C0mpiled with introduction by

Diarmuid Breatnach

An 18-year old woman of the Kurdish diaspora in London, Silhan Ozcelik, has been sent for trial at London’s Central Criminal Court (the “Old Bailey”) accused of trying to join the Kurdish-led resistance against ISIS (“Islamic State”).  A British journalist called the trial “disgusting” and said it left him “almost without words” to describe the travesty of justice.  (article below)

Face Paint Kurdish W Fighters
A different kind of face paint: female fighter of the Kurdish guerrilla YPG checks another female comrade as they prepare to go into action with their male comrades on the front line against ISIS in Syria.

This post contains:

  • An article about the trial by J0nathan Owen in yesterday’s British newsaper The Independent (see above)

  • A short article from pro-Kurdish PUK Media containing a discussion on the role of Kurdish women fighters in Syria, with quotes from a wide variety of sources (right at end of this post)

  • A video of an Australian documentary, “60 Minutes”, from the war zone, with war footage, interviews with women fighters and commanders, victims of ISIS (see further down)

  • Background comment or introduction from me (immediately below)

Background Comment:

The Kurds in the region, numbering around 28 million, have the right to self-determination.  They are divided by borders of states set up in the past by the colonial imperialists of Britain, France and the Ottoman Empire and also by ambitions of the states subsequently created: Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Iran and Azerbaijan (there is also a huge Kurdish diaspora in parts of Europe, the USA, Canada).  The Kurds in the region also face differences in political leadership, dialect and religious influence as well as containing among them other ethnic groups (many of these also oppressed): Arabs, Armenians, Azeris, Turkmen, Yazidis …. The whole Kurdish region extends across an area of great strategic importance (the gateway to Europe and to the East) and also of considerable natural resources, including water.  It is envisaged that an oil pipeline will cross this area and a number of dams have already been built there.

The Kurds in Turkey (the largest population of Kurds) has been mostly led by the PKK (and various political organisations friendly to it), a communist-type national liberation organisation, largely secular (though some of their areas can be religiously conservative) and with a very large guerrilla force which has included many women fighters.  They have fought the Turkish armed forces for decades and remain undefeated.  Turkey’s nationalism under Kemal Attaturk declared that Kurds did not exist — they were just “mountain Turks”.  Kurdish has been forbidden, the flying of Kurdish national colours a crime, and state repression has included bannings of parties and newspapers, jailings of political and human rights activists, kidnapping, torture, assassination squads, creation of strategic villages, aerial bombardment, etc.  The imprisoned leader of the PKK, Abdullah Ocalan, last week from prison called on his followers to lay down their arms and to engage in a “peace process” in which however the Turkish Government shows no interest.  Ocalan enjoys an adulation among the PKK and its supporters somewhat as Chairman Mao did among Chinese communists and his portrait can be seen on demonstrations, in pickets and in their secure areas.

The Kurds in Iraq have mostly come under the political dominance of two political leaders with tribal following, Barzani and Talibani.  Iraqi Kurds are mostly Sunni Muslim with a minority Shia population (Fayli) in central and and SE Iraq.  The Kurds were oppressed by the Iraq regime and rose up against them a number of times only to be massacred, including when the US called on them to rise during the Kuwait war but left them on their own.  Their fighters, “peshmergas” are mostly male and during the Iraq Invasion by the US-led coalition, they fought the Iraqi Armed forces but entered Baghdad like bandits and set up various areas of control under different war lords, occasionally fighting even one another.  In the past on one occasion the peshmergas were also deployed against the PKK in conjunction with a Turkish attack on them.

The Syrian Kurds have their own fighters but have not been as prominent in the past as those of the Kurds in Turkey and Iraq.  The Syrian regime does not favour declarations of different ethnicity coupled to aspirations of self-determination and has suppressed expressions of Kurdish nationalism, including jailing singers and musicians whose work includes those expressions. In recent months, the Syrian Kurds and their fighting organisation, the YPG, have had the most success in halting and in places forcing back ISIS — the “Islamic State”.  The YPG rescued a large population of mostly Yazidis (including also some other ethnic groups) after ISIS swept aside the army of the NATO-client Iraqi regime, massacred tens of hundreds of civilians and kidnapped tens of hundreds more, including women which they took or sold as concubines.

The Kurds in Iran have been in recent times the most suppressed perhaps of all the Kurdish populations.  Under the Islamic clerical regime a number of Kurdish political activists have been executed for “crimes against God” (i.e. being atheists and socialists and sharing their political beliefs).  Under the Shah the repression was also heavy and Savak, the secret police, along with their informers, were almost everywhere.  Torture was endemic under the Shah and almost certainly continues under the present regime.

Although the NATO powers fear ISIS, they have also had a hand in its creation in the drive to overthrow regimes resisting NATO’s penetration of the area (and encirclement of Russia) by direct assault or by proxy: Libya and Iraq (already overthrown), Syria (under attack), Iran (constantly being threatened).  They are trying to bring the YPG into the fold but Turkey, an important member of NATO, would rather see the Kurdish fighters wiped out and seals its border to prevent fighters and supplies reaching the YPG.  The USA therefore confined itself to some bombings of ISIS positions around Rojava and diplomatic overtures to the Kurds.  They have not committed ground troops (which the YPG have not asked for) or supplied arms (which the YPG have asked for — repeatedly) and continue to support forces attempting to overthrow the Syrian state.  The YPG rarely fight alongside the state’s Syrian Army but at times both forces are simultaneously in action against ISIS, though seemingly not in coordination


The Kurds, as the largest force in their region of Syria and one of the largest ethnic group in the whole region, form a focus of resistance to assimilation and to repressive regimes of states but may be seen by other ethnic groups as themselves posing a threat of assimilating them.

Video documentary “60 Minutes” by Australian television containing Syrian war area footage of Kurdish women fighters and commanders and interviews (and also occasionally irritating comment by the interviewer)

Less Photogenic Kurd Women Fighters
Less photogenic perhaps than the images we are currently being shown of Kurdish female guerrilla fighters, this photo is probably of a female guerrilla unit of the PKK in Turkish Kurdistan taken perhaps a couple of decades ago. In order to counter accusations by the Turkish state of female guerrilla “immoral” behaviour, the PKK kept the genders in separate fighting units.
Two Kurdish Women Fighters kefiyah headscarf
Two female guerrillas of the YPG resting but ready to go into action. They are on the front line against ISIS in Syria.

A discussion on women in Kurdistan and Kurdish women fighters (note that there are two parts of Kurdistan under discussion here – Iraqi and Syrian; however there is also Turkey, where the majority of the Kurds live and Iran):

Kurdish Women Heavy Machine gun v ISIS N_Iraq
Female fighters of the guerrilla YPG with a heavy machine gun (light cannon?) in the front line against ISIS
Kurdish women guerrilas against FSA, Syria
Kurdish female guerrilla fighters opposing the Free Syrian Army, sponsored by NATO against the Syrian state, in 2011. The FSA has since been overcome or incorporated into ISIS.


  1. Oren

    In the first picture – these are not Kurdish fighters, but IDF soldiers. They’re all dressed in IDF combat uniforms and holding IMI CTAR-21 rifles.

    1. Jayzes, thanks, what a terrible mistake, Oren, if you are right. How can you tell they are dressed in IDF uniforms? Now that you mention it, I don’t know much about guns but certainly they look very modern and I know the YPG were fighting mostly with Kalashnikovs. If I can confirm I will definitely remove …

      The photo was on the Internet as YPG female fighters … 😦

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