The Yazidi women fighting Daesh (ISIS) — Brief explanation

Picture by: Alfred Yaghobzadeh — Yazidi Women, Their Bodies a Battlefield

1. Brief explanation on Daesh

Daesh or ISIS is a terrorist group which derived from Al Qaeda. They want to achieve a Caliphate (something like a Muslim monarchy even more a theological empire) and to get rid of anyone who is in their opinion working against their beliefs. They are a part of the Sunni part of the Islam. The other big practice of Islam are the Shiites. 90 % of the Muslims are Sunnis, and on paper their believes sound more reasonable — according to them a Caliph (a leader can be any devoted Muslim with the right qualifications and he doesn’t need to be a descended of the prophet Mohammed). On the other hand Shiites which are the other 10 % are much more traditional and are firm supporters of the idea that rulers must be direct descendants of Mohammed, there for they can be defined as a lineage society.

There are many other details on how Deash came out and about. What they are currently doing outside their occupied territories are terrorist attacks, illegal deals and working on their terrorist networks which operate within countries that are not under their direct influence. Inside their territories which occupy portions of Iraq and Syria, they have so far legalized slavery and rape, they educate local children against the Western enemy, beheading foreign individuals, plunder what people leave behind them while fleeing in fear and they are conducting a genocide against the Yazidi people.

2. Brief explanation about the Yazidi & the role of women

The Yazidis are a nation which is not recognized by the Qu’ran and thus Daesh does not think of them as people, and even considers them to be worse than Jews or Christians. The Yazidi believe that they are the first religion (as all of them do) and even their name means “I was created by G-d); they assume they are descendants of Adam. Some Sunnis went as far as pronouncing them as heretics who were once Muslim.

The Kurdish society- from where the Yazidis are is male-dominated. The Yazidis either live in one place ( a village of 60 houses) or they are nomads. They grow livestock or different foods, what is interesting is that they avoid doing business. They recognize two rulers — the chief sikh who is responsible for the internal affairs and a chief temporal authority — that is a representative in external affairs.

They divide themselves into casts and they do not inter-marry. They make a clear distinction between good and evil, where G-d (Peacock Angel) is good and the Devil ( a fallen angel) is bad, the confusion that the Yazidis are devil worshipers comes from the fact that offerings are made to the Devil, because G-d is good enough that he would not need offerings.

The Yazidis are not a sect of any religion nor can they be linked to a precise one. Their traditions and rituals are nothing out of the ordinary- they have daily prayers, they celebrate New Years ( tho on a different day), they sometimes abstain from sex and they have an annual pilgrimage which is accompanied by music and dances. They baptize their children, but circumcision is not mandatory. They have two holy books, one of them speaks about the creation and the Godly rules while the other one mainly speaks about the promises of the Devil.

Their families are patriarchal where the father has the final word. Men and women dress differently, though as women get older their clothing begins to resemble that of a man. Marriage comes from mutual attraction but the approval of the heads of the families is a must. The groom then pays 30 goats or an equivalent to either the father, brother or another male relative of the bride. Women do not cover their faces and are not prohibited of interacting with men.

The Kurds are definite leaders in gender equality among their neighbors. There are reported cases of women fighting alongside men against enemies, women being heads of military units or being political leaders it goes as far as some women even being pronounced as national symbols. Regardless role of women in the Yazidi group is very strict and limited.

3. Yazidi women and their fight

The group of Yazidi women which is fighting against Daesh is guided by the Kurdistan Workers Party. Many of them have fled from Daesh, by whom they were raped, tortured or made to convert to Islam. A great deal of those women have lost their men or families during the massacres.

These women are now building houses and huts for themselves and their children, while some of them also receive military training. Some women join to protect themselves and the others like them, while others join because they are unhappy serving their regular duties at home.

“I have learned that as a woman I too have rights as well as duties,” Kolan says. “My role isn’t just to wear make up and dresses and get men to like me. I learned that my role also involves protecting myself and my people. When they need me on the battle front though, I will be ready.” — A quote by a Yazidi fighter for Niqash which is a website for briefings from inside Iraq.

The Yazidi women are residing in the Sinjar Mountains in northern Iraq. We don’t have an exact number of them, but the women from the Kurdish Women Protection unit together with the People’s protection unit could be thousands.

These women sleep in their uniforms and boots and will continue to do so, until they have what they want- which is independence.

Daesh is not occupying only 20 % of that territory, so they are dangerously close to each other — the problem is they can’t hold more territory and they can’t afford to lose more fighters and those women have been killing up to 10 Daesh soldiers daily.

Some of the Yazidi women fighetrs are not even teenagers and some of them even fled their families in Turkey to fight with their sisters. The ages vary between thirteen and a bit over thirty but they are never sent to the front unless they have reached eighteen.

Daesh warriors believe that death by a woman will not send you to heaven because you will be denied “Jannah”. Some women even reported finding drugs on Daesh soldiers which were supposed to make them even more ruthless in their jihad.

Some of these girls are influenced by the PKK to join the fighters, the PKK promotes revolutionary Marxist ideologies and the girls learn from different speeches and broadcast. It is not just a fight, it’s also about a certain philosophy which is way different from what they are used to now.

4. Conclusion

These women surely do not have it easy. Either because they have lost their loved ones, because they have been once enslaved by Daesh or because they have fled their families in order to fight for what they believe.

They have so far not only showed courage, but also decisiveness which big time actors like the US, EU or Russia can learn from.

The Muslim world will never be the same, not after the Arab Spring and not after Daesh. The Arab Spring began with peaceful demonstration, those who wanted more democratic states finally started to speak out, until the governments made them silent forever.

Next time you see pictures of thousands of refugees, thousands of men crossing borders- remember that those women stayed to fight, and remember many of them are still in the hands of Daesh.

Many citizens of the Arab countries did not want change, it was not comfortable for them or they just simply firmly believed in their ideals and ways and saw no need for change but these women, they not only see the need for change, they grasp this ugly opportunity and will carry on as long as it will take them, to show the world that they will no longer subdue to the will of men and they are not sinners or evil by not doing so.

Just look at the result of empowering women for the first time, the result of them taking their own choices.

Some of these women, or maybe most, perhaps even all will die, but they will die freer than they ever were before.


1. The Yazidis a brief explanation -

2. Matriarchy in Kurdistan? Women Rulers in Kurdish History — van Bruinessen, Martin. The International Journal of Kurdish Studies6.1/2 (Fall 1993): 25-D. — Role of women

3. The women and their fight — -

4. The women and their fight —

5. The women and their fight —

6. Visa pour l’Image 2015 : Alfred Yaghobzadeh — Yazidi Women, Their Bodies a Battlefield –