A Woman's Job: Kurdish Female Fighters on the Front Lines in Iraq

Nothing could provide better poetic justice than ISIS's looming reality of facing the might of a female-fronted army on the ground as they battle it out for the soul of Iraq.
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The one thing everyone can agree about Iraq right now is that it is a mess. However, in the past week, the US military made tremendous gains against the extremist Islamic group, ISIS. But did you know America's greatest ally on the ground are Kurdish military women?

Yes, that is right, and just recently, backed by US airstrikes, the female-fronted 2nd Peshmerga Battalion recaptured the strategically located Mosul dam, handing the biggest blow yet to the radical Sunni group, ISIS.

The ironies here are endless. Not only is ISIS known for its atrocities toward women and minorities, hundreds of whom they abducted and took in as sex slaves, they even mercilessly slaughtered sex workers in Baghdad.

As with most extremist groups, ISIS is targeting controlling the visibility of women and minorities as a tangible demonstration of their power. The joke then seems to be on them that they are facing the very sex they deem as inferior on the battleground.

Even better? ISIS militants apparently believe that if their lives are taken by a female fighter, their entry into heaven is denied.

Well, diplomats and feminists can thank the Kurds.

The minority group, which has long been labelled as a terrorist organization by the US for their decades-long struggle for independence from Turkey, were finally armed by Washington to fight Islamist militants from advancing in northern Iraq.

The deepening crisis in Iraq has put the Kurds and the US on the same boat, both determined not to let Iraq fall deeper into the hands of ISIS.

Both parties also, of course, have a vested interest in the fact that the Kurdistan region is home to two large oil fields, generating almost 10 percent of Iraq's production.

The Kurds want to keep their autonomy out of Baghdad's political power web, and they have a lot to lose, especially the women.

Kurdistan is one of the few Muslim countries where women are allowed to serve in the military and in combat roles. Female guerrilla fighters battle alongside the Kurdish Peshmerga, a fighting force whose name means "those who confront death."

One soldier who has been fighting with the battalion since its creation in 1996, describes the loyalty she has to defend her people and their land: "It's an honor to be part of a modern Muslim country that allows women to defend the homeland ... We enjoy the same treatment as male fighters do, as required by law."

The US may have wanted to remain in denial that their supposed beacon of democracy in the Middle East, i.e. Iraq, ended up becoming an Islamic State run by radicals who deny women their most basic human rights.

But nothing could provide better poetic justice than ISIS's looming reality of facing the might of a female-fronted army on the ground as they battle it out for the soul of Iraq.

From pioneering in the field of mathematics to fighting off Islamic militants in Iraq, women in the Middle East are reminding the world that the best people to liberate them, are women themselves.

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