It’s difficult to understand why a man from Senigallia, Italy, with no military training would go to war, but that’s exactly what Karim Franceschi did.
The then 25-year-old, who had previously visited Kobane, Syria, for the humanitarian project Rojava Calling, decided to return there in 2015 to join the People’s Protection Units (YPG) in the fight against the self-proclaimed Islamic State.
Franceschi, now 26, has temporarily returned to Italy to promote his new book “The Fighter” (“Il combattente”). Metro spoke to the soldier at the International Book Fair in Turin.
A question that you will have been asked a thousand times: Why did you go?
Because I’d seen what it was like out there.
Was it easy to join the YPG?
It was not hard. I went through a barbed wire fence and the rest happened naturally.
What was it that drove you?
As a humanitarian worker, I felt useful but it was not enough for me. Then you realize that this is a war that affects all of us — you cannot stand by and watch. Stopping ISIS concerns all of us.
How did your parents feel about your decision?
They were aware that I was going there and I have never hidden what I thought. I’ve always been honest with them but they are happy to see me back home alive.
Since you’ve been back in Italy, what is it that you miss about life in a war zone?
Overall, I miss my comrades and independence from capitalism. It’s hard to explain what it means to lose a comrade and what it’s like to live a hard and precarious life where you don’t know whether you will survive. But it is important to risk it all for democracy.
And how do you feel about the political situation in Italy?
It is often said that we are in a dictatorship now, that democracy in Italy no longer exists. Well, it isn’t a dictatorship; we have to use these words carefully. We have not lost democracy: We are the only ones responsible for this daily slide into apathy and loss of rights.
In 2001, Metro visited Turkish Kurdistan, where the national army tried to choke a widespread resistance. Today Turkey, which has not changed its position, might enter Europe [European Union].
This thought makes me afraid; I hope it does not happen. Europe was born out of the French Revolution through Primo Levi’s teachings. And today it must be recognized and refound, starting with human values by addressing the issue of refugees.