mathias depardon

 It’s an Islamic State fighter’s worst fear: to be killed by a woman.

In northern Iraq, where Kurdish forces are rapidly regaining territory held by ISIS plenty of female Kurdish soldiers are fighting on the front lines. They’re smaller than their male comrades, but they talk just as tough as they prowl the battlefield clutching automatic rifles and vowing vengeance for those victimized by the Islamic State. “We are equal with the men,” said Zekia Karhan, 26, a female guerrilla from Turkey who is with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, known as the PKK. “Every responsibility for a man is the same for a woman. We are treated equally, and that is why we are fighting.”

The female PKK troops accessorize their olive drab uniforms with colorful scarfs, but they’re as thirsty for battle as anyone.

The leftist PKK has been fighting the Turkish government for decades and is classed as a terrorist organization by the U.S. But its fighters have been going into battle alongside Kurdish peshmerga in recent months and are credited by some locals with turning the tide of battle in Iraq.

The female PKK troops get fired up when they talk about the mass rapes and sex slavery that has been a hallmark of the Islamic State.

“Everywhere they go they kill and do bad things in the name of Islam,” Karhan said. “They captured a lot of women and they are selling them in Syria for $100. They rape women and behead them in the name of Islam.”Karhan said she’d heard stories about the extremists’ fear of being killed by the opposite sex. In northern Iraq, it is said that the Islamic State fighters, who are exclusively male, believe that they won’t be admitted to heaven if they are killed by a woman.

In Makhmur , that may have been the fate of several Sunni extremists gunned down by the PKK.

Shot for Elle Magazine.


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