EXCLUSIVE: Kurdish woman fighters are finishing ISIS, smashing patriarchy

Kurdish traditions and languages distinguish Kurds from other ethnic groups in that they live within numerous linguistically homogeneous nation-states. Kurdish communities are divided by the borders of Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey, and many Kurds also live in various diasporas in Europe. Although it is debated, some historians trace the origins of Kurds to the Medes. Kurds speak different but related dialects of Kurdish, a member of the Indo-European language group. Kurdish communities are affected by changes in the global capitalist system and by mass migrations due to economic and political pressures. While they struggle against countervailing cultural pressures, their old traditions are continuously revitalized and some are modified to reflect changing circumstances and outside pressures. A traditional Kurdish family is a peasant family. A Kurdish household is a patrilineal lineage, assembled around the male head of the family. Such a lineage depends on mutual support and defense while living in the same ancestral village.

Kurdish Families

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The history of the community began well before the destruction of the First Temple and continued for many generations. Ancient tradition has it that Jews were settled in Kurdistan 2, years ago, part of the Ten Tribes dispersed by the Assyrian king Shalmaneser. He describes finding over one hundred Jewish communities, including the 25, strong community of Amadiya, for whom Aramaic was still a spoken language. Indeed, their use of an ancient form of Aramaic formally called Suriyani, i.

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Kurdish women

According to Hawar news agency, an outlet close to the ruling Kurdish authorities in northern Syria, the Kurdish female fighter, alongside her comrades, was killed on Tuesday afternoon in battles outside of the city of Kobane. The battles had reportedly taken place as Turkish-backed groups conducted an attack on a meeting point of YPJ, despite a US-brokered ceasefire deal being in place.

It is not clear if they are referring to the captured YPJ fighter. Since then, , people have been displaced and more than civilians killed. Turkey considers the Kurdish fighters, once backed by the US, as terrorists, and has vowed to remove them from the border area.

The struggles of Kurdish women in Rojava Kurdistan (Northern Syria) Revolution and the space that has opened for women within it, dating back to

Women fighting ISIS on behalf of Kurdish forces have diverse reasons for taking part in the war — but is their participation being used to romanticize the effort? The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan in Iraq created the first female unit in Today, female recruits, like men, take up arms to protect their people and other minorities from ISIS and chase the extremist group from what they consider as their territories. Often seen wearing their hair loose or in a ponytail, carrying Kalashnikovs, they look young, determined and at least as courageous as their male counterparts.

In the chaos of the Middle East, these female fighters appear as a light in the dark. There is very little pre-dating the emergence of ISIS. By showing that women are part of military units, they promote a narrative of gender equality and emancipation, and in doing so, set themselves apart from extremist groups such as the Islamic State, renowned for its brutal treatment of women.

This differentiation allows them to gain some legitimacy. Yet, as the BBC discovered , it turned out not be true. While the tweet was not originally posted by the Kurds, they embraced the publicity. It is also in stark contrast with the way women are treated in Saudi Arabia or Iran. We are therefore fascinated by these women not only because of their courage, but also because they defy our often mistaken idea of the subdued Middle Eastern women who need to be saved.

However, what the media fails to look at are the more complex reasons why Kurdish women are taking up arms.

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The posters sparked angry street protests by Kurds, who are mostly Muslim but have a secular tradition and have remained in Afrin since the invasion by the Turkish army and Syrian militiamen, often members of jihadi groups, of which Isis and al-Qaeda are more extreme examples. The posters were taken down after a few days by Turkish military police, but are only the latest sign of pressure on Kurdish women by the jihadis to accept second-class status and to wear the hijab headscarf or the niqab.

The demand that Kurdish women, who are mostly Sunni Muslims, wear the hijab or niqab comes from Arab militiamen and from settlers with similar fundamentalist Islamic beliefs who have been forced out of eastern Ghouta by a Syrian government offensive. Reported to number 35,, they have taken over Kurdish-owned houses and land abandoned by some , Kurds who fled the Turkish invasion that began on 20 January and ended with the capture of Afrin city on 18 March. Bave Misto, 65, a farmer from the town of Bulbul, north of Afrin city, confirms that Kurds are under pressure to abandon secular practices.

It highlights the double oppression suffered by Kurdish women and girls – The effective autonomy of the Kurdish region of Iraq, dating from , through to.

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Kurdish female fighters are once again pawns in a bigger political game

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A group of Kurdish women fighters in Syria | Bhanu Prakash Chandra in Syria, buy the latest issue of THE WEEK, dated January 19, ).

