These Kurdish, Assyrian, Arab Women are Taking Down ISIS in Their Capital

On International Women's Day, the Islamic State is under threat from a force bearing down on their declared capital, Raqqa, that includes Arab, Assyrian and Kurdish women commanders and fighters.

State Department spokesman Mark Toner today reiterated U.S. government support for the Syrian Democratic Forces, an anti-ISIS, anti-Qaeda, anti-Assad coalition currently leading the major Wrath of Euphrates offensive to oust ISIS from their greatest stronghold. The SDF consists of more than 50,000 fighters, female and male commanders, Arabs, Assyrian Christians, Kurds, and other minority ethnic groups.

"They've been very effective -- we've talked about this many times -- in removing ISIS from the battlefield and dislodging them, and ultimately destroying them," Toner said.

Since launching the Wrath of Euphrates operation against ISIS at the beginning of November, the U.S.-backed SDF has liberated more than 3,700 square miles of territory in the drive toward Raqqa.

SDF General Commander Rojda Felat is the Kurdish woman leading the operation. 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."

She hailed the "very many" women's units under the SDF umbrella, including Arab and Assyrian women fighters, noting "people are joining the SDF and YPJ [Kurdish Women's Defense Units] by the droves."

"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 says it has already freed hundreds of Yazidis held as sex slaves by ISIS.

Felat noted that "our male friends are used to this path and are not surprised by this anymore; they respect and support us." Women and men fight side-by-side on the front lines. As far as their male enemies, ISIS fighters believe they won't be admitted into paradise if they're killed by a woman.

Christian Assyrian women, known as the Beth Nahrin force of the Syriac Military Council, have been fighting with the SDF since 2015.

Arab women fighting for the SDF buck cultural norms in their communities, and see the battles as not only crucial to save their homeland but to assert their rightful place in society.