Women Fighting ISIL
Kurdish women fighting ISIL on the frontline
In the face of the deadly threat posed by the so-called Islamic State, many Kurdish women decide not to leave their survival to fate. Instead, they fight for their lives and their future. Taking up arms, they join the YPG – Kurdish People’s Protection Units that defend their town’s borders from the militants. The enemy fears female warriors. Jihadists believe if they are killed by a woman they will go straight to hell.
Women’s Protection Units
The Women’s Protection Units or Women’s Defense Units (Kurdish: Yekîneyên Parastina Jin) (YPJ) is a military organization that was set up in 2012 as the female brigade of the leftist People’s Protection Units (Yekîneyên Parastina Gel, YPG) militia.The YPJ and YPG are the armed wing of a Kurdish coalition that has taken de facto control over much of Syria’s predominantly Kurdish north, Rojava.
The organization grew out of the Kurdish resistance movement, and as of late 2014 it had over 7,000 (or 10,000, according to TeleSUR) volunteer fighters between the ages of 18 and 40. They receive no funding from the international community and rely on the local communities for supplies and food.
The YPJ joined its brother organization, the YPG, in fighting against any groups that showed intentions of bringing the Syrian Civil War to Kurdish-inhabited areas. It has come under increased attacks from ISIL militants and was involved in the Siege of Kobanî.
The group played a critical role in rescuing the thousands of Yazidis trapped on Mount Sinjar by ISIL fighters in August 2014. One fighter said: “We need to control the area ourselves without depending on [the government]… They can’t protect us from [ISIL], we have to protect ourselves [and] we defend everyone … no matter what race or religion they are.
The group had been praised by feminists for “confront[ing] traditional gender expectations in the region” and “redefining the role of women in conflict in the region”. According to photographer Erin Trieb, “the YPJ is in itself a feminist movement, even if it is not their main mission”. She asserted that “they want ‘equality’ between women and men, and a part of why they joined was to develop and advance the perceptions about women in their culture”.
Various Kurdish media agency indicate that “YPJ troops have become vital in the battle against I.S.” in Kobanî.YPJ achievements in Rojava have attracted considerable international attention as a rare example of strong female achievement in a region in which women are heavily repressed.
On the frontline between Kurdish fighters and Islamic State militants, a group of young women have mobilised.
They have left their homes and dreams behind to fight on the frontline. The women say they felt compelled to join the battles with men in order to protect their land. They call themselves the women defenders, or the YPJ (pron: Yuh-pah-Juy); pro-Kurdish Yekineyen Parastina Jin
17-year-old Dilbreen says she signed up to help liberate the country.
“I joined YPJ voluntarily. I joined them to defend the Kurds, the Arabs, the Christians, and all nationals. I will defend my country and all those who are fighting for it,” explained Dilbreen.
The women feel no different from the men fighters. However they believe that while men rely more on their physical strength, they use cunning, stealth and patience to get results.
One YPJ commander, Çiçek told euronews: “The male fighter fights physically, while the woman fights with her mind. The woman knows when to use weapons, and naturally she is a hater of war violence. However, we are forced to defend ourselves. We were raised on such thoughts.”
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the Popular Protection Units (YPG) have seen their numbers swell of late with new recruits coming from Europe, Australia and the United States to join the battle.
Original story Euronew.com
Captured, sold, raped: ISIS turns thousands of Christian women and children into sex slaves
Canadian Joins Kurdish women fighting
VANCOUVER — The city was out enjoying an overcast Saturday afternoon of grocery shopping on Davie Street, biking the Stanley Park Seawall and just staring at the freighters out in English Bay. But Hanna Bohman was thinking about leaving town.
It had been almost two months since she’d said goodbye to Syria, where she volunteered with the Kurdish women’s army known as the YPJ. And she was wondering: should she go back? “I’m thinking about it,” she said in an interview at a West End coffee shop. “I’m thinking about it a lot.”
Pulling her back to the war zone were the “girls” — the female Kurdish guerillas she befriended during her months in Rojava, the independent state they are fighting to establish in northern Syria.
Girls like Heval Rosa.
In a video on Bohman’s tablet, Rosa sat on the tailgate of a pickup truck holding her grenade launcher. “She likes heavy metal,” recalled Bohman. “She asked me, ‘Do you have any heavy metal?’” Seeing the camera trained on her, Rosa stuck out her tongue.
Another video showed half-a-dozen women in camouflage sitting on a floor mat in an abandoned house playing a game, laughing like it was a sleepover. And then there was the video of the uniformed YPJ fighter who insisted that Bohman take her jacket because there was a cold wind.
