WCW: Hêza and Deniz and Rojin and All the Women Like Them
News that US-backed Iraqi forces retook Mosul has been prevalent in many news feeds; this has overshadowed some other significant ongoing events. One of those is the current battle for Raqqa, the de facto capital of the ISIS “caliphate.” Raqqa covers nearly 800 square miles, with a former population of approximately a quarter of a million.
Among the alliance of US coalition-supported SDF (Syrian Defense