Iraq’s all-female combat unit seeks to take on Islamic State | world | Hindustan Times
Today in New Delhi, India
Apr 28, 2017-Friday
-°C
New Delhi
  • Humidity
    -
  • Wind
    -

Iraq’s all-female combat unit seeks to take on Islamic State

When the Islamic State swept into the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar in 2014, a few young Yazidi women took up arms against the militants attacking women and girls from their community.

world Updated: May 04, 2016 19:37 IST
Reuters
Islamic State

Iraqi Kurdish female fighters aim their weapons during a deployment near the frontline of their fight against Islamic State militants in Nawaran near Mosul in Iraq.h(Reuters)

When the Islamic State swept into the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar in 2014, a few young Yazidi women took up arms against the militants attacking women and girls from their community.

“They took eight of my neighbours and I saw they were killing the children,” Asema Dahir told Reuters last month at a checkpoint near a front line north of Mosul.

Dressed in military fatigues, the 21-year-old is now part of an all-female unit in the Kurdish peshmerga forces, which have played an important role in pushing back Islamic State in northern Iraq.

The killing and enslaving of thousands from Iraq’s minority Yazidi community focused international attention on the group’s violent campaign to impose its radical ideology and prompted Washington to launch an air offensive.

It also prompted the formation of this unusual 30-woman unit made up of Yazidis as well as Kurds from Iraq and neighbouring Syria. For them, only one thing matters: revenge for the women raped, beaten and executed by the jihadist militants.

Haseba Nauzad (right) and Yazidi female fighter Asema Dahir have lunch at a camp in Nawaran near Mosul in Iraq. (Reuters)
Asema Dahir shares a light moment with her comrades in a bedroom at their campsite in Nawaran. (Reuters)

Read: IS executes 250 women who refused to become sex slaves: Report

Read: IS is committing genocide against Christians, Yazidis and Shias: US

Dahir said she was stunned by the brutality of the militants, some of whom were neighbours and others from outside the area.

“They killed my uncle and took my cousin’s wife who had only just married eight days earlier,” she said, her piercing eyes clouding over. The bride, like thousands of other Yazidi women, is still being held by the militants.

During the firefights that raged across Sinjar in 2014, Dahir said she killed two Islamic State fighters before being shot in the leg. Reuters could not independently verify the fighters’ personal accounts.

Well-worn photographs of children and families tucked into the edge of mirrors or pressed onto walls in the women’s spartan barracks are reminders of what they have sacrificed to join the fight.

Haseba Nauzad, the unit’s 24-year-old commander, lost her marriage. She was living with her husband in Turkey when Islamic State swept through northern Iraq and announced its so-called caliphate over areas that included traditional Kurdish lands.

“I saw them raping my Kurdish sisters and I couldn’t accept this injustice,” Nauzad said.

Her husband wanted to pay human smugglers to take them to Europe along with more than a million others fleeing conflict in the region, but she insisted on going home to fight the Islamists.

“I put my personal life aside, and I came to defend my Kurdish sisters and mothers and stand against this enemy,” she said. She has lost contact with her husband since he arrived in Germany.

Haseba Nauzad (second from right) with her comrades at the site in Nawaran in Iraq. (Reuters)
The women riding a pickup truck near the frontline of their fight against Islamic State militants in Iraq. (Reuters)

In a conservative society where women are often expected to stay at home, these women say gender does not keep them from entering battle.

“If a man can carry a weapon, a woman can do the same,” said Nauzad. “The men are inspired to fight harder when they see women standing in the same battlefield as them.”

The women in the unit are convinced Islamic State militants are scared of women fighters “because they think if they are killed by a woman, they will not go to heaven,” said Nauzad.

“This story encourages more women to join the fight.”

Read: Indian-origin Siddhartha Dhar now senior IS leader, says teen sex slave

Is Your Couch Making You Cough?
Promotional Feature