The conflict in Syria has been hard on women. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant has systematically raped them, sold them, traded them and enslaved them. Women have been forced to convert and cover themselves. They’ve been lured from Western countries to serve as comfort wives for lonely killers. But as Bohman found out, the women are fighting back.
The Women’s Defense Unit, or YPJ, was created three years ago and consists of some 7,500 Kurdish fighters. It is the women’s branch of a militia called the YPG, or People’s Protection Units. By decree, 40% of the spots in each YPG fighting unit are filled by women.
“The women fight just as much as the men,” said Bohman, 46, who is also known by her online alias, Tiger Sun. “I think the YPJ girls, they’re the real heroes because they’re not just fighting ISIL, they’re fighting for women’s rights.”
One of a handful of Canadians who have fought alongside Kurdish forces, Bohman was born in Zambia to Canadian parents. She returned to Canada when she was still a toddler and grew up with humanitarian ambitions, dreaming of flying aid missions in Africa.
Instead she worked a variety of jobs — sales, the oil fields, a horseracing track — until a workplace injury followed by a car accident made her rethink what she really wanted. “I realized I’d been spending too much of my time doing things I didn’t want to do,” she said.
She didn’t know much about the Kurdish people but she was familiar with ISIL and she thought, if Canadians were fighting for the extremist cause, why couldn’t she fight for the other side? After making contact with the YPJ through Facebook, she broke the news to her family. “I told my mother and a couple of friends,” she said. “I was really excited to get going.”
But as she was leaving Qatar, next stop northern Iraq, she got nervous. She was trusting her life to people she didn’t know, at a time jihadists had discovered the profitability and shock value of kidnapping. The plane landed in Sulaymaniyah and she crossed a river at night to a Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) camp. The setting reminded her of B.C.’s Okanagan. Nine other Westerners were there — from Germany, the Netherlands and the United States.
She had been told there would be 45 days of training, but by the time she got there they had reduced it to 15 days, and then five. It ended up consisting of five hours of firearms instruction, “everything I could have learned on YouTube,” she said.
Initially, she was assigned to a base where she dug ditches and took shifts on guard duty. The Shingal Mountains of Iraq were just across the border and the biggest threat was ISIL suicide trucks. From there, she moved closer to the action, joining a mobile fighting unit. They would capture a village, hold it and move on. “Most of the time (ISIL) would run away but sometimes they’d put up a fight and we’d just kill them off,” she said. Bohman said she never killed anyone herself.
The YPJ girls she met were young — 17, 18 and 19. Many were poorly educated, some had run away from forced marriages. She described them as a “peasant militia.” During downtime, they played volleyball, danced and sang nationalistic songs, she said. They seemed keenly aware they were fighting for women’s rights.
“As we say, the revolution of Rojava is a women’s revolution,” Feleknas Uca, a Turkish Member of Parliament who is also Kurdish and Yazidi, said in an interview at the Toronto Kurdish Community Centre. She said the YPJ was avenging ISIL’s treatment of women and joked that ISIL fighters were terrified of the sight of red shoes and makeup. “They are very afraid of women because they believe if they die by women they will not go to heaven.”
In contrast to ISIL’s misogyny the YPJ manifesto speaks optimistically about “gender freedom” and “struggling at all levels with an awareness of the idea of legitimate defense in the face of various forms of attacks against women.”
In June, Bohman rode with the Kurdish fighters as they captured the town of Tal Abyad. She was crossing a damaged bridge when she jumped and her legs buckled. She had lost so much muscle eating a diet of canned sardines and cucumber, she knew it was time to go home. “I didn’t want anyone getting hurt because I couldn’t carry my weight,” she said. “It was the safest thing for everybody.”
Nobody batted an eye when she got to Montreal airport, she said. “All they said to me was welcome home.” Two weeks later, however, a Canadian Security Intelligence Service officer tracked her down and they met for lunch, she said.
“I asked her why it took them so long to contact me and she said, ‘Well, we didn’t know you went,’” Bohman said. The CSIS officer did not seem concerned about Bohman’s encounters with the PKK. She only seemed interested in Canadians who had joined ISIL, Bohman said. “She wasn’t worried about me.”
The Kurdish conflict has worsened since she left. A ceasefire between Turkey and the PKK collapsed and there have been several deadly skirmishes. Last month, a suspected ISIL suicide bomber killed 32 youths in Suruc, a Kurdish town in Turkey.
Bohman put her uniform back on for an Aug. 6 protest at the U.S. consulate in Vancouver after Turkey launched airstrikes on some of the PKK camps she had visited in Iraq. But she was undecided about going back to Syria.