From to , they helped overthrow the regime of Saddam Hussein, battled al-Qaeda , and pushed the Islamic State out of northern Iraq and Syria. In recent weeks, some of these same fierce fighters have been violently clashing with Turkish troops in the Syrian Kurdish enclave of Afrin. Reports of chemical weapons and a high civilian death toll are now emerging from the conflict zone. Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced. In all of these battles, Kurdish women have fought on the front lines , as they have done since the 19th-century Kurdish commander Kara Fatma led an Ottoman battalion of men and 43 women.

That was unusual for the period—but, then again, Kurdish women have long been exceptions in the mostly conservative Middle East. So who, exactly, are the Kurds? And why do Kurdish women enjoy significantly more freedoms than many other Muslim women in the Middle East?


As a Kurdish girl, I am always fighting a battle between traditionalism and modernism, as if these two ideologies are dichotomies on opposite sides of a cultural spectrum. I am here to contest this illusion that we as a society have bestowed on ourselves. This terminology is often thrown at us and I feel trapped, as if we have to choose only one side of the spectrum and remain there.

Kurdish girls constantly face the stereotype that educated women are too modern and have lost their traditional ways. Does obtaining an education mean we are neglecting our traditional roles?

There is no silver bullet to advance women’s rights in the Middle East. As we in the Kurdistan Region in Iraq have discovered, building a society.

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A blog of the Middle East Women’s Initiative. As we in the Kurdistan Region in Iraq have discovered, building a society in which women and girls enjoy equal rights to men and boys requires a combination of progressive policies and laws and targeted public campaigns aimed at changing cultural mindsets. Kurdistan is a conservative society that has endured decades of conflict in a turbulent part of the world.

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Sounds like a great muslim there [emoji23] Sent from my iPhone using Netmums. Do you think you would have been so interested and protective over Kurds and the fact that there’s a place called kurdistan even though there isnt if you wernt married to one? As you asked me about my interest in Islam and told me that I’m basically accepting Islam as my religion because of my husband. Well actually it’s true because if it wasn’t for being introduced to Islam in the beginning I would never have had an interest or understanding of it, which is the same as your interest in anything Kurdish.

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In Kurdistan and Beyond, Honor Killings Remind Women They Are Worthless

Kurdish marriage arrangements are very complex and defined by tribal traditions. Almost all Kirmanji-, Sorani-, Zaza-, and Gorani-speaking Kurds are historically tribal people, and tribal traditions continue to affect the daily experiences of tribal, as well as nontribal Kurds, who live in both rural and urban areas. The term mal also means a lineage in Kurdish. A lineage is a group of people who descend from a common ancestor. According to tribal ideology, brothers, father, and sons are joined in a single group, creating a division within the tribe against the father’s brother and his sons.

They all unite against far removed patriarchal cousins.

Jamil’s first marriage, to a Kurdish woman who grew up and was “I dated my first wife for three years and we lived together for one year.

We asked Ruken Isik, currently working on a PhD exploring the struggles of Kurdish women, to help us understand what Rojava can teach us about building gender equity into the next system. While Kurdish men and women were trying to defend the city from ISIS militia men with limited ammunition and inadequate weapons, compared to sophisticated weapons in the hands of ISIS , Kurds worldwide took to the streets to be voice for Kurds in Rojava and Kobane.

From the battle to defend Kobane onward, Western media and politicians have started to talk about the brave Kurdish women who are fighting against ISIS and its brutal treatment—including enslavement—of women. But a question still resonates in many ears: how do Kurdish women join the fight against ISIS in such numbers, and why are women on the forefront of the struggle? What is the history behind this remarkable departure from the norm, and what can advocates for systemic change and feminism learn from Rojava?

The answers to these questions lie in the Kurdish political, social, and military organizing in the Middle East. Since then they have been fighting for the institution of a new form of self-governance in Rojava, which took on a novel dimension with the establishment of the autonomous cantons in January Kurdish women have been at the forefront of this struggle, and have made it their own. The achievement of gender equality is one of the most important aspects of the ongoing struggle in Rojava, and an unprecedented example in the Middle East.

For Kurdish women in Rojava, it is important to seek ways to make sure that women are not just instrumentalized for the national cause during the revolution and sent back to homes afterwards—as seen in the backlashes that women faced after the revolutions in Vietnam, Russia, and France. Therefore, Kurdish women have started to organize themselves in fields that would enhance the status of women in local society. For instance, building new educational institutions has been a way to engage not only women but also men for long-term social change.

Female Fighters of Kurdistan (Part 1/3)