Kurdish women more than prove their equality and metal as freedom fighters in war. Will they be equal in peace as well?
While the rest of the world debates whether the battle against the Islamic State (ISIS), can succeed without the help of foreign boots on the ground, Kurdish women have stepped up to defend their lands in Syria and Iraq. It is estimated that one-third of the Syrian Kurdish fighters in Kobani are women.
ISIS routinely abducts women and children to be sold as sex slaves or married off to their extremist fighters. One such example, is the abduction of over 100 Yazidi women and children in the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar, (The Yazidi are a minority group considered heretical by ISIS).
Kurdistan is one of the few Muslim countries where women are allowed to serve in the military and in combat roles. The 2nd Peshmerga Battalion (a battalion of Kurdish fighters), just happens to be an all-female battalion. According to The New York Post:
“Hundreds of mothers, sisters and daughters have taken up arms and devoted their lives to protecting Iraq’s Kurdish population against the threat of the Islamic State. Known as the women Peshmerga of the 2nd Battalion, the group is made up of 550 female fighters led by Col. Nahida Ahmad Rashid.”
There are 4 groups who make up the Kurdish forces, inclusive of women:
PKK = Fights to protect the people of Northern Kurdistan (Turkey)
YPG = Fights to protect the people of Western Kurdistan (Syria)
PJAK = Fights to protect the people of Eastern Kurdistan (Iran)
Peshmerga = Fights to protect the people of Southern Kurdistan (Iraq)
For the Kurdish Women Freedom Fighters, the overriding motivation (in addition to saving their ancestral home from destruction), is a personal crusade for dignity and equality for women. In areas where ISIS gained control, they have reinstituted slavery, prohibited women from working and threatened to kill (and have killed), Muslims (including Kurds) who do not adhere to their ideology.
Although Kurdish society is relatively more progressive when it comes to women, it is still a male dominated society. The war, however, is changing that. 19-year-old Dilar joined the all-female Syrian Kurdish Martyr Warshin brigade (named after a teacher who died fighting ISIS). She saw action this summer in a tough battle in the town of Ras al-Ayn on the Turkish border, and came away without injury to a hero’s welcome at home:
“When I walk with my gun, the men who haven’t volunteered keep their eyes down around me,” said Dilar, who did not want to give her family name. “My bravery shames them.”
Tales of female heroism are frequently aired in Kurdish cafes and on social media. One tale recounts the death of a Syrian fighter, identified as Arin Mirkan. While in battle, she ran out of ammunition and sacrificed herself by detonating a grenade, killing herself and taking several enemies with her. (The tale of this incident could not be independently verified.)
Another tale that became a tweeter sensation (tweet sent by journalist Pawan Durani @PawanDurani) is the story of Rehana, who is said to have killed more than 100 ISIS fighters. There are also reports that Rehana was killed by ISIS, and purportedly there is a photo showing her beheading (Both her heroism as well as her alleged beheading is yet to be independently verified).
Tales of bravery and heroism are part of any war, and are mostly true. There is no doubt that the Kurdish female freedom fighters are brave and tough and perform their duties with great strength and effectiveness, equal if not better than their male counterparts. The ISIS fighters (their enemy), who might embrace death in battle, are petrified of being killed by a woman. Apparently if a woman kills you, instead of going to heaven and celebrating with 72 virgins, you end up in hell.
The war is far from over and victory, when it comes, will be due to the fighting of both men and these brave women, who have left families and children behind to put their lives in harms way (they each have a special bullet to avoid being captures alive, which will bring about certain rape, torture and agonizing death), and fight for a free and equal Kurdistan. Let’s hope that once victory comes, they will be rewarded as equal members of a free society, in peace as well.
Video: Heidi Lim /YouTube
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