Kurdish fighter Ceylan Özalp reported alive

“19-Year-Old Kurdish Woman Fighter ‘Kills Herself Rather Than Falling into Isis’ Hands'” is a headline appearing in International Business Times, October 3. I referred to the same story in this post, but it appears not to be true.

The first appearance of this story is thought to be this tweet on September 28 from @cansuipek21.

The tragic image of a nineteen-year-old woman fighter killing herself with her last bullet so that she would not be captured by ISIS, must have seemed iconic to many observers — a graphic representation of the plight Kurdish fighters in Kobane face, surrounded on three sides by ISIS while receiving no support from Turkey and very little from U.S. airstrikes. Sometimes a story conveys a powerful truth even when it turns out not to be true.

Müjgan Halis, a Kurdish journalist, has tweeted (as have others) that Özalp is alive. This was retweeted by the politician Ayla Akat Ata (who was a defense lawyer for Abdullah Ocalan, leader of the PKK). At this point, I’m inclined to treat their word as authoritative.

This should be good news for everyone apart from ISIS.

In early September, Gabriel Gatehouse reported: Around a third of the Syrian Kurdish force is made up of women. On the front lines they fight alongside the men, taking the same risks and facing the same dangers.

“Women are the bravest fighters,” says Diren, taking refuge from the scorching heat in the cool of an underground bunker.

She and three comrades are having lunch: flatbread, cheese and watermelon. Many of the fighters, like Diren, 19, are still teenagers.

“We’re not scared of anything,” she says. “We’ll fight to the last. We’d rather blow ourselves up than be captured by IS.”

Like the followers of the Islamic State, most Kurds are Sunni Muslims. But that is where the similarities end. Diren says that, to the fanatics of IS, a female fighter is “haram”, anathema: a disturbing and scary sight.

“When they see a woman with a gun, they’re so afraid they begin to shake. They portray themselves as tough guys to the world. But when they see us with our guns they run away. They see a woman as just a small thing. But one of our women is worth a hundred of their men.”

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7 thoughts on “Kurdish fighter Ceylan Özalp reported alive

  1. Christopher Hoare

    I am certainly pleased that she is alive but do I sense a bit of subterfuge there? Having a female fighter already recognised in the media presented a fine opportunity to report that she had had to shoot herself rather than be captured when she was down to her last round. What better way to increase the public pressure on Washington to supply them with ammunition? I would also fit with the mix-up between the two locations.

    Good luck to them, I hope it works.

  2. Paul Woodward Post author

    Even if this story was created for propaganda purposes, all the surrounding facts are well established:
    — Ceylan Özalp well represents the heroic Kurdish women fighters
    — in the truest sense, the Kurds are fighting for their lives, and
    — in their hour of need they have callously been ignored by the U.S., Turkey, and the so-called anti-ISIS coalition.

  3. Paul Woodward Post author

    Twitter provides fertile ground for propaganda. But in this instance, if the original story had been true, I would expect it to have subsequently corroborated by factual details — such as when and where she died — along with confirmation from the YPG.

    Assuming that Ceylan Özalp is still alive and that those reporting this are not themselves passing along more propaganda, I don’t think this serves ISIS’s interests in any way. Indeed, the mere existence of women like this constitutes a force that ISIS cannot effectively fight against. These women expose the shallowness and deluded nature of the jihadists’ worldview.

  4. Charles Fox

    Is it just me or is the world completely out of control? I can’t help but feel bad for these fighters who face imminent slaughter while those around them standby and sit idly doing little to nothing to stop it. I am American and proud to be but I can’t say I agree with any of our strategies since we took Saddam out of power over false accusations of nuclear weapons! Had he not been taken out that way their likely would be much more stability in the ENTIRE MIDDLE EAST. Our acting before thinking approach has started a pattern that has no signs of ending. Saddam needed to go as well as Assad needs to go as they lost the respect of their own people outside of their ethnic ties, and used brute force and slaughtered those that only wished for a better life, to be treated fairly and not herded like sheep through their time on earth. Very similar to us Americans in the respect that people don’t mind being governed, however those whom govern must be a reflection of those THEY SERVE! When people get treated like insignificant numbers and they are restricted and oppressed, and their voices fall on deaf ears they will begin to rebel independently then en masse. Due to our power vacuum we directly created through our actions and LACK OF ACTIONS, militarily and politically! ISIS needs to be stopped as it’s possible this girl and these people in Kobani may be on the front lines of a world war! A war that has been brewing and building for many years and has drawn people from all over the world into a conflict that could have been avoided with a better plan to stabilize the middle east rather than add to its instability. Now Isis will draw soldiers from all walks of life due to it pitting the Muslims verse the west and those that take their support. For Turkey old differences, and a lack of desire to put itself into the fray for fear of stoking up radicals within its own borders. If I did not have a little girl whom needs me as much as she does I’d feel obligated to fight alongside the Kurds against a monster called Islamic state! Our leaders knew that this was coming they say they are the best and brightest in the world, so to say they underestimated this is ridiculous! Isis is a threat to us Americans, the same as those people battling to save their lives their memories their neighborhoods THEIR LIVES! They may not be able to reach across the ocean directly and strike us directly. But they have the ability to draw people who aren’t solid in their own faith and beliefs to join them in their battle to impose their sadistic and sick ways of interpreting the Muslim faith. There are many good kind people in the middle east as there are here in the United States. The front lines of many wars have been fought in the middle east and to me it just seems like this has the possibility of spreading chaos and death beyond borders that we think keep us safe. After all if a man can charge into the white house and run through it like a tourist on vacation, how safe is America really? Their are enough killers among us and they aren’t people! When will the world awaken to just realize we are all one and all our dreams our woven together if you can actually see the big picture!

  5. V Walker

    Yes, Saddam brought real stability to the region. Like when he invaded Iran leading to between 300-500. 000 casualties. Or wiped out a couple of towns with gas. Or invaded Kuwait, or…..

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