A Young Leader in the Philippines’ Battle-scarred ‘Islamic City’

Crisis Group Commentary
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A Young Leader in the Philippines’ Battle-scarred ‘Islamic City’

The establishment in March 2019 of the new Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao holds the promise of addressing longstanding local grievances and drivers of militancy in the Philippines. Nowhere do more people feel this than in Marawi, the “Islamic City” in the west of Mindanao that was the focus of brutally destructive battles for five months in 2017 between Philippines forces and local groups aligned with the Islamic State. 

On a recent trip to the depopulated, battle-scarred region, our Senior Analyst for South East Asia Matthew Wheeler met Faykha Khayriyyah Alonto Ala, the youngest official in Marawi. Faykha has high hopes for the new autonomous region but appreciates the scale of the colossal challenges faced by the Bangsamoro Transition Authority, outlined in Crisis Group’s 27 June report The Philippines: Militancy and the New Bangsamoro. Being part of a displaced community that has lost its homes, its jobs and even its climate, the ebullient 19-year-old district leader says that to succeed she has to mix the roles of an official and an activist.