In the lands of Northern Syria, where the land has witnessed almost a decade of conflict and is considered very dangerous for women, there is a women’s militia unit fighting actively. These fierce women are a part of YPJ (Women’s Protection Units) which is the armed wing of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party called the YPG (People’s Protection Units). These units mainly comprise of Kurds with some of the ethno religious groups of Syria.
Who are the Kurds?
Kurds are an ethnic group comprising of 35,000,000 members, which is the largest nation in the world without any state of its own. Spread in between Iran, Iraq, Turkey, and Syria, Kurds have been fighting for independence for generations (Kurdistan). Kurds have faced oppression and persecutions from these countries for several years. They have now established semi-autonomous regions in parts of Iraq and Syria. In Turkey and Iran, they live under the regime’s control. Currently the most powerful organisation is the militant Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), founded by Abdullah Öcalan. The fighters of YPJ follow the ideology of Abdullah Öcalan.
Spread in between Iran, Iraq, Turkey, and Syria, Kurds have been fighting for independence for generations (Kurdistan). Kurds have faced oppression and persecutions from these countries for several years. They have now established semi-autonomous regions in parts of Iraq and Syria. In Turkey and Iran, they live under the regime’s control.
What is their Ideology?
They follow the libertarian socialist philosophy of Abdullah Öcalan. Central to their ideology is the feminist ideological concept of ‘Jineology’. ‘Jineology’ or ‘Kurdish Feminism’ is a form of feminism and gender equality advocated and practised by Kurds for creation of a new form of social organisation. They are committed for social revolution through women’s liberation.
In an area, bounded by honor-based rules that oppresses women, Kurdish woman have been attempting to denounce the sexist nature of social structures by practising Jineology. In 1999, first all-female guerrilla units were created. In 2000, a democratic social system was created which practices gender equality, radical democracy, social ecology, and feminism. The communal decisions must include at least 40 per cent women.
The Fierce Women Fighters
The fierce women group have more than 24,000 members as of August 2017 aged between 18 to 40. The most fascinating aspect is that, these women are not a minimized version of western female warrior like Lara Croft but are taking an active and equal part in fighting in the most deadly regions of the world- Middle East, of all places. Kurdish woman have been fighting since 2011 and have fought against various deadly wars against ISIL, ISIS since then. They were involved in rescuing around 10,000 Yazidis facing genocide on the hands of ISIL in August 2014. They have been fighting in Syrian Civil War alongside YPJ as a part of Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). They served as the main proxy in wars of Tabqa, Raqqa against ISIS.
Kurdish woman have been fighting since 2011 and have fought against various deadly wars against ISIL, ISIS since then. They were involved in rescuing around 10,000 Yazidis facing genocide on the hands of ISIL in August 2014. They have been fighting in Syrian Civil War alongside YPJ as a part of Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). They served as the main proxy in wars of Tabqa, Raqqa against ISIS.
The ISIS has been known to be ‘afraid’ from these women for they believe they will go to hell if they die in the hands of women. When they approach ISIS, and want to make themselves known to the enemy and they chant the ululations, a high-pitched sound used in community celebrations. Upon hearing the Kurdish women, the ISIS fighters run away for their fear might come too.
Training and Recruitment
When a woman joins YPJ, she must spend at least one month practising, training military tactics and study the political theories of Jineology and Öcalan. Although men and women live in different camps, they often train together and fight alongside each other. The YPJ and Kurdish fighters have gained international attention and support from feminists all over the world. They have played a role in changing the regressive thinking and redefining role of women in conflict. They have gained successful achievement in a region where women have been facing disadvantage.
Media and Objectification of Female Fighters
Western media has shown images of these fighters due to which many of them gained attention. Asia Ramazan Antar became a symbol of Kurdish female fighters also called as “Kurdish Angelina Jolie” because of her appearance which was called out by other fighters and activists as sexist.
The fetishization that devalues struggles of those who are fighting has always been a factor. Asia was 16 year old when she joined and died at the age of 19 by an attack of Islamic State. The minimalization and objectification of these fighters adds to what exactly they have been fighting. It is important to look upon the struggles of these fierce fighters and not as merely a heroic objectification of a woman with a gun.
Horrors faced by Kurdish Fighters
They have been facing horrors of war crimes at the hands of enemies. They have struggles which are beyond our imagination and control. Dilar Dirik, a Kurdish feminist and researcher at the Refugee Studies Centre at the University of Oxford explains in the article of haaretz.com by Shaina Oppenheimer about how the Turkish backed militias in northeastern parts of Syria sees these fighters.
”They see the enemy as terrorists, but they see the women as prostitutes. They see them in their own, very patriarchal way.” The article also says that these fighters are currently number one target in Syria. Thus, what the world needs to do is to acknowledge and respect their struggle and fight. These women have set an ideal for the world and feminists all around.
Featured Image Source: CNN