Let’s take a second to learn about the women who are kicking ass and taking names.
YPJ, a Kurdish abbreviation meaning “Women’s Protection Unit,” is a military unit made up of young female Kurdish soldiers who are fighting the Islamic State, as well as for gender equality.
Here’s a little context for you: the Kurdish people are an ethnic group native to the region that spreads across parts of Syria, Turkey, Armenia, Iraq and Iran. Their conflict with the Islamic State began in 2013, when it repeatedly attacked three Kurdish territories.
YPJ appeared in 2011 as a product of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, a controversial Kurdish militant organization based in Turkey and Iraqi Kurdistan. The initial goal was to fight against the Assad regime in Syria as the civil war broke out, but the Unit now primarily works to defend the Kurdish population from ISIS.
YPJ is completely volunteer-based and they receive very little international aid. Regardless, they’ve impressively managed to recruit 8,000 women who have come from countries all over the Middle East.
Not only are they fighting ISIS, but YPJ is drastically changing the strict traditionally-held gender roles of the Kurdish culture:
They don’t get married and don’t have kids.
They DO: sleep in the dirt, operate heavy machinery and fight alongside men.
And, yes – they kill. Freaking. ISIS.
One reason they’ve proven to be such a force in the fight against ISIS is precisely because of ISIS’s backwards views on women. Diren, a 19-year-old YPJ fighter, tells a BBC reporter, “When they see a woman with a gun, they’re so afraid they begin to shake. They portray themselves as tough guys to the world. But when they see us with our guns they run away. They see a woman as just a small thing.”
How AWESOME is that.
YPJ has already defeated ISIS at a number of Syrian cities and they continue to fight for equality in the Middle East. While we can’t be certain what the outcome of the Syrian war will be, one thing’s for sure: you don’t want to mess with these ladies.