Translation: Teresa Galarza
Shortcuts. On the shoulders of a country at war
They are 1,500 men, between the ages of 18 and 30, who graduate after their 45-day training.
Many have a moustache, others are not old enough to grow one. They are Arabs and Kurds about to be sent to fight against the Islamic State in Raqqa. The Caliphate is about 100 kilometers to the southwest.
For Waad, who barely has hair on his face, it is not fair to stay home while others die in the war. He is not afraid. Nor is Muftaq, although if he were one year older, he would have avoided being recruited. Those who have a brother in service, a family member dead in combat or those who can prove they have paid university tuition — the latter are few — do not have to go. The rest have to serve for nine months fighting the monster.
Those wearing masks were scary, and from afar they looked like a real army; when you[PB1] approach them it becomes evident that, despite the youth that shines in their eyes, there is no kevlar inside those bulletproof vests, and their feet can hardly endure those Chinese boots that claim to be American.
They have formed and marched. They have sworn loyalty to their model of State, the “Democratic Confederalism”; to the earth, to the martyrs and to their leader. Everything except for God, because this is one of the few places in the region where he is not expected.
Then they have danced.
It has been beautiful to see how the rigid and monotonous military routine turned into a khaki marasmus[PB2] where everyone moved as they bloody well wanted. The masks were rolled up onto the head to smoke a cigarette, and some have approached us with curiosity to exchange a few words in English with the only foreign journalists at the event. Others did not take their eyes off the four girls in the music band. Especially a girl with a fluffy tummy who still got all the attention.
After the gathering they have shared soft drinks and Turkish chocolate cakes, which are always the best. The major has sent them back to the barracks and the vast esplanade has remained empty.
Tomorrow they go to war. War, with all the letters.