Meet the Women Taking the Battle to ISIS

At the command of a charismatic leader, a cadre of female Kurdish soldiers is taking the battle to the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria

18-year-old YPJ fighter Torin Khairegi: “We live in a world where women are dominated by men. We are here to take control of our future."

18-year-old YPJ fighter Torin Khairegi: “We live in
a world where women are dominated by men.
We are here to take control of our future.”

A colorful scarf is all that is left of Cicek Derek, who was 17 when she died a few months ago in the besieged city of Kobani, Syria, where her compatriots were unable to retrieve her body.

Cicek was one of hundreds of young Kurdish female soldiers who have taken up the fight against ISIS. They’re part of the YPJ, or Women’s Protection Unit, an offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a Kurdish nationalist movement that has long fought a war of independence against Turkey.

Now the PKK and other Kurdish groups are at the forefront of the battle against the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria, a militant group that would severely curtail the rights of women. It’s fitting that ISIS will be facing off against female fighters like 18-year-old Zilan Orkesh, who left her small village on the Turkish-Syrian border to join YPJ in 2011. When she killed an ISIS fighter for the first time, she began cheering loudly, hoping the sound would reach the ears of other jihadis. “I wanted to let them know that their worst nightmare had come true,” she says. “Their friend had been killed by a woman.”

But it’s not just the battle against ISIS that brings these young women to a spare military camp in Syria, a half hour away from the front lines. Abdullah Ocalan, the leader of the PKK, is unusual in the region in that he has long promoted gender equality. The desire to break free from the macho Middle East was so strong that rural girls volunteered to join the YPJ, where they developed into soldiers ready to put their lives on the line. “In the past, women had various roles in the society, but all those roles were taken from them,” says 18-year-old Saria Zilan. “We are here now to take back the role of women in society.”


Categories: History, Human rights, Indigenous peoples, Military history, World history

Tags: , , ,

6 replies

  1. That did not take long. Under that type of social threat, women will also fight back against repression and murder.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hello, gen. I was captivated by the photograph of Torin Khairegi. These are some amazing young women. I almost missed the fact that this is a photo essay because the slide show was not apparent to me on my first read-through of the article.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I did not notice the 16 photos until you brought it up. Thank you, i would of missed that. I could not see the arrow/link. I almost signed up to the website but I did not know if it cost money. Is “Time Light” free?

      I have another question which is unrelated but it is associated to WordPress. What happened to the access to other sharing features? I only see, google, facebook and twitter? There use to be a “More” button that allowed us to share articles on other webpages we belong to like Linkin. Do you happen to know?.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Those of us unfamiliar with, myself included, may not have realized at first glance that their “Lightbox” section is devoted to photo essays. They have some outstanding photography in that section. Check it out.

    Most major news outlets offer free, though sometimes limited, access to their content in exchange for registering an email address and perhaps a brief user profile. No legitimate site can legally charge you for access without credit card or bank account information that you must knowingly provide.

    Sharing features are related to WordPress. We decide what we share and with whom. 🙂 I will enable LinkedIn for you, my lady.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well, thank you. You are such a gentleman. I did not know that we controlled which links are displayed.

      I really enjoyed that photo essay, excellent job and will sigh up for Time Lightbox. The essay speaks for itself and I am thankful you pointed out that it existed. I missed it when I visited the website. Tells a story that touches the heart and soul. Pictures in a grouping like that can tell a story sometimes better than words.

      Liked by 1 person

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