Women make Kobani living hell for Islamic State

Kurdish women fighters.

Hundreds of Kurds gathered in a Turkish border town on October 7 for the funerals of four women killed fighting the Islamic State (IS) group. Across the border, a Kurdish female militia is playing a leading role in defending Kobani (also known as Kobane).

The coffins contained the bodies of fighters from the Kurdish Women's Protection Units (YPJ) ― the all-female brigade that fights alongside the leftist People's Protection Unit (YPG, which includes men and women) militia, which includes men and women. The YPG is the armed wing of a Kurdish coalition that has taken de facto control over a sizable chunk of Syria's predominantly Kurdish north.

According to research group TRAC, as much as 35% of Kurdish troops in Syria's north are women. Estimates from other groups put the numbers of Kurdish women fighting in Syria as high as 10,000.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) says Kurdish defenders in the besieged town of Kobani are being co-led by a 40-year-old Kurdish woman from the Afrin region of Aleppo province ― Mayssa Abdo, also known by the nom-de-guerre of Narin Afrin.

Abdo told Kurdish news outlet, The Rojava Report: “A great resistance is taking place in Kobani. We can say that the Kobani resistance is in particular a women’s resistance.

“In order to enter Kobani the ISIS gangs will have to pass over our corpses.”

She explained that IS is relying on “heavy weapons” like tanks and artillery fire, but in the slim streets of Kobani YPG/YPJ fighters have fought back “with ambushes and traps, creative defence tactics and a sacrificial determination”.

“We turned the first places they entered ― the southern tip of the city and the 48th avenue ― into a hell. And from now on Kobani will continue to be hell for them.”

According to reports circulating among Kurdish media, in Kobani, YPJ troops have become vital in the battle against IS. Earlier this month, SOHR reported one YPJ fighter killed more than 20 IS fighters when she charged their lines and blew herself up. The suicide bombing opened a gap for YPG fighters to momentarily push IS back, according to SOHR.

One YPJ fighter only referred to as “Jazera” who spoke to the New Republic magazine explained why she had joined the militia: “Women have been suppressed for more than 50,000 years and now we have the possibility of having our own will, our own power and our own personality.”

[Abridged from .]

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