Kurdish and Yazidi Women Take up Arms Against ISIS

The all-female unit in the Kurdish forces has played an important role in pushing back ISIS in northern Iraq.

Published
World
2 min read
Iraqi Kurdish female fighter Haseba Nauzad aim their weapon during a deployment near the frontline of the fight against Islamic State militants in Nawaran near Mosul, Iraq. (Photo: Reuters)

When the Islamic State swept into the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar in 2014, a few young Yazidi women took up arms against the militants attacking women and girls from their community.

They took eight of my neighbours and I saw they were killing the children.
Asema Dahir

Dressed in military fatigues, the 21-year-old is now part of an all-female unit in the Kurdish peshmerga forces, which have played an important role in pushing back Islamic State in northern Iraq.

Yazidi female fighter Asema Dahir, 21, poses with a teddy bear in a bedroom at a site near the frontline of the fight against Islamic State militants in Nawaran near Mosul, Iraq. (Photo: Reuters)
Yazidi female fighter Asema Dahir, 21, poses with a teddy bear in a bedroom at a site near the frontline of the fight against Islamic State militants in Nawaran near Mosul, Iraq. (Photo: Reuters)

The killing and enslaving of thousands from Iraq’s minority Yazidi community prompted the formation of this unusual 30-woman unit made up of Yazidis as well as Kurds from Iraq and neighbouring Syria.

For them, only one thing matters: revenge for the women raped, beaten and executed by the jihadist militants.

They killed my uncle and took my cousin’s wife who had only just married eight days earlier.
Asema Dahir

The bride, like thousands of other Yazidi women, is still being held by the militants.

During the firefights that raged across Sinjar in 2014, Dahir said she killed two Islamic State fighters before being shot in the leg.

Well-worn photographs of children and families tucked into the edge of mirrors or pressed onto walls in the women’s spartan barracks are reminders of what they have sacrificed to join the fight.

Iraqi Kurdish female fighter Haseba Nauzad, 24, smokes a cigarette after having lunch at a site near the frontline of the fight against Islamic State militants in Nawaran near Mosul, Iraq. (Photo: Reuters)
Iraqi Kurdish female fighter Haseba Nauzad, 24, smokes a cigarette after having lunch at a site near the frontline of the fight against Islamic State militants in Nawaran near Mosul, Iraq. (Photo: Reuters)

Haseba Nauzad, the unit’s 24-year-old commander, lost her marriage. She was living with her husband in Turkey when Islamic State swept through northern Iraq and announced its so-called caliphate over areas that included traditional Kurdish lands.

“I saw them raping my Kurdish sisters and I couldn’t accept this injustice,” Nauzad said.

Her husband wanted to pay human smugglers to take them to Europe along with more than a million others fleeing conflict in the region, but she insisted on going home to fight the Islamists.

I put my personal life aside, and I came to defend my Kurdish sisters and mothers and stand against this enemy. If a man can carry a weapon, a woman can do the same
Haseba Nauzad

She has lost contact with her husband since he arrived in Germany.

Yazidi female fighters in pickup truck during a deployment near the frontline of the fight against Islamic State militants in Nawaran near Mosul, Iraq. (Photo: Reuters)
Yazidi female fighters in pickup truck during a deployment near the frontline of the fight against Islamic State militants in Nawaran near Mosul, Iraq. (Photo: Reuters)

The women in the unit are convinced Islamic State militants are scared of women fighters “because they think if they are killed by a woman, they will not go to heaven,” said Nauzad.

This story encourages more women to join the fight.
Haseba Nauzad

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