Iraqi women fighters battling ISIS militants
KIRKUK - Ummaya al-Jobouri became the first woman in Iraqi modern history appointed “chieftain”. A state body that included Iraq’s 30 prominent tribes bestowed the title for heroic martyrdom while leading male and female fighters against Islamic State (ISIS) militants in 2014.
Iraqi women of various ethnic and religious backgrounds, including both Sunni and Shia, tribal Arab, Kurdish, Yazidi and Turkmen have taken up arms against ISIS.
In Iraq’s northern oil-rich Kurdish region, women fighters played important roles in achieved heroic victories, according to Kurdish TV stations.
Women from Turkey, including Kurds, smuggled themselves through Syria into Iraq’s northern Kurdistan, where they formed an all-female unit that has been fighting ISIS in the areas still under its control.
“Our aim is to avenge the slavery, rape and sex trade of Yazidi women in Sinjar,” a Kurdish woman fighting ISIS for the past 15 months told a local Kurdish station.
Identifying herself as Sarah and wielding an AK-47 with several magazines wrapped around her neck and body and armed with six pistols, she said the all-female unit grew from three fighters in mid- 2014 to several hundred in December.
“Our role is humanitarian, namely to help people survive the genocides and massacres committed by ISIS,” she said, adding that she had killed about six dozen ISIS fighters.
Videos on YouTube showed a handful of Iraqi women fighters chasing and shooting at random at three men a narrator said were ISIS militants in August near the Sinjar mountains in northern Iraq. The authenticity of the video could not be independently verified.
Sinjar had come to define the war for northern Iraq since ISIS seized it in August 2014. Militants killed, enslaved or kidnapped thousands of Yazidis, including women and children.
About 50,000 others were trapped without food or water on mountains above the city for days until they were rescued by Syrian Kurdish forces. ISIS considers Yazidis infidels who should convert to Islam or be killed.
Jobouri was a 45-year-old mother of four who served as an adviser on women’s affairs to Iraq’s northern Saladin Governorate. Several family members, including her father and two brothers, were killed by al- Qaeda.
On June 12, 2014, ISIS advanced towards al-Alam, 16km east of Tikrit, the capital of Saladin. Accompanied by her younger brother, Jobouri led tribesmen into a battle with ISIS that lasted days. Al-Alam remained free of ISIS until Jobouri was killed ten days into the fight.
Jobouri’s brother Marwan said after the fall of Mosul, to ISIS on June 10, 2014, “tens of soldiers began reaching our town. They were Shia Muslims who were afraid that ISIS would kill them”.
“But Ummaya took them in, comforted them, gave them shelter and fake identification cards and took them in her car to safer areas,” Marwan said.
When ISIS approached her town on June 22, 2014, Ummaya al-Jobouri was feeding her fighters, Marwan said. He said when “confrontations escalated, she grabbed her [rocket-propelled grenade launcher] to lead her fighters to the battle front.
“She killed tens of ISIS militants before one of the group’s snipers shot her in the heart, killing her instantly.”
He said her bravery helped him evacuate the town of women, children and the elderly.
Rangin Yousif, 25, is another example of a brave Iraqi woman fighting ISIS. The mother of two was a Kurdish peshmerga officer who was killed in 2014 while leading a division in a confrontation with ISIS in an area south of Kirkuk.
Mijda Said, a peshmerga fighter in the division, said although Yousif was wounded by shrapnel, “she continued leading the division, giving orders and firing at ISIS.
“When ISIS retreated, Yousif‘s bleeding became severe and she died in the hospital shortly afterward.”
In Mosul, ISIS executed four Turkmen women from the village of Hasan Koy, about 45km west of Mosul after accusing the four of collaborating with Iraqi security.
Nawal al-Shahwani, the director of the state’s sugar factory in Mosul, was killed by firing squad on September 29th, when she refused ISIS orders to reopen the factory.
Since June 2014, tens of other women in Mosul, including doctors, activists and former parliamentary aspirants, were sentenced to death by ISIS allegedly for disobeying its orders or contacting Iraqi security.
Gulbahar Bayatli, 31, is a famed Turkmen female fighter. The mother of three comes from Amirli. When ISIS seized Amirli on June 10, 2014, “hundreds of women and children were evacuated by helicopters but I and tens of other women insisted to stay,” Bayatli said in an interview.
“We provided food to the fighters and, since we were armed with machine guns, we helped guard our homes,” she said. “Under siege and heavy fire by ISIS for 82 days, we did not surrender.”
On September 1, 2014, ISIS pulled out of Amirli in the first known Iraqi victory in the war on ISIS.
Suda Khlaf al-Swidawy, a woman from Anbar province dared to stand up to ISIS fighters.
One day, ISIS fighters came to her doorstep to introduce themselves and meet the men of the house, Swidawy adamantly refused. According to a relative who was there, Swidawy insisted that “as long as she’s alive, she will not allow them to step a foot in her house.
“They shot her dead and met the men in the household.”