Friday 28 April 2017

Syrian army creates new all-female battalion for the fight against Isil

A Kurdish female fighter smokes a cigarette as she sits at the entrance of Bustan al-Basha area in Aleppo, Syria. Photo: Reuters
A Kurdish female fighter smokes a cigarette as she sits at the entrance of Bustan al-Basha area in Aleppo, Syria. Photo: Reuters

Bethan McKernan in Beirut

The Syrian army has created a new battalion solely consisting of female recruits who have signed up for the fight against Isil, local media reported.

Al-Masdar News, which is sympathetic to the Syrian regime, posted a video of several dozen women in combat fatigues and headscarves taking part in target practice and singing patriotic songs.

The battalion, named Khansawat Souria, is made up of around 150 women from towns in Qamishli in the north of the country. It is led by Ba'ath party member Jazya Tu'mah. Qamishli city itself is a Kurdish centre which has become strategically important during the course of Syria's civil war. The region has long been fought over by Kurdish, Syrian army and Isil forces.

The newly formed battalion and video appear to have been created in the style of the female units of the Kurdish troops fighting off Isil in the region.

Chaos

The Women's Protection Units (YPJ) was set up in 2012 to empower women in the fight to carve out an autonomous Kurdish state in northern Syria, and fight off extremist groups which have flourished in the chaos of war.

Dozens of Arab and Yazidi women have joined fighting units after their towns have been liberated by the YPJ, inspired by their example.

The number of women in the Syrian armed forces has grown since the outbreak of the civil war in 2011.

The Republican Guard, a unit which defends Damascus, created an all-female section in 2013, which has been nicknamed the "Lionesses of National Defence".

Meanwhile, Syria's military command announced it was expanding military operations against Isil in the country's north yesterday, a move that draws government forces closer to potential conflict with Turkish troops and allied Syrian opposition forces fighting extremists in the region. (© London Independent)

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