Kurdish Women Guerillas Fight ISIS and Sexism

Kurdish women fighters
Janet Biehl, “Review: A Road Unforseen—Women Fight the Islamic State,” ROAR Magazine, August 15, 2016.

Meredith Tax reported on Kurdish women in A Road Unforeseen: Women Fight the Islamic State (2016). The PKK was known for its women leaders from the beginning; the most famous was Sakine Cansiz who survived years of torture in Turkish prisons but was assassinated. By 1993, about one-third of new PKK recruits were women, leading to the organization of women’s guerilla units called YJA_Star. Part of the motivation was to create equality and mutual respect between men and women soldiers. Unlike short-term expedient use of women guerillas in other revolutionary struggles, the intent of PKK was to permanently change sex roles in contrast to the use of women soldiers in China, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, and Nepal; in Cuba, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Angola, Eritrea, Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe. Unlike the PKK, women in these other countries were rarely commanders and were expected to be subordinate to men and certainly not share in the cooking and cleaning. The unusual Zapatistas are similar to the PKK in aiming for permanent gender equality among women and men soldiers.

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