In America, some attention-seeking activists purposely got arrested by blocking traffic outside the Trump International Hotel so they could later become the face of so-called gender oppression.
Their PR stunt stole attention from the most powerful symbols of feminism: women in the Middle East—Christians, Kurds, Arabs, Yazidis—risking their lives to vanquish Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) as a step towards starting a new era for women in the region.
The Iraqi and Syrian Christians who stare daily into the darkness of genocide have, after a long and bloody period of patience and non-violence, formed self-defense forces, including an all-female force in Syria.
The Beth Nahrin Women Protection Forces is a branch of the 2,000-strong Syriac Military Council, a Christian militia that says it includes Assyrians, Chaldeans and Syriacs. The Christian force is part of a U.S.-backed coalition named the Syrian Democratic Forces that includes Kurds and Sunni Arabs and is marching on Raqqa, the “capitol” of ISIS’ “caliphate.”
Watch a video about this force titled “Meet the Christian Women Fighting ISIS,” which shows a camp with 50 female recruits in the Kurdish area of northern Syria:
ISIS is believed to still be holding many Yazidi women and girls as sex slaves and the other female Yazidis are determined to put an end to it. The Kurdish Peshmerga in Iraq has trained at least two female Yazidi forces, the 1,700-strong Sun Ladies and the Sinjar Women’s Units.
The Iraqi Kurdistan government is proud of how its Peshmerga forces put men and women on equal footing. The same goes for other Kurdish groups in Iraq that are fighting both ISIS and the Iranian regime, like the Kurdistan Freedom Party (PAK) and the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI).
The Syrian Democratic Forces include the Kurdish YPG group, with a female component known as the YPJ Women’s Defense Units. The Kurdish YPG is accused of being a branch of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which is designated as a terrorist group by the U.S., E.U. and Turkey. The U.S. government nonetheless backs the YPG, disputing the claim that YPG and PKK are synonymous.
A Twitter posting from ANF News shows female Kurdish fighters purportedly handing out flowers to women in villages freed from ISIS and is accompanied with a quote: “We’ll liberate women from slavery, atrocity and make every day March 8 [International Women’s Day].”
Sunni Arab women are also in on the action. The U.S. military has proudly distributed pictures showing female fighters who belong to the Syrian Arab Coalition, another component of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), being trained and armed ahead of the planned attack on Raqqa.
For the female Kurdish commanders, they are not only risking their lives to defeat ISIS but for the sake of the next generation of girls.
The commander of the female Kurdish forces in Syria, Rojda Felat, has vowed to free the Yazidi women enslaved by ISIS as part of a broader struggle for women’s rights. She said, “Wherever a man is threatening a woman, our forces will struggle against this,” according to a report referenced in a PJ Media article.
In an interview published on International Women’s Day, Felat spoke words that should stiffen the spine and inspire every women’s right activist:
“In the Middle East women are assigned traditional roles such as wife, mother, house-worker. With the establishment of the SDF, however, this has changed and traditional roles have been turned upside down … With the SDF, the women of our region have taken developments by the scruff of the neck and left their imprint on the direction of the battle. As a result, women have re-established themselves in every sphere of life.”
International Women’s Day would have been better honored by broadcasting those words and telling these stories than by skipping work, politicizing the day or getting arrested for blocking traffic as the radical Muslim-American activist and left-wing star Linda Sarsour was.
Ryan Mauro is ClarionProject.org’s national security analyst and an adjunct professor of homeland security. Mauro is frequently interviewed on top-tier television and radio. To invite Ryan to speak please contact us.