In Northeastern Syria, an all-female combat unit is exacting revenge on Daesh. Women in the region tell stories of how Daesh systematically kidnaps girls and sells them like wares into sexual slavery. The fighters also justify their cruel acts as virtuous in the eyes of Allah.
The unit occupies a forward position south of Hasakeh. Efelyn, 20, said Daesh will be decimated if they attempt to engage them, “We won’t leave one of them alive.” The Syrian Democratic Forces are a coalition of Kurdish, Arab, and Syrian fighters. On Tuesday, US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter announced additional American ground forces are being deployed to the region to assist with tactical operations.
One member of the unit, a 20 year old named Telhelden, says the Daesh fighters don’t speak for Islam. “And they believe if someone from Daesh is killed by a girl, a Kurdish girl, they won’t go to heaven. So they’re afraid of girls.”
Public Radio International reported this summer about atrocities committed against women by men from conservative societies. Women are prohibited from enjoying casual sex or marrying unless they’re rich. The promise of owning a sexual slave is often used as a recruitment tool. Captured women are auctioned off or promised to new recruits as part of a deeply-rooted system of sexual slavery. New York Times correspondent Rukmini Callimachi reported there is even a Daesh-run court to enforce the draconian practice. Women, in particular Yazidi Christians, have been kidnapped by the thousands and treated especially harshly by Daesh men.
CNN reports the women pushed Daesh out of the Syrian town of el Hool. Daesh had occupied the town for one year and some of the residents spoke out about their harsh rule. One shepherd named Ghassan described what it was like, “You couldn’t do anything. Smoking was forbidden. Women had to be completely covered. You couldn’t go anywhere without permission.”
It’s almost like the very existence of this unit is a giant fuck you to Daesh’s fundamentalist way of thinking. Like the photo of the topless, body-painted Syrian women protesting Daesh that circulated on social media recently. While it’s satisfying that these women are showing other Muslim females what secularism looks like in action, it’s somewhat unfortunate that it’s in the context of military aggression.