A new travel zone ban proposed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper may complicate matters. Although those fighting against ISIL are said to be exempted, it was unclear how the law would impact those like Bohman who rubbed shoulders with the PKK, a terrorist group under Canadian law.
“Should Sun be motivated enough by the Turkish offensive against the Kurds to return to fight with the YPG, she could suddenly find herself on the other side of Harper’s proposed travel ban law,” journalist and former infantryman Scott Taylor wrote in Esprit de Corps.
Bohman was well-aware of the problems she could face should she return. “What am I going to do that’s going to make me feel as useful and worthwhile?” she asked. “I’m not doing anything better here in Canada.”
A Danish woman has become the latest Westerner to travel to the besieged Syrian city of Kobane and join Kurdish forces bravely battling Islamic State militants.
Her name is Joanna Palani and she is a 20-year-old of Kurdish descent. Joanna is understood to have written a message on her Facebook page describing a minor foot injury she picked up during a ‘hard’ attack on the jihadist.
Minutes earlier she had updated the page with a photograph of herself calmly smiling while wearing military fatigues, a bullet proof vest and carrying a large assault rifle – threatening ISIS militants with the words: ‘See you on the front line tomorrow’.
Ms. Palani has become the latest Westerner to join the fight against ISIS in Kobane, where Syrian Kurds assisted by Iraqi Peshmerga troops and US and Arab coalition warplanes have managed to force hundreds of militants out of the center of the city.
Ms. Palani is the latest Westerner to join the fight against ISIS in Kobane (pictured), where Syrian Kurds assisted by Iraqi Peshmerga troops and US warplanes have forced hundreds of militants out the city center
Details of Ms. Palani’s journey to fight ISIS in Syria were reported by the Danish newspaper BT.
Less than a month ago she had made a gave an interview to Politiken saying that she was dropping out mid-way through her college course and intended to join the fight against ISIS in Kobane.
It is likely Ms. Palani, who has lived in Denmark since she was three-years-old, has joined the KurdishYPJ regiment – the all-female force of the better known YPG (People’s Protection Unit). Both groups are affiliated with the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party), which has been designated a terror
group by NATO, but Ms. Palani makes it clear that she does not agree with this assessment. The US has since removed the Kurds from the terrorist list and is now training and arming them.
‘The Kurds are fighting for democracy and Western values,’ she was quoted as saying.
‘If I get captured or killed, I will be proud of why I was killed. If I was afraid of the consequences of going down there, I would not consider it,’ she reportedly added.
In her earlier interview with Politiken before she left for Syria, Ms. Palani said she would do exactly the same thing had Denmark come under attack by Islamic extremists.
‘I love Denmark. I grew up here and I love the freedom of our society. If Denmark should ever be attacked, I’m going to go in the front row with a Danish flag around my shoulders,’ she was quoted as saying.’But I’ve Kurdish family, and right now it is the Kurds who are attacked by brainwashed Islamists,’ she added. She is far from the first Westerner to join the Kurdish fighters battling ISIS in Kobane.
There have been numerous other reports from Kobane of Westerners travelling taking up arms against the militants – including claims that a number of European biker gangs had ridden to Syria and are helping to assist the resistance.
One of the greatest fears that ISIS fighters have is to be captured or killed by Kobane Female Fighters. Would Allah allow them access to their “virgins” when it was a women who took them out? It is up to “Allah” I guess, said one fighter!
This morning Kurdish fighters captured six buildings from ISIS near Kobane and seized a large haul of their weapons and ammunition, a group monitoring the war said.
The terror group has been desperately trying to capture the town for more than two months in an assault that has driven tens of thousands of Kurdish civilians over the border into Turkey.
The six buildings seized by Kurdish fighters this morning were in a strategic location in the town’s north, close to Security Square where the main municipal offices are based, said Rami Abdurrahman, who runs the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
His group that tracks the three-year-old conflict in Syria using sources on the ground.
The Kurds also took a large quantity of rocket-propelled grenade launchers, guns and machine gun ammunition.
The clashes killed around 13 Islamic State militants, including two senior fighters who had been helping to lead the militant group’s assault on the town, he said.
Last week they blocked a road Islamic State was using to resupply its forces, the first major gain against the jihadists after weeks of violence.
‘During the last few days we have made big progress in the east and southeast,’ said Idris Nassan, an official in Kobane.
Nevertheless, Islamic State still appeared to be holding a significant grip on the town. Abdurrahman estimated it controlled more than 50 percent of the city.
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