IN­TER­NA­TIONAL RE­PORT Fe­male Kur­dish sol­diers on the front line

Hun­dreds of women are join­ing Kur­dish armed forces to avoid forced mar­riage to Is­lamic State troops. Who are th­ese brave sol­diers risk­ing their lives to re­main free?

Marie Claire (South Africa) - - CONTENTS -

LAY­ING LOW BE­HIND SAND­BAGS, a man­i­cured nail on the trig­ger, Ran­guin is on the look­out for an in­vis­i­ble en­emy. A long braid snakes along her dusty uni­form. The hori­zon in front of her is evap­o­rat­ing in the chok­ing mid­day heat. In this ad­vanced com­bat out­post, at the heart of a plain as ide as a desert, uiet isn t al ays good ne s. After erce bat­tles against the men of the Is­lamic State (IS, or Daech in Ara­bic), the Kur­dish forces man­aged to ad­vance their po­si­tions, lit­tle by lit­tle, un­til they re­gained con­trol of the Jalawla re­gion, a key area lo­cated about 130 kilo­me­tres from Bagh­dad.

or the past week this mi ed bat­tal­ion of about 30 sol­diers a li­ated to the atri­otic Union of Kur­dis­tan – one of the two main par­ties in this au­ton­o­mous re­gion of Iraq – has been hold­ing the po­si­tion, wait­ing for the heavy ar­tillery that was promised but is long com­ing. It’s been a week of bat­tling heat, weari­ness and an ad­ver­sary that is both close and volatile. ‘We hear them at night on the ra­dio fre­quen­cies,’ says Ran­guin, the skin on her face cooked by the sun. ‘They say: “You bitch, if we catch you, 25 of us will have our way with you, and then we’ll mail your head to your mother in a par­cel”.’ This doesn’t scare this 29-year-old pesh­merga (a Kur­dish word that means lit­er­ally ‘those who go beyond death’) who has spent the past 13 years ght­ing the war. To her, the com­bat she is cur­rently en­gaged in is the most im­por­tant one in her life.

The 15 war­rior women present on the front that day agree. They say they’re all ght­ing to pre­serve the Kur­dish e cep­tion the ‘last out­post of free­dom’ in a re­gion on the verge of col­laps­ing into Is­lamism – whose realm runs from the sub­urbs of Da­m­as­cus to the out­skirts of Bagh­dad. In the strug­gle to limit the so-called caliphate’s ex­pan­sion the

pesh­mer­gas are con­vinced that they o er quite an added value. ‘The Is­lamists are more afraid of us than they are of our brothers. They be­lieve that if they are killed by a woman, an “im­pure” be­ing, the gates of heaven won’t open for them,’ chuck­les Ran­guin.

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