Did the Kurdish women of the YPJ simply fall from the sky?

Meral Çiçek, from the Kurdish Women’s Relations Office in Erbil, writes: “These Remarkable Women Are Fighting ISIS. It’s Time You Know Who They Are”

This was the title of an article published in the October issue of the women’s magazine Marie Claire: “There’s a group of 7,500 soldiers who have been fighting an incalculably dangerous war for two years. They fight despite daily threats of injury and death. They fight with weapons that are bigger and heavier than they are against a relentless enemy. And yet they continue to fight. They are the YPJ (pronounced Yuh-Pah-Juh) or the Women’s Protection Unit, an all-women, all-volunteer Kurdish military faction in Syria that formed in 2012 to defend the Kurdish population against the deadly attacks lead by Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad, the al-Nusra Front (an al-Qaeda affiliate), and ISIS.”

Or so it was frequently reported in the world press about the “YPJ: The Kurdish feminists fighting the Islamic State”(The Week). There is hardly an internationally known daily newspaper, a magazine or broadcaster that has not sent their reporters in recent months to Kurdistan to document these ‘Amazons of the 21st century’. And so on the cover page of Der Spiegel there was a picture of a PKK woman fighter with a bazooka, while a YPJ fighter was depicted on the cover of Newsweek with a firm grip on her Kalashnikov.

The phenomenon of armed Kurdish women fighting against the terrorists of the Islamic State (IS), has been uncovered by the world press and the public realm due to the IS-attack on the Southern Kurdish/Northern Iraqi, predominantly Yazidi, town of Sinjar at the beginning of August 2014. Suddenly, Kurdistan became a Mecca for journalists. From everywhere, reporters and camera crews made pilgrimages to the Maxmur refugee camp (which was being shelled by the IS), to the guerrilla fighters of the PKK in the Qandil Mountains, to Sinjar and across the border into Rojava (northern Syria), where in September, the battle for Kobanê had begun.

The international coverage of the fighting against the Islamic State by the YPJ women and YJA-Star (Women’s Army of PKK guerrillas) can be looked at and interpreted from many different perspectives. One might, for example, examine how the fighters are portrayed visually, which of their characteristics come to the foreground, with what words they are described, etc. However, this is not the concern of this article. Rather, what is written here is that which was mostly omitted from the press coverage concerning the YPJ. [Continue reading…]

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