In a media world assaulted with ISIS videos and threats of yet another beheading, the most fabulous story of heroism has emerged around a group of about 7,000 young Kurdish women in Syria who have armed themselves and joined the Women’s Protection Unit, or YPJ, “which grew out of the wider Kurdish resistance movement.”
Unlike the Iraqi soldiers who ran from ISIS, the Women’s Protection Unit is fighting to keep their people safe against attacks from Bashar Assad’s government, ISIS militants and the al Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front.
The BBC writes that around a third of the Syrian Kurdish force is comprised of women, who fight alongside the men, exposing themselves to all the same dangers.
“Women are the bravest fighters,” says Diren in her BBC interview, 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.”
Unintentionally, perhaps, Diren points out the greatest weakness of the ISIS fighters.
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.”
Update Oct. 5, 2014 Dirren means ‘resist, the name chosen by Ceylan Ozalp. I’ve been tracking these young women each week and my heart dropped for a moment just now. Ceylan is ALIVE and is not the brave young Kurdish woman who committed suicide in Kobane last week, rather than be captured by ISIS fighters, say the newest reports. Just to confirm how integrated the women fighters are against ISIS, seven men and three women fighters were beheaded in Kobane earlier in the week. End of update.
Update Oct. 7, 2014 Definitive reports about the status of Ceylan Ozalp remain hard to some by. Follow the story on AOC’s home page End of update.
Israel’s Haaretz newspaper writes today of major fighting between ISIS and the YPG fighters in the area near Kobani, Syria Turkey opened its border on Friday so that 60,000 Syrian Kurds could flee the area in a period of 24 hours. See also Kurdish fighters rush to Syria to stand with brethren against Islamic State via Haaretz.