In March as Italy was entering lockdown, the Turin prosecutor’s office handed down a two-year “special surveillance” measure against Maria Edgarda Marcucci (Eddi), accused of being “socially dangerous” for fighting ISIS in Rojava with the Women’s Protection Units (YPJ) and continuing her commitment to fight for a better world on her return to Italy. Today Eddi is in court to appeal this order, which limits her freedom of movement and assembly, forcing her to remain at home between 9pm and 7am, preventing her from leaving Turin or meeting with more than five people, and limiting her access to public spaces including supermarkets and bars.
Eddi has been punished for refusing to stand by whilst the Kurdish-led forces in Syria defended themselves against the fascist oppression of ISIS. She has been punished for continuing her militancy in defence of the Rojava revolution in Italy, but also for taking part in struggles against gender-based violence, exploitation of workers and environmental destruction.
“Special surveillance” is a preventative measure decided upon purely by speculation, not a criminal prosecution. As such, there is no trial based on fact or evidence of wrongdoing that has already happened but a court decision on whether someone is “socially dangerous” and therefore susceptible to future criminality. Restrictions are imposed by decree not judicial sentencing, derogating from any semblance of a right to a free and fair trial. Originating in the Fascist-era penal code, this measure – like control orders in Britain – limits freedoms of movement and assembly without the need for a criminal trial and guilty verdict. “Special surveillance” measures have been used increasingly in the last few years to target political activists, particularly those involved in international solidarity work and anti-war activism. The public prosecutor in Sardinia has also requested special surveillance orders for five Sardinian anti-war activists involved in the struggle against American and Italian military bases on the island.
The process has been long and drawn out. The Turin public prosecutor initially requested these restrictions for five international volunteers in January 2019. That June, a court rejected their application on Davide and Jak, two Italian YPG volunteers. In November, Eddi took part in a protest during an arms industry meeting sponsored by the Piemonte regional government, where Italian arms manufacturers cultivated their relationships with Turkey. Italian firm Finmeccanica is one of Turkey’s largest providers of weaponry, including helicopters used by Turkey to commit war crimes like the invasion of Afrin, killing YPJ volunteer Anna Campbell with whom Eddi had travelled to the frontlines. The public prosecutor highlighted Eddi’s behaviour at this protest – speaking on a megaphone and unplugging the PA system – as evidence of her status as “socially dangerous”. Selling weapons to an authoritarian like Erdoğan is not socially dangerous, but disrupting that process is.
In March 2020, as Italy went into lockdown, Eddi, Jacopo and Paolo were given their verdict: whilst the court rejected the restrictions for Jacopo and Paolo, Eddi – the sole woman – was the only one to be deemed “socially dangerous” and put under the “special surveillance” measures. The public prosecutor claims that since Eddi learnt to handle arms in Rojava, she would probably use them in Italy. Without taking into account on which side she fought, the prosecutor is drawing false equivalence between Islamic State and its opponents.
The measures Eddi has been placed under are aimed at isolating her and banning her from collective political activity. But the outpouring of support from her internationalist comrades around the world demonstrates the underlying reason for the state’s case against her – that the ideals of the Rojava revolution are more than the defeat of ISIS, but the victory of women, workers and oppressed people against colonialism, a revolutionary spirit that continues every day in the fight for a better world. In victimising Eddi, they are trying to repress the ideals of international solidarity. But Eddi’s ideals are our ideals, and her struggle is ours! #IoStoConEddi