Meet the All-Female, All-Volunteer Group Fighting ISIS

Elizabeth Griffin:

Ahmed, like many of the YPJ, is fiercely loyal to her fellow-soldiers. She insists, “I love being a YPJ soldier, I love the other soldiers, we are closer than sisters. This is the only life for me. I can’t imagine living any other way.”

This sentiment, says Trieb, is echoed by all members of the YPJ, who live by a code of honesty, morals, and justice. “Their motto is ‘Haval’ or ‘friendship’,” explains Trieb, “and (it) is of utmost importance to them. They treat each other (and treated me) with a sense of solidarity and sisterhood. They address each other as Haval, and when they spoke to me, they would call me 'Haval Erin'. It enforces a constant sense of belonging and support."

The women range in age from 18-40, though there are some younger recruits like the 12-year-old Hevedar Mohammed (pictured below). Recruits under the age of 18 are not permitted to fight, although they go through some physical training and participate in the group by way of carrying out ‘household’ chores. Hevedar, like many YPJ, was inspired to join because of the group’s reputation for developing strong, independent women and because of its positive standing in the community.

Freedom isn’t free.

/via Nick v.d. Kolk