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Claire Thomas


From the archives: Members of an all-female Peshmerga unit in the Kurdistan Freedom Party - known as the PAK - train at a base near the city of Kirkuk in northern Iraq in October 2017.

During the battle to liberate the region from Islamic State control, approximately 200 Iranian-Kurdish women joined the peshmerga in Iraq to fight the terror group.

From a source:

The CONVERSATION "For years, Kurdish fighters have been partners to the U.S. in the Middle East. From 2003 to 2017, they helped overthrow the regime of Saddam Hussein, battled al-Qaida and pushed the Islamic State out of northern Iraq and Syria.

Reports of chemical weapon and a high civilian death toll are now emerging from the conflict zone. Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced

In all of these battles, Kurdish women have fought on the front lines, as they have done since the 19th-century Kurdish commander Kara Fatma led the Ottoman battalion of 700 men and 43 women. That was unusual for the period – but, then again, Kurdish women have long been exceptions in the mostly conservative Middle East.

Who are the Kurds?

Kurdistan, where I was born, is among the largest nations in the world without a state. Around 35 million Kurds inhabit a mountainous zone straddling Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Syria and Armenia.

The feminists of the PKK

The Marxist-Leninist PKK, founded in 1978, may be an enemy of the Turkish state, but it also happens to be one of the most feminist movements in the Middle East.

The group held its first congress on women’s rights in 1987, in which PKK co-founder Sakine Cansiz – who was later shot dead in an apparent assassination in 2013 – proposed that its “liberation for all” rhetoric must include women’s liberation, too. Today the party’s political agenda explicitly recognizes religious minorities, dissidents and women as the crux of democracy.

In the autonomous Kurdish regions of Iraq and Syria, women have the same legal rights as men. Indeed, the Iraqi Kurdish regional government has a higher proportion of women than the United Kingdom – 30 percent versus 20 percent.

Women also make up 40 percent of Kurdish fighters deployed across the Middle East. Today, more than 25,000 Kurdish women are deployed in Syria as the Women’s Protection Units, an all-female militia inspired by the KPP’s feminist liberation ideology.

In contrast, about 14 percent of the U.S. military service members are women.

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