Training Women Fighters of the Kurdish YPG

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Qamishle, Syria
November 8, 2014

Kurdish women have had a leading role in defending Kobane against ISIS. More than 1,000 women are actively involved in the fight, according to Heboun Derik, an official in the Women’s Protection Units (YPJ), the women’s branch in the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia.

This video shows life inside a training camp in the Kurdish-majority city of Qamishli in northeast Syria. In this camp, young women in their twenties leave the comfort of civilian life behind them to receive basic military training before they head to Kobane, one Syria’s fiercest frontlines.

Shot list:

00:00 – 01:25

Various shots show female fighters during field training.

01:26 – 01:48

Various shots show fighters during shooting practice.

01:49 – 02:17

Various shots show marching fighters, returning from the training field.

02:18 – 02:56
Various shots show fighters during lunch.

02:57 - 03:18
Various shots shows fighters dancing dabkeh.

03:19 – 03:49

Interview with 26-year-old trainer Furat, woman, Kurdish/ interview transcript below

03:50 – 04:17
Interview with Gulistan, the head of a 20-fighter unit in the YPJ, woman, Kurdish/ interview transcript below

04:18 – 05:04

Interview with Dijla, a female fighter, Kurdish/ interview transcript below

Interview with Gulistan, the head of a 20-fighter unit in the YPJ, woman, Kurdish/ interview transcript below

“I am 20 years old. I volunteered with the YPJ a year and a half ago. After I received my baccalaureate, I did not want to continue my studies at university. I decided to enlist in the YPJ after extremist groups attacked Kurdish areas.

“I am here to prove to the male-dominated society that women are not weak; they can protect their honor against the attacks carried out by ISIS, which is hiding behind Islam. Most of the girls who joined the YPJ have the same feeling. They have the will to free women from the restrictions that have governed them for so long.

“I am very happy to be at this training camp with the rest of my female comrades, even though we have been deprived of the leisure of civilian life; our military outfits are who we are. The attacks by ISIS against our areas increased our resilience. All of this created in us a stronger will to fight and give up everything for the sake of the homeland.

Interview with Dijla, a female fighter, Kurdish/ interview transcript below

I am 20 years old. I left my studies and joined the YPJ three years ago. At a certain moment, I realized that I had to offer something for my homeland and have a value among the society members. I call upon all girls to join the YPJ.
The attacks against our Kurdish areas were motivated many women to join the YPJ and pick up arms in order to save women’s dignity and honor.

Interview with Beritan, a female fighter, Kurdish/ interview transcript below

I am 21 years old. I obtained my middle school diploma and joined the YPJ when terrorist organizations attacked Sari Kaniyeh [Ras al-Ain] two years ago. It was my national duty to defend our homeland alongside men, and I am happy with this decision.

Interview with 26-year-old trainer Furat, woman, Kurdish/ interview transcript below

“Here, at the YPJ’s Martyr Sheilan training camp, I supervise the training of female fighters who have recently enlisted. In each training cycle, 20 trainees undergo physical and tactical training for two consecutive months. “The training program starts at 7 am with a physical fitness class, followed by an orientation session that covers fighting ethics, loyalty and love for the homeland and combat comrades, and an introduction to women’s rights.

“After that, fighters are taught how to use all kinds of light weapons – Kalashnikov rifles, machine guns, pistols and sniper rifles. We also simulate battles so that fighters would be accustomed to real fighting. Fighters in this training camp have enlisted voluntarily. They are between 20 and 25 years of age, and are very happy because they are convinced with their choice of a new life, which made them independent.

“After the training, there is lunch followed by a recreation time, during which the fighters practice their hobbies. They sing, dance dabkeh, play games or read. We try, as much as possible, to create an atmosphere of intimacy and love among the fighters so that they would not feel bored or tired, and so they do not feel far from their families.