On Saturday, October 16, CNN News reported “The YPG women’s unit takes back the city of Raqqa from ISIS.”
The YPG women’s unit (often abbreviated as the YPJ) is the all-female brigade of the YPG, also known as the People’s Protection Unit. The YPJ fight for the rights of citizens in Syria, where a violent civil war has been raging for five years. According to Maxim, the YPJ has had several victories over ISIS over the years, the greatest being when they regained control of the Syrian city of Kobani from the jihadist group in 2015. Sarya Mahmoud, a YPJ trainer and commander who was featured in Reuters, said, “Female fighters give hope to women in the towns they liberate, because we’re going to free them and give them the volition they lost years ago, not just from Daesh, but from the male mentality and the government mentality.”
The women of the YPJ decided to fight for the rights of Syrian citizens even if it meant putting their lives on the line. These women fighters know that, if captured, they will likely be raped and killed; therefore they fight knowing they must succeed in battle.According to the New York Times,ISIS fears the YPJ because they are “ashamed” to be killed by a woman.
When Asya Abdullah, a politician who advocates for the YPJ, was featured in the Independent, she said “The hallmark of a free and democratic life is a free woman. ISIS would like to reduce women to slaves. We show them they are wrong and we can do anything.” She also emphasizes the creation of the YPJ is a fascinating development in a region where women’s rights are often repressed.
Although the YPJ are a unique phenomenon in the Middle East, they receive relatively little media coverage, as does the plight of Syrian women in general. However the YPJ women stand to defend themselves. The Kurdish Project wrote, “Thanks to their role in liberating Kobani in Syria, the YPJ have captured the attention of both socialist and non-socialist feminists around the world.”
Sidebar: Reporter’s Reflection
The women of the YPJ represent what feminism should look like in the 21st century. Women should be given equal opportunities in society when it comes to jobs and political positions. Teenage girls should know they can contribute a lot to society; they can fight for their rights when they are degraded. Every girl has the right to an education. Girls should grow into brave and courageous women who are not afraid to take on any task, just like the YPJ women are not afraid to speak and fight for the rights of all women. Like the YPJ, we as young girls should continually fight for our presence in society—but the war we face is sexism in our everyday lives.