The world’s richest terrorist group, the Islamic State, has begun making strides in Iraq’s Anbar province, now a new epicenter of fighting for the soul of that country. Rumors that the group’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, may have been wounded in Anbar last week have not stopped the jihadist forces, and a group of women in the area are now taking up arms against them.
A report from Radio Free Europe notes that more than 50 women in the province have begun weapons training, according to sources in the group. The group is, according to Anbar Tribal Council members, going by the name Banat al-Haqq, or “Daughters of the Truth.” Radio Free Europe quotes a tribal council member named Sakr Salem al-Ithawy as confirming their existence and supporting their work against “the terrorist gangs of IS.”
Radio Free Europe mentions one more report, this time from a publication called al-Qurtas News. “Girls’ Right: The First Women’s Power Group Forms in Anbar,” the magazine writes, quoting a woman named Khansa Ahmed, who runs the province’s women’s center. The women, Ahmed says, will be working in tandem with local police authorities.
The group, which appears to be made up of Arab women, will likely need months—if not years—of training to be as effective as the Kurdish YPG, or Women’s Protection Units. The Kurdish armies in Iraq, or Peshmerga, have both long allowed women to serve and trained specialty combat units made up entirely of women to fight jihadists.
There is no indication that Banat al-Haqq is a direct response to the Kurdish female forces, but instead a response to the barbaric treatment that women—Arab and Kurd alike—have received in every area where the Islamic State has managed to establish a foothold. While ISIS has made recruiting women a pivotal part of their jihad, using social media to entice young women from the West to marry a jihadist and bear children to populate the Caliphate, it has also forced these and non-Sunni women into sex slavery. Yazidi minority women have been particularly subjected to a harrowing sex trade in which they are bought and sold among the jihadists themselves.
The YPG have been especially effective in fighting the Islamic State because of their status as women. Jihadists believe that they are only properly martyred—and thus given the gifts of the afterlife—if killed at the hands of an infidel man. If a woman kills them, they lose access to Allah. Thus, jihadists either flee or fight more cautiously against the YPG than they would against the Kurdish men’s forces, the YPJ.