In the face of enslavement, rape, forced marriages, and stonings, Kurdish female fighters have risen to the world stage to take on the Islamic State and the Levant (ISIL). At least a third of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) is made up of women from across the Kurdish region of Syria, and women run their own units and fight alongside men in both the YPG and the Kyrdistan Workers Party (PKK) which was founded in Turkey. And while the PKK has been listed by the US and other countries as a terrorist organization, both parties are democratically elected and governed.
A 27 year-old Kurdish PKK woman told the West Australian, “We usually organize ourselves in groups of four women, and I command one of the groups… But when it comes to fighting, we break up and we and the men deploy together on different fronts.” A 19 year-old KPG female fighter told BBC News, “Women are the bravest fighters… We’re not scared of anything. We’ll fight to the last. We’d rather blow ourselves up than be captured by ISIL.”
Fighting to wrest Mt Makhmur in northern Iraq back from ISIL, the female warriors are humored by the looks of fear and despair on ISIL militants faces when they realize that it is a woman they are fighting. “When they see a woman with a gun, they’re so afraid they begin to shake. They portray themselves as tough guys to the world. But when they see us with our guns they run away. They see a woman as just a small thing. But one of our women is worth a hundred of their men,” said a YPG woman.
Title image source: vice.com