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Middle East and Africa

If the Kurdish fighters make us feel ashamed

Their faces, young and courageous, have captured the surprised attention of the global mass media. But the Kurd girl warriors, who are also ready to die to defend their homes against the advance of Isis, are described with different accents according to the latitudes of the world where they are talked about. Oasis introduces some of these girl warriors to its readers.

We are used to seeing women in uniform at the side of their male comrades in the ranks of Western contingents sent on peace-keeping missions or to war zones. But despite this, the newspaper accounts of recent months have paid special – and almost surprised – attention to the presence of women in the ranks of the Kurd peshmerga. Here the women fighters play a primary role, with courage and audacity, in the crisis unleashed by the advance of the Islamic State. And yet this amazement should not be so great: Saladin himself wanted Kurd women fighters in his ranks and the formation of a group of Kurd women warriors goes back to 1996 with the recruitment of the first eleven girls to the ranks of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. In the context of the attention in the mass media that is generated by these fighters, it is interesting to observe the different shadings that exist – according to the various latitudes of the world – which characterise the various reports, interviews and reportages that have been published.



In Italy Il Corriere della Sera, on 16 October of this year, had on its front page the face of Commander Nesrin, a nineteen-year-old girl whose story was told in detail by Lorenzo Cremonesi, a correspondent sent out to the border between Syria and Turkey. Arin Mahmud Mohammad – the real name of this female warrior – left the Faculty of Engineering of the University of Aleppo to go and defend the positions of the YPG which has been attacked by the men of the Islamic State. Cremonesi, like Molinari in La Stampa, stressed the potential advantage of having women face up to the Jihadists and allowed Nesrin herself to speak: ‘[The men of the Caliphate] say that their men who are killed in the so-called holy war by enemy women do not go to paradise’. This is a fact that is said to have brought about, in some cases, their retreat because of a fear of dying ‘to no purpose’.



And how do the Arab mass media see the role of women in war? Al Jazeera directly affirms that the Kurd women soldiers ‘offer an alternative image of Muslim women’ compared to that which is in vogue in most of the mass media. For once the Saudi Al Arabiya is in agreement with their colleagues of Qatar: in the dialogue with the American scholar Kéchichian it was emphasised how the significance of the Kurd women warriors goes beyond military need: it is said to indicate that they are members to the full of society, also pointing out the pathway to a ‘moderate’ Sunni Islam as opposed to the ‘extremist version of Sunni Islam practised by the militants of Isis’. This is an opinion that seems to be shared by the fighting women themselves, who, indeed, declared to the New York Post that is ‘It’s an honor to be part of a modern Muslim country that allows women to defend the homeland’. This American daily newspaper, therefore, emphasised that these women warriors belong to a Muslim community.



Some members of the European mass media (such as the BBC and El Mundo) give primary space to the femininity that these girls ‘conserve’ even though they are in the front line. With a certain stress on ‘glamour’, they refer to the make up, the combed hair and the lipstick that these girls do not want to forego.



These girls would also like to study, an article, amongst other articles of El Mundo, emphasises, but now the emergency is too serious: fighting is what is required, and if the Kurd politicians say they want a society that guarantees equality, this is the moment to demonstrate that the army cannot be an exception. In the United States of America, the review Foreign Policy is less full of compliments and argues that these are radicalised girls, many of whom belong to a Marxist party which has been placed by Washington on its list of terrorist organisations: the PKK, the Workers’ Party of Kurdistan.



This is not the opinion of the New Yorker where they receive support: ‘They fighting for us too’. And to such an extent as to make us feel ‘a little ashamed. We are here in safety…while they are at risk on the barricades’.1




1 Lorenzo Cremonesi, Arin, dall’università alle trincee «Noi ragazze curde contro l’ISIS», Il Corriere della Sera, October 16th 2014, 15.

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