Arab and Kurdish Women Find Common Cause in Fight Against ISIS

Arab women are starting to join Kurdish women in taking up arms to fight ISIS.  The moves by Arab women in Syria to pick up arms is also challenging some of the customs in the communities they come from, where women have a far more subservient role to men than what Kurdish woman have to face in their communities.

From Al Monitor

At just 21 years old, Zilan’s burdens are already heavy. She has a pair of violent ex-husbands and a daughter from each. But she said she has left all that behind in her home village near Raqqa, the recently liberated capital of the so-called Islamic State in Syria.

Zilan is among scores of women joining an all-Arab women’s force that was formed earlier this year as part of the Syrian Kurdish Women’s Protection Units (YPJ), the globally acclaimed women’s militia that has become the bane of jihadis. These fresh recruits are testing the limits of the deep-rooted patriarchy of Arab communities and more critically, the uneasy cohabitation of Arabs and Kurds that is meant to serve as a blueprint for the future of Syria.

“I feel respected as a woman. My life has meaning now,” Zilan told Al-Monitor during an interview at the Shahid Arin Military Academy for Women in Ain Issa, a nondescript town northwest of Raqqa.

The YPJ and its male equivalent, the People’s Protection Units (YPG), are the US-led coalition’s top allies against IS. As the fight expands beyond Kurdish-dominated areas into Arab-heavy territory, a growing number of Arabs are either directly joining the Syrian Kurdish forces or Arab groups allied with them. They are collectively known as the Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF. An SDF official told Al-Monitor that as of Oct. 22, at least 500 Arab women had enlisted with the YPJ. Women fighters were the first to declare victory on Oct. 19 in Raqqa’s main square. “Many were Arabs,” the official said.

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