Kurdish Issue

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Who Are The Kurdish Women Fighting ISIS?

ypj-kobane

By: Trace Dominguez – Direct Link

An all-female army from Syria is fighting ISIS — and succeeding. The YPJ has killed over 100 members of the terrorist group and continues to be one of the few volunteer based militia on the frontlines of the conflict. So who are these women rumored to be feared by The Islamic State? TestTube Daily takes a look.


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Women have been fighting in Kurdish forces for decades, according to the Wall Street Journal. As the fight against ISIS continues to play out in Syria and Iraq, Kurdish women and men fight side by side, a striking image for many in the West, where it’s widely assumed that Muslim women in the Middle East are all treated as second class citizens.

Kurdish women are even leading fellow troops all the way to the front lines of combat against ISIS. One such commander, a 24 year-old who goes by the name Avesta, was recently profiled in Foregin Policy and seemed confident the Kurds could defeat ISIS: “The Islamic State fought rigorously. But it was not as severe as our previous fights with the Turkish army.”

These all-female military units, which are called pesh merga (translated as “those who have death in front of them”), illustrate how Kurdish society is relatively progressive when it comes to the treatment of women. In Iraqi Kurdistan, women participate in the political sphere, holding seats in the Kurdish legislature (a body that is separate from the Iraqi government in Baghdad). This kind of equality is partially rooted in the Marxist ideology that has influenced Kurdistan’s ongoing pursuit of independence.

Still, as explored in the New York Times, Kurdistan is far from an exemplary haven of gender equality. Both in the military and government, women tend to be confined to symbolic roles, barred from leadership positions. Women who are divorced or single are seen as societal outcasts. Most alarmingly, “honor killings” are still a common occurrence in the region, when a family member (typically a woman) brings shame onto a family most often by refusing to enter into an arranged marriage or having sex outside of marriage.

As more and more Kurdish women serve in the People’s Protection Unit (YPG) and other armies, this may change. The pesh merga units will often provide protection and act as intermediaries for women who fear they have brought dishonor to their families and may be punished.

Learn More:
TRAC: YPJ (Women’s Protection Unit) (via Terrorism Research & Analysis Consortium)
“The YPJ is affiliated with the People’s Protection Unit (YPG), an armed militia group which is an official part of the governing body of Kurdish territory in Syria known the Kurdish Supreme Committee. The YPJ, the Kurdish female militia that is fighting Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) in the primarily-Kurdish north. Around 35% of the Democratic Union of Kurdistan (PYD)-controlled People’s Defense Units (YPG) fighters in Syria are women.”

Heroine of Kobani: Kurdish Female Fighter Rehana ‘Kills 100 Isis Jihadis’ Single-handedly(via International Business Times)

Meet ISIS’s Worst Nightmare: An All-Women Battalion Of Kurdish Fighters (via Independent Journal Review)

Kurdish Women’s Revolution (via The Jerusalem Post)

Frontline Isis: The Real Story of Narin Afrini and the Kurdish Female ‘Lions’ Terrorising Islamic State (via International Business Times)

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Publishes articles related to Kurdish issue, from different sources around the world.

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This entry was posted on 2015-05-26 by in News Articles.
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