What began as the Arab Spring in early 2010, spread to country after country, in a region known as the MIddle East. What began in Syria as a minor protest, devolved into a major catastrophic war that has not ended, and has had major effects worldwide. Caught up in all of this were the Kurds, an ethnic group native to Western Asia, with many of them living in parts of Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey. The complex intricacies of their cultures, values, religions (groups and sub-groups)and political ideas are delineated as clearly as possible by journalist Lemmon. Theirs is a history that has numerous twists and turns, and at times is difficult to absorb. Her journalistic skills and analysis shine a light on the fact that newsworthy events and catastrophes portraying events in terms of friends and foes could not be further from reality.
Globally, modern women have been fighting to get into the fight, to be legally admitted to governmental armed forces. There is nothing new about the history of women warriors, in fact and myth, going back centuries, e.g., Queen Boudica of the Celts; the Amazons; Diana the Huntress; and women bandits and pirates. For the most part, what is significant about the women who fought in Kobani is that many of them were not clamoring to be warriors, but events, the desire for freedom and equality, the anger over the brutal savagery of ISIS proved to be decisive factors. Added to these movtivating elements was the modern ideology of the imprisoned Kurdish leader, Abdullah Ocalan, who espoused that "women must be equal for society to be truly free." A fateful phone call to Lemmon called her back to a war, to witness, report and research the YPG, the Kurdish Women's Protection Units that were partners to U.S. forces in the region. These women were well-trained, highly motivated, careful and calculating fighters who led both women and men into battle. In numerous instances, the YPG women were in the lead in these battles, crossing the Euphrates River to liberate Manbij, and in the final liberation of Raqqa that was a major defeat for ISIS. Lemmon takes readers to the battlefronts with individual women who fought for territory and for ideals.
Kobani, Syria is located at the border with Turkey, and it is where the YPG hit ISIS with a major clear loss. Part of the complex history of the Kurds is that the Turks had been fighting for many years with what they deemed to be Kurdish extremists. At a decisive time during the fighting, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was about to deny access to Turkey’s Incirlik Air Base, which was used by the US Air Force. The YPG was part of a coaltion that included US forces that depended upon support from the US Air Force. What ensued were alternating and confusing decisions by both the Obama and Trump administrations, and ended with an armed expansion of forces known as the Syrian Democratic Forces. This resulted in great victories over ISIS, but tragic and unjust results for the Kurds, as President Trump withdrew US troops from the region, which gave the green light for Turkish forces to lead an offensive against Kurdish-led northeastern Syria. The women of YPG were shocked but not deterred. In 2019, when Lemmon last visited the area, the women's councils, that were part of the overall plan for justice, were still in existence and there were towns in northeastern Syria that Turkey had not captured. As one of the women stated, "It is really painful to have to fight Turkey in the same places we liberated from ISIS." These women have not given up and know, " ... it is so very difficult to build something in the middle of destruction." There is nothing certain about how this will be resolved. The only certainty is that the women, who fought for justice, remain dedicated to that cause and are encouraging others to do the same.