Houzan Mahmoud linked to an article about the 7,500 Kurdish women who fight ISIS in Syria.
“We have to be free from the Syrian government,” says YPJ member, Evin Ahmed, 26, (pictured above). She continues, “We need to control the area ourselves without depending on them. They can’t protect us from [ISIS], we have to protect us [and] we defend everyone…no matter what race or religion they are.”
Ahmed, like many of the YPJ, is fiercely loyal to her fellow-soldiers. She insists, “I love being a YPJ soldier, I love the other soldiers, we are closer than sisters. This is the only life for me. I can’t imagine living any other way.”
This sentiment, says Trieb, is echoed by all members of the YPJ, who live by a code of honesty, morals, and justice. “Their motto is ‘Haval’ or ‘friendship’,” explains Trieb, “and is of utmost importance to them. They treat each other (and treated me) with a sense of solidarity and sisterhood. They address each other as Haval, and when they spoke to me, they would call me ‘Haval Erin’. It enforces a constant sense of belonging and support.”
Several of the women, like General Zelal, 33, (pictured below) one of the leaders of YPJ, expanded upon the idea of the independence the group brings women of the region: “I don’t want to get married or have children or be in the house all day. I want to be free. If I couldn’t be a YPJ I think my spirit would die. Being a YPJ soldier means being free—this is what it means to truly be free.”
“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.”
It would be nice if it didn’t take life and death emergencies to make that possible though…
Sa-el Morad, 20, (pictured below), 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.”
Let’s hope they all go that way then.
Read the whole article, and see the stunning photos of the soldiers.