Inside Kobane: Kurdish women on the frontline

ISIS has declared a self-styled caliphate in areas under its control in Iraq and Syria

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On the front lines of the battle for Kobane, Kurdish female fighters have been playing a major role in helping defend the Syrian town from an onslaught by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) extremist group.

Pervin Kobane, the 19-year-old daughter of a farmer, is one of them.

She is part of a team holding an eastern front-line position that comes under regular attack from the extremist fighters, who have been trying to seize the town since mid-September.

ISIS has declared a self-styled caliphate in areas under its control in Iraq and Syria, governing it according to its violent interpretation of Shariah law. The Kurdish men and women fighting in Kobane are determined not to lose the town to the extremists.

An exclusive report shot by video-journalist Jake Simkin inside Kobane late last month offered a rare, in-depth glimpse of the destruction that more than two months of fighting has inflicted on the Kurdish town in northern Syria by the Turkish border.

It also illustrated what life is like for fighters like Pervin, who says she doesn’t really have dreams beyond the present.

“We must save our love for Apo, and Kurdistan and our martyrs,” she said, referring to Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan, whose group has been fighting Turkey for Kurdish autonomy.

Nearby, one of Pervin’s comrades saw something moving amid the destroyed remains of central Kobane and opened fire.

Pervin left home and took up arms two years ago as the overstretched forces of Syrian President Bashar Assad withdrew from Kurdish areas in northern Syria. She joined the Syrian Kurdish women’s self-defense force, known by its Kurdish acronym YPJ. The female YPJ fighters are now integrated with the men’s units, the YPG.

“I didn’t really have any other ambitions. I just wanted to live a free life, as a woman, (to) be able to see our reality, and have our rights and just live,” she said.

Aided by a small Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga force and Syrian rebels, they have been stubbornly defending the town since mid-September and have been aided by over 280 airstrikes by the U.S.-led coalition.

“We won’t allow the terrorist groups in until the last drop of our blood,” Pervin said.

After half a year serving away from her hometown, she returned with Kurdish forces two months ago to Kobane.

Most fighting happens at night. The fighters can only sleep during the day, with a rotating two-hour sentry watch.

Three weeks ago, Pervin bumped into her father on a street corner.

She was surprised to see him holding a gun. She didn’t know that he too had decided to fight. Her mother is a refugee in Turkey, her only brother studying in Algeria.

“Honestly when I heard my father is fighting on the western front with the YPG I was so proud of him, and it made me want to fight more,” she said.

Her father, Farouk Kobane, joined the town’s defenders in mid-September, when ISIS launched their attack. He was delighted to see his daughter that day three weeks ago, after months without news.

Last week, Simkin traveled with Pervin to the western front, to see her father once again.

She says he is now her comrade first - but she hugs him like a father anyway.

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