As the elite Kurdish female forces fighting the Islamic State become increasingly well-known, nations close to the struggle have expressed increasing interest in these women. Israeli television aired a popular special this week profiling the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection United (YPG), who are fighting the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL).
As Rudaw points out, women’s rights are virtually non-existent in the Middle East except for in Israel. Women freely fight among the men in the Israel Defense Forces, “including as fighter pilots, in combat intelligence and light infantry.” For many Israelis, it was “remarkable” to see the YPJ.
“Daesh shoot and kill everything that moves, and are taking control across the region, and the world stammers,” Israeli TV host Itai Anghel said. “We are now seeing the story through the eyes of the only fighters who have succeeded in stopping them: the Kurdish fighters in Syria and Iraq.”
The YPJ inspired an Israeli artist to paint “a picture of Medya, a senior YPJ commander featured in the news report.” The artist asked Anghel to send the picture to the famous fighter. Medya told Anghel she feels “a special responsibility toward her female fighters – to keep them from falling into ISIS hands, to free female prisoners and to avenge what the jihadists have done to women.” She told Anghel:
You visited us in the past and saw how we operate against countries that are supposed to be bigger and stronger than us. Listen: whoever thinks of them as a powerful military force simply falls into the Daesh propaganda trap. The truth is they are not such mighty fighters. They don’t have the bravery and fighting spirit that they show in the propaganda videos. For these types, even hell isn’t enough of a punishment. Our job is to make sure they get a one-way ticket there.
Women are very important on the battlefield against ISIS. The jihadists are difficult to defeat for men because they are more than happy to die. They believe when they die, Allah will reward them with 72 virgins in heaven. However, if a woman kills them, the men are denied their virgins in the afterlife.
Medya also spoke to Anghel about Jewish history, including the Holocaust. The YPG admires Israel due to their oppressive history. The Kurds face persecution from surrounding countries, especially in Turkey and Iraq. Saddam Hussein committed genocide against the Kurds when he was dictator.
“If there is one nation in the world that suffered like us, it’s your nation,” Medya addressed to Israel. “We learn and study a lot about the history of Israel and the Jewish people. And in so many ways, we suffered a similar fate of pogroms, genocide and Holocaust. And here, you created an important country that has created philosophers, scientists and intellectuals. That is something we dream about as a model for our future.”