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Kurds recruiting Arab women to fight IS in Syria

The YPJ is the female counterpart to the Kurdish People's Protection Units or YPG [Getty]

Date of publication: 5 January, 2017

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Kurdish forces in Syria have announced they will set up a battalion and training centre for Arab women to join in the fighting against IS extremists.

Kurdish forces in Syria have announced they will set up a battalion and training centre for Arab women to join the fight against the Islamic State group [IS].

The Women's Protection Units [YPJ] said this week that it was widening its operations to include Arab women because of high demand, as Kurdish forces lead the offensive against Raqqa, the self-proclaimed IS capital in Syria.

"Many women from recently [Arab-majority] liberated areas participated in the YPJ. From Shaddadi to Manbij, many women have joined us. For this reason, we established an academy," the group's spokeswoman Nesrin Abdullah told the Kurdish Firat News Agency.

She explained that Arab women have shown the most enthusiasm to join in the fight against IS militants, leading to the creation of two Arab women units within the Syrian Democratic Forces [SDF].

When asked what the YPJ's goals were for 2017, Abdullah said: "Our goal is to double or triple our forces."

Hundreds of Kurdish women have taken part in the showdown with IS extremists imposing a reign of terror over areas they seized in Syria and neighbouring Iraq, where IS has since 2014 enslaved women of the minority Kurdish-speaking Yazidi community.

     
      Some YPJ fighters have been fetishised in Western media [Twitter]

IS fighters feel ashamed and terrified at the idea of being killed by a woman because they believe it is forbidden in Islam, according to YPJ fighters.

"When they hear our voices, they get very scared, whereas we at the front, we break out into 'youyous' (ululate) every time we advance," said one female fighter.

The group is the female counterpart to the Kurdish People's Protection Units [YPG], the armed branch of the leading Kurdish Democratic Union Party [PYD] and key component of the US-backed Kurdish-Arab SDF.

The group works on the ground with the US against IS but is seen as a terror group by Ankara and the local branch of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party [PKK].

The Syrian regime has also recruited hundreds of women to the National Defence Forces - militias made up of armed civilians.

Last year, a video emerged of women soldiers complaining about widespread sexual abuse and mistreatment at the hands of officers in the regime's armed forces.

The troops said that after they had refused to perform sexual favours for their higher-ups they were denied pay and food rations.

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