desert, there were pink graphics where you could walk off into not a honeymoon because as they discovered one of the london girls, one of her early tweets and her transformation was, i just learned that honeymoons are her rom i'm really sad. it is very feminine. it was tying them with images and ideas that were at the same time romantic professional intellectual religious but within a very feminized aesthetic language. >> because you are able to talk to women in these camps after the fact when they got there on the ground and thought, this is
not always thought it was dia tumbler. were they telling you? how quickly their views change? or did they think this is what i thought it would be. >> there was really a range. there were some girls who were clearly traumatized. we have to remember that some of them got married two or three times. they have maybe three children each child from a different man men of different nationalities. who died serially and the title takes its name from these guesthouses where women one after they were widowed and would wait there to be a sound another fighter husband. moving constantly because they were in the midst of a war some of them lost children along the way because of circumstances they were giving birth in. highly traumatized and indoctrinated. some of them looked glassy eyed
they look traumatized in the work particularly regretful. they seemed to having come out of the war they felt the other side would have raped them if their husbands hadn't ripped the other women. they were not really there. some of them i think were maybe a little bit older. head taking kids there. i think the difference between a 21-year-old and a 15-year-old can be significant. they were like women you would meet. some of them were educated they had jobs they wanted to go back and be teachers. there were very regretful. and they just seemed to be waiting for the time to be able to go back. >>. [inaudible question]
>> there is a whole array of reluctance to talk to me. i spoke to women who tried to go and were blocked because in the early days it was easier to talk to women who hadn't gone yet. once they were there they very often wouldn't talk to a disbeliever. >> when you say blocked for folks here what is that mean? >> is a point at which he became so clear that there were lots of girls going or young women going that they were passports the police and women confiscated something like three dozen passports and girls from the same high school but the luggage girls wet it was clear there was an epidemic. they had their passports taken away or there is a girl who didn't have her passport taken
away but i think had been watched. she went to the airport and stopped. they went to the airport again three days later and stopped again. there was a point at which indonesia as well tunisia band travel for young women traveling unaccompanied under 35. just to completely add i ended up in the search for young women from tunisia blocked from traveling because they were under 35. there were other categories of women that that impacted but it was a blanket travel ban because there was such an exodus. i spoke to women who had been apprehended from going i spoke to families of girls who had gone.i spoke to women who were there and develop the relationship from afar over the phone. then once in 2017 the cities of isa started to fall and it was possible impossible to go to that part of syria and went there and spoke to women and
then i also quite early on there was a big piece i wrote for the new york times in 2015 that kicks this whole thing off and that was i went looking in southern turkey i actually went looking for those london girls i went to southern turkey seeing if i could find, i was on on their trail. in southern turkey there are women who were defectors. early isis defectors they had gotten out they were girls who had grown up in ãbtheir hometown and studied marketing and one of them had studied english literature and they stay because their families weren't able to leave. they joined isis because their families have started to collaborate and it was kind of hard to survive if you are not going to cooperate with them in some way. so i spent some time with them and went a few times and spoke to them very closely. it's kind of patchwork of different levels of access across different places.
>> i want to follow up on this topic of isis defective is a question earlier about counter narratives because it's really powerful voices. at the same time, it was right after the rise of the caliphate there was something like 70,000 or 30,000 twitter accounts that were isis fan blades. i am wondering about so going back to this idea of counter narratives. >> is that too simplistic? >> i don't think it's simplistic but i think there's a very ferocious critique of isis within the muslim community from political islamists who are basically unpalatable in the public mill you in europe certainly and and certainly in parts of the region. i think the blockage of moderate political islam is a big part of the story. if you kind of come from that
mill you that position that political worldview and say, they went way too far they are not of us they are deviant and brutal but we would still really like to have a strain of politics from within this perspective there isfor that of the region. i think because in europe 's we have so much simple muslim activism and political identity g hottie or isis, i think it's not a lot of space for it, i think that's where the critique is powerful. >> other questions? >> actually have two final questions. this is being recorded by c-span. you been covering the region for 20 years you've done extraordinary work. any advice for young journalists and researchers out there that want to cover the region? >> for me making a genuine effort, that our paths crossed.
learning the language and being able to be able to interact and relate in a genuine way with people. i think it's indispensable. also most journalists do not. a lot of newspapers would assign people to cover terrorism. if you are the terrorism reporter you might not know the history of post-2003 iraq so intimately. he wouldn't have been standing there when the army was dismounted and all the fathers were going there to line up to get salaries and standing there under the sun and there was no one to pay them and they could go home and take care of their
families. if you unravel the story of isis in time he goes back to all that in part. but if you arrive at a somatic expert and i think so much of the knowledge production on terrorism is hampered by this is that it comes without regional linguistic area expertise. which to my mind is the way to understand these movements rather than branding them as just a deviation as a religious phenomenon. >> listen but excellent. this is her third book. i suspect there will be a fourth book and i suspect we will be here 3 to 5 years from now again. between now and then i would encourage all of you to go out and buy this and read this. ending is a brilliant book. i'm thrilled to be up here with you and it does contest so many simplistic notions about gender and agency. and the role of youth and particularly young women in these groups. please join me in thanking azadeh.
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