A short history of Kurdish women on the front lines

The Economist


Kurdish women first took up arms in the early 1990s, as members of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has waged a decades-long war for self-rule in Turkey. Inspired by Murray Bookchin, an obscure American philosopher, Abdullah Ocalan, the PKK’s leader, sought to empower his female comrades. “The 5,000-year-old history of civilisation is essentially the history of the enslavement of women,” wrote the now-imprisoned Mr Ocalan, whose ideas are also embraced by Syria’s Kurdish leaders. The first volunteers struggled, amid mockery and abuse by the men in their ranks. Few were given weapons. But the YPJ is now celebrated for its battlefield prowess; some women even command men.