Kurdish women take up arms, says Syrian Observatory for Human Rights

Rojwomen – 19.3.2013 – Around 150 Kurdish women in the war-wracked northern Syrian province of Aleppo have set up a fighting battalion, a monitoring group said on Saturday.

“The Kurdish popular committees have set up the first women’s battalion, comprising some 150 women fighters. The battalion is named the Martyr Rokan Battalion,” said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. “While women are now fighting alongside the rebels, pro-regime forces and Kurdish militia, this is the first women’s battalion as such,” said Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman. The Observatory circulated an amateur photograph of the battalion, showing scores of members in military fatigues, standing in rows before their female leadership.“Women are now playing a major role in the fighting in Syria,” Abdel Rahman told AFP.

The women’s battalion was announced in Ifrin, the scene in late 2012 of violence pitting Kurdish fighters against Arab rebels fighting the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

President Assad’s troops pulled out from majority Kurdish areas in 2012, and while Kurds have been split over the anti-regime revolt in Syria, most have chosen to remain neutral in the conflict. An agreement in Ras al-Ain on the Turkish border last week brought an end to fighting between Kurds and Islamist rebels, though some activists have described the agreement brokered by a prominent Christian dissident as fragile. The announcement of the Kurdish women’s battalion comes a month after pro-regime forces set up the National Defence Forces, a paramilitary unit in which women of all ages have been asked to volunteer. Anti-regime activists have also distributed images of women fighters joining rebel ranks. “Women are fighting on all the fronts now, though it’s possibly the Islamist rebel ranks that have the fewest women taking part in them,” the Observatory’s Abdel Rahman said.