Cape Argus

Kurdish woman commander in City

- Yazeed Kamaldien STAFF REPORTER

WEDNESDAY AUGUST 24 2016 A KURDISH commander from the heart of terror group Islamic State’s (IS) grip in the Arab world is in Cape Town to share her combat experience­s.

Shaha Abduh, a commander of the Women’s Protection Units known globally by its Kurdish acronym YPJ, leads thousands of women in the battle against IS.

YPJ is a military that comprises only women and has gained a reputation for cleaning up parts of Syria of IS fighters, a job the Iraqi and Syrian armies have failed at.

Abduh is in town for a conference to discuss the Kurdish role in combating IS.

The conference will also focus on Kurdish resistance inside Turkey where despite being the largest minority the Kurds have been forbidden from using their language in schools.

The local conference is organised by the Kurdish Human Rights Action Group and runs today. Kurdish conference delegates are scheduled to meet local political leaders and civil society groups.

Abduh said in an interview with Cape Argus, shortly after she arrived in Cape Town this week, that she was looking to strengthen internatio­nal solidarity for their efforts against IS.

“We are defending our homes and we have no help from anyone. We have only our faith and resistance. Resistance is life,” said Abduh. She said IS took the Syrian military’s weapons when they defeated them.

“They attack us at any time and anywhere. We have a difficult mission. They come with cars or trucks,” said Abduh.

Abduh said IS has managed to severe ties between Syrian provinces by capturing land and preventing locals from travelling to different parts of the country. But YPJ has also managed to “capture many of them”, said Abduh.

“They are afraid of fighting with women. They believe if they are killed by a woman then they won’t go to heaven.,” she said.

YPJ’s long-term goal is to establish a democratic government in Syria.“We will fight Assad’s regime. We will fight for our freedom,” said Abduh.“We want to be a model to build up a federal government with unity in diversity.”

YPJ has meanwhile shifted perception­s about women in the military, said Abduh. “After women proved themselves in winning fights against IS, then more women joined us. Now families are sending women to join us,” said Abduh.

“When people see a woman in military clothes they feel happy. They respect us and they are proud of us. They see us as their hope.”

YPJ’s women fighters are aged only between 18 and 35, while “older women are working to support the fighters”, said Abduh.

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