It's a tale of two cultures. On one hand you have ISIS, an archaic and brutal order that wants to dial the clock back on society, and especially the role of women. On the other you have the Kurds, who have once again have staked their claim as the bravest fighting force in the region, with one of their most feared weapons being their heroic female warriors.
Kurdish female fighters in Northern Syria:
The idea of a Kurdish woman warrior is not new, as woman have taken up arms for decades in their increasingly moderate culture, especially under a highly oppressive regime of Saddam Hussein. In fact, Kurdish female fighters have become such a normal part of the Kurdish People's Protection force, and its various factions throughout the region, that one of them, known as Narin Afrin, is said to be in co-command of the dire battle against ISIS for the strategic border town of Kobane. Nestled along the Turkish border with Syria, Kobane is the last non-ISIS controlled stronghold for many dozens of miles to the south and the west, and hundreds of miles to the east. Losing it would be a major win for ISIS and a blow to the Obama Administration's highly questionable strategy. Sadly, the outlook is not positive.
Kurdish female fighters during the Desert Storm in 1991:
In what has become an absolutely brutal battle, one where air strikes have done little to stop ISIS reinforcements from continuing their onslaught on the border city, female and male Kurdish fighters have stood their ground. Seeing as Turkey, a NATO member, is not willing to do anything about the slaughter, sitting a few hundred yards back from the barbed wire fence that marks the border in tanks, it will be a fight to the death.
Apparently, ISIS fighters are terrified of combat with Kurdish women warriors. According to the Kurdish women warriors themselves, for ISIS members, being killed by a woman isn't just disgraceful, but the penalty in the afterlife isn't martyrdom and doesn't include those 72 virgins. Additionally, female fighters are all too aware of what happens when ISIS captures women, so the chances of surrender are nil. That makes them incredibly effective on the battlefield, where they often fight on the front lines and hardly carry the stigma of a novelty force by their countrymen. Add in the fact that they're fighting for their families, friends, and homeland, and not some daft idea of religious manifest destiny, and every trigger pull is that much more crucial.
In every conflict, no matter how horrible, there are always incredible stories of bravery and sacrifice, some of which break previously unbreakable social barriers. Stories like the American Tuskegee Airman, Windtalkers, and Russia sniper Lyudmila Pavlichenko of World War Two have rightfully been ingrained in history. Seeing as the Kurds are really the only major player in the region with the balls to stand up to ISIS on the ground, the warrior women of the Kurdish People Protection forces and the Peshmerga may go down in history as one of the most fearless fighting forces of them all. This is especially true considering just how lightly armed these woman sadly are and just how brutal, terrifying and threatening to their very being their enemy really is.
Photos via AP
Tyler Rogoway is a defense journalist and photographer who maintains the website Foxtrot Alpha for Jalopnik.com You can reach Tyler with story ideas or direct comments regarding this or any other defense topic via the email address Tyler@Jalopnik.com