The Daughters of Kobani | Gayle Tzemach Lemmon

Summary of: The Daughters of Kobani: The Women Who Took On The Islamic State
By: Gayle Tzemach Lemmon


Embark on a gripping journey through the eyes of the remarkable women who played an essential role in the fight against the Islamic State (ISIS) in the book ‘The Daughters of Kobani: The Women Who Took On The Islamic State’ by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon. In this summary, we’ll take you through the harrowing experiences of Azeema, Rojda, Nowruz, and Znarin, who fought as members of the Women’s Protection Units (YPJ), a Kurdish militia born from inspiring ideology. Through their courageous actions, determination, and indomitable spirit, these women defied the long-held stereotypes about their gender and played a pivotal role in battles against ISIS, ultimately reshaping public perception about women’s capabilities.

Soccer Match to Civil War

In 2000s, a soccer match between two rival clubs in Syria’s Qamishli sparked unrest as police shot and killed unarmed Kurdish fans. This fueled the young Kurds’ willingness to confront the Syrian government, which was put to the test again in 2011 during a peaceful protest against the Assad regime that led to violence. The conflict grew into a global conflagration with millions displaced and sovereign powers waging proxy wars. Young people in northeastern Syria joined the YPG to protect their regions from external attacks while fearing the Islamic extremism stirring among the anti-Assad rebels.

The Contrast of Worldviews

The book discusses the conflicting worldviews of ISIS and the People’s Protection Units (YPG) embodied in their treatment of women. ISIS’s ideology calls for the revival of the Islamic empire of the seventh century with the strictest interpretation of Sharia law. This resulted in the oppression, subjugation, and enslavement of women. The Yazidis suffered this fate in Iraq when ISIS declared them “devil worshippers” and forced them to convert or face death. The YPG, on the other hand, is a Syrian Kurdish political group that was formed as a response to the aggression of the Syrian leader, Bashar al-Assad. It has its origins in the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which was founded by a charismatic Turkish activist named Abdullah Öcalan. Their ideology is based on Kurdish rights, economic justice, and women’s equality, with women being equal to men in a free society. In their fight against ISIS, YPG aimed to defend their ideology as much as their physical territory. Despite defeating ISIS, YPG still faces the challenge of achieving women’s rights, the cornerstone of their worldview.

Young Kurdish Women Fight for Equality

Azeema, Rojda, Nowruz, and Znarin were all raised in conservative Kurdish families, yet were determined to fight for women’s liberation and Kurdish rights. They all joined the YPJ, the women’s branch of the YPG, to fight for their beliefs. The YPJ faced its biggest challenge during the battle for Kobani.

The Partnership that Saved Kobani

In mid-September 2014, ISIS attacked Kobani, a strategic city that, if captured, would allow easy passage between Raqqa and Aleppo. The United States, desperate to find a partner to fight ISIS on the ground in Syria without committing American forces, turned to the Syrian Kurds in the People’s Protection Units (YPG). The YPG had a history of standing up to ISIS and had recently rescued tens of thousands of Yazidis from Mount Sinjar. The partnership was formed, and just weeks later, ISIS launched an attack on Kobani, putting the alliance to the test. This is the story of how the partnership between the United States and the YPG saved Kobani.

The Battle of Kobani

The battle for the Syrian city of Kobani is a vivid account of the brutal conflict between the Kurdish forces and ISIS. The story follows the courageous efforts of Azeema, Rojda, and Nowruz, three female commanders on the front lines, as they lead their troops to fight street by street and house by house against ISIS, which had already taken control of three-quarters of the city. The book describes in gripping detail the moment when Azeema receives a distress call from her comrade Dilawer, who is trapped inside a building with other soldiers, and how she manages to rescue them despite facing continuous fire from ISIS. The story takes a turn when Azeema requests an airstrike from the Americans to provide cover for their rescue mission, resulting in the survival of all 25 soldiers. The book also portrays the impact of American aid on the battle as they send airdrops at night to deliver much-needed medical supplies, ammunition, and arms to Kobani. Despite the relentless attacks from ISIS, the Kurdish forces managed to ward off their advances with the support of the Americans. Finally, the author highlights the unwavering spirit of Nowruz, who relentlessly stood on the YPG and YPJ headquarters waiting for the day when the conflict would end.

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