Controlling vast areas of land in Syria and Iraq, and overseeing over 6 million people, ISIS is the single largest and most dangerous terrorist organization in the Middle East. After the Syrian Army failed to protect its citizens against the threat, the people were left with no one to defend them. In 2012, the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) stepped up to the cause. Within these civilian armed forces is the YPJ, an all-women military unit.
The women who join YPJ are varied. Coming from the typically poorer regions and families in the areas, girls as young as 16 join the group in order to fight for their country. Either with or without the permission of their families, some girls travel from as far away as neighboring Turkey in order to become YPJ fighters. There is only one barring requirement for new inductees, that they be unmarried.
The reasons for these women to enlist in YPJ vary. Some are simply fighting for their country, while others are more idealistic. Such sentiments as equal rights, religious freedom, and a call for democracy can be heard throughout the make-shift training camp for new recruits.
YPJ volunteers explain that ISIS fears them, as in that organization, death by a woman is said to send a militant straight to hell. So these women and girls leave their families and villages to fight for their land and their freedom.