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ISIS's Nightmare: Fierce Kurdish Women Fighters

In the battle for Kobani, Syria, Kurdish women warriors are said to terrify ISIS.

On Monday the Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said that the isolated Kurdish enclave of Kobani was "about to fall" to a massive, sustained assault from ISIS.
Also on Monday, Rooz Bahjat, a Kurdish intelligence officer stationed in Kobani said the city would fall within "the next 24 hours." By now ISIS was expecting to be slaughtering civilians by the score.

Instead, something totally unexpected happened - ISIS has been forced to pull back.

A local Kobani official, Idris Nahsen, told AFP that fighters from the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) had managed to push ISIS fighters outside several key areas after "helpful" airstrikes by the U.S.-led coalition

"The situation has changed since yesterday. YPG forces have pushed back ISIS forces," he said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitoring group, confirmed that ISIS fighters had withdrawn overnight from several areas and were no longer inside the western part of Kobani. They remained in eastern parts of the town and its southern edges, said Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman, whose group relies on a network of sources inside Syria. The number of dead in the overnight fighting was not clear, but Mustafa Ebdi, a Kurdish journalist and activist from Kobani, wrote on his Facebook page that the streets of one southeastern neighborhood were "full of the bodies" of ISIS fighters.

Kobani has been under attack by 9,000 ISIS jihadists, armed with tanks and heavy artillery for nearly a month. This is the largest manned assualt by ISIS in its short existence.They are being opposed by just 2,000 Kurdish fighters with the YPG, the armed wing of the Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK), without access to any heavy weaponry and short on ammunition.
To put this into perspective, 800 ISIS fighters routed 2 divisions of the Iraqi Army, totaling 30,000 heavily armed soldiers, in June.
In other words, the Syrian Kurds of Kobani weren't supposed to stand a snowball's chance in Hell.

My father used to say, "It's not the size of the dog in the fight that matters. It's the size of the fight in the dog that does."

And now, here we are. Two days after Kobani was supposed to have become just the latest victims of ISIS terror. The difference is obviously the motivation of who is fighting.

"We either die or win. No fighter is leaving," Esmat al-Sheikh, leader of the Kobani Defence Authority, told Reuters. "The world is watching, just watching and leaving these monsters to kill everyone, even children...but we will fight to the end with what weapons we have."

 Some people have more motivation than others. Those people include women. A very large percentage of the YPG fighters that have been so good at killing ISIS jihadists are women.

I asked her about YPG’s women’s wing, the YPJ (Women's Protection Units), and the women fighters coming from Turkey. She said Kurdish women were as equally involved in defense affairs as in social services. “We have set up training camps for women in all three cantons. Women are active in all fronts,” she said. “Of the first 20 martyrs we had when IS attacked Kobani, 10 were women. Last year, of our 700 YPG martyrs, 200 were women...

I reminded Nimet of the legends we hear of IS militants fearing to encounter women fighters. She replied, “This is not a myth but reality. I personally met IS fighters face-to-face. Women fighters infringe on their psyche. They believe they won’t go to paradise if they are killed by women. That is why they flee when they see women. I saw that personally at the Celaga front. We monitor their radio calls. When they hear a woman's voice on the air, they become hysterical.”

 
Kurdish women have traditionally been part of the resistance forces. At Kobani, one woman in particular, Arin Mirkan, showed just how far they are prepared to go to defeat ISIS.

The woman, who is reportedly a commander in the Kurdish People’s Protection Unit, known as the YPG, broke into an Isis (also known as Islamic State) bastion on the eastern outskirts of Kobani and clashed with militants before detonating herself with a grenade, a monitoring group said on Sunday.
Mirkan, a mother of two, is rumored (but not proven) to have killed 23 ISIS fighters. 

  Another female YPG fighter,  Ceylan Ozalp, killed herself with her last bullet rather than be captured by ISIS.

It's still far to early to determine how this will turn out. The Kobani defenders are running short on ammo, while Turkish tanks sit just a few meters across the border doing nothing. Instead, the Turkish military is arresting Kurdsfleeing the fighting in Kobani.

18 ethnic Kurds have been killed in violent protests in Turkey, demanding that the Turkish army help the brave defenders in Kobani.

The Pentagon still expects Kobani to fall, and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is more concerned with ISIS marching on Baghdad.

Speaking specifically about cities in western Iraq, he said, “There are places where [the Islamic State] continues to make gains in Iraq. We talked about Hit. We talked about Ramadi. We talked about Fallujah, which is still in contention right now. That’s worrisome, because it’s close to Baghdad.”

8:46 AM PT: It's complicated.

Kurds insist that Turkey should allow Kurdish fighters, supplies and weapons to enter the encircled town through its territory. Turkey refuses to do so unless the Kurds meet certain demands, including distancing themselves from their allies in an outlawed Kurdish separatist party in Turkey.

As an indication of the complex political currents, however, she made it clear the Kurds would not welcome military assistance from Turkey, asking instead for free passage of Kurdish fighters from Turkey to reinforce those in Kobani.

“We would view Turkey sending its troops without an international decision as an occupation," she said.

Anwar Muslim, a lawyer and the head of the Kobani district, echoed those sentiments, saying it was illogical to ask the Kurds to denounce Mr. Assad and join Syrian insurgent groups fighting against him.

9:12 AM PT: Meanwhile in Anbar, Iraq:

Iraq’s restive western province of Anbar is on the verge of completely falling into the hands of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) unless urgent action is taken to address military failures, the Anbar Tribal Council warned on Wednesday...

“It is strange that while ISIS is developing its presence and capabilities on the ground in Anbar, military and security leadership are not doing anything new to address this. As a result of this, most parts of Anbar province are now completely in ISIS’s hands, including Ramadi city center,” Ibrahim told Asharq Al-Awsat.

It was Anbar’s police force that was protecting citizens from ISIS, he said, adding that military forces were actively hindering efforts to combat the extremist group. “Unfortunately, the military has become a source of assistance for ISIS because for the most part ISIS is able to attack and defeat the military, taking control of their arms and equipment,” said Ibrahim.

11:10 AM PT: Dramatic new development

It appears that the Kurds have finally picked up an ally.

Kurdish sources inside Kobane say that the YPG (Syrian Kurdish Popular Protection Units) have advanced in the east and that a group of Free Syrian Army fighters moved behind IS lines causing heavy losses.