A second unit of Yazidi women fighting under the Syrian Democratic Forces has been deployed into Raqqa, fighting not only to defeat the Islamic State in their declared capital but to avenge the genocide and abuse perpetrated on their people.
It’s been three years since ISIS launched their campaign of terror against Yazidis in northern Iraq, branding the followers of the ancient gnostic faith as devil worshippers. Yazidis have been murdered, from executions to being buried alive or starving to death, and abducted, with some 7,000 women and girls sold into sexual slavery.
SDF General Commander Rojda Felat, the Kurdish woman leading the Wrath of Euphrates operation that’s taken 55 percent of Raqqa thus far, has long vowed that rescuing Yazidis kidnapped by ISIS is a top priority. In a June interview with a Kurdish newspaper, she vowed that “wherever there is an attack against humanity we, as the Syrian Democratic Forces, will be there; wherever there is a suppressed woman, that is a battleground for us.”
“Not only for the women of Shengal [Yazidis], wherever a woman is being suppressed, wherever a man is threatening a woman, our forces will struggle against this. Our struggle for the liberation of our people will become a beacon for all resisting peoples,” she added.
The SDF, a multi-ethnic, multi-sectarian force some 50,000 strong, has already freed hundreds of Yazidis held as sex slaves by ISIS. As the operation began in November, Yazidi women of the Sinjar Women’s Units (YJS) joined the fight.
Some footage belonging to #YJŞ (Shengal Women’s Units) fighters in ongoing #Raqqa operation.#SDF #YPG #YPJ #Yazidi pic.twitter.com/XtxNzNiwLV
— Country of Kurds (@DefenceUnits) July 18, 2017
Last week, a second YJS unit was sent into Raqqa.
YJS fighter Bêrîtan Êzîdxan, a member of the recently arrived unit, told Kurdish news agency ANF that their “presence in Raqqa is the vital artery that leads to our goal” to free all the women held captive by ISIS. “To be here on the day of the genocide anniversary, to be standing in this emplacement, means to me the fulfillment of my dreams of taking revenge,” she said.
“At the time of the genocide I vowed to take revenge for all our people that were killed and for all our women, at all costs,” said YJS fighter Dersim Êzîdxan. “Having come now to Raqqa three years after the genocide, is for me the realization of the promise I gave.”
“Everywhere I turn in #Raqqa,my eyes look for them.I feel like my family is here and they’ll turn up just around a corner”
YJŞ Tekoşin Apoci pic.twitter.com/A2b3iOu4jh
— CLAUDIA (@ClaudiaAlMina) August 7, 2017
YJS fighter Tekoşin Apoci said that “everywhere I turn in Raqqa, my eyes look” for the 12 members of her family who were abducted by ISIS three years ago. “I feel like my family is here and they will turn up just around a corner.”
“When I heard that our command was to send forces to Raqqa, I was ecstatic to be coming here. I came, but with every building I see I ask myself how many Êzidî women were there, are they still alive or have they been killed by the gangs and it hurts my soul,” she said.
One YJS rescue this week was a 13-year-old boy who had been kidnapped by ISIS at age 10. The boy was forced to convert to Islam and undergo ISIS training.
Today, ANF reported that 210 more women graduated from military training to join the SDF. Last month, Jaysh al-Thuwar, an SDF-aligned force of Kurds, Arabs and Turkmen fighting both ISIS and Bashar al-Assad, announced that, having seen how well the SDF women fight, they would begin accepting women recruits.
The SDF reported Wednesday that 29 ISIS terrorists were killed and 264 civilians rescued from the Nazlat Shehadeh neighborhood in southern Raqqa.
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