Kurdish women soldiers cherish their freedom — Updated

When I posted this four hours ago, I included a video below which is a BBC News report broadcast in early September. It features an interview with a nineteen-year-old Kurdish woman fighter who I just learned has since died.

President Obama claims he has launched an operation to “destroy” ISIS, yet there have been far too few airstrikes to prevent the assault on Kobane. Turkish forces stand idle.

If the international forces which claimed they were going to stop ISIS prefer at this point to do virtually nothing, can they not at the very least provide the Kurdish fighters — men and women who are willing to sacrifice their own lives in defense of their own people and land — enough ammunition to continue their struggle?

General Zelal, 33. Photographed at a YPJ checkpoint-base, on the outskirts of Rabia, Kurdistan, on Aug. 7, 2014.

Photographer Erin Trieb recently spent a week documenting members of the Kurdish Women’s Protection Unit (YPJ) at several military posts in Northeastern Syria and along the Syrian-Kurdish border: “There is a sense among the women,” says Trieb, “that the YPJ is in itself a feminist movement, even if it is not their main mission. 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 — they can be strong and be leaders.”

Sa-el Morad, 20, shared with Trieb that she enlisted in order to prove that, “we can do all the same things that men can do; that women can do everything; that there’s nothing impossible for us. When I was at home,” she recalled, “all the men just thought that the women are just cleaning the house and not going outside. But when I joined the YPJ everything changed. I showed all of them that I can hold a weapon, that I can fight in the clashes, that I can do everything that they thought was impossible for women. Now, the men back home changed their opinions about me and other women. Now they see that we are their equals, and that we have the same abilities, maybe sometimes more than them. They understand we are strong and that we can do everything they can.”

According to Trieb, the women are indeed seen as just as strong, disciplined, and committed as their male counterparts. They endure many months and levels of rigorous training in weaponry and tactical maneuvers before they are even allowed to fight. They are also wholly celebrated by their community, which Trieb notes is unexpected in a part of the world where women are often seen as inferior to men.

To some in the region, they are seen as potentially more of a threat to ISIS than male soldiers. As Trieb recalls, “The saying among many Syrian Kurds is that ISIS is more terrified of being killed by women because if they are, they will not go to heaven.” [Continue reading…]

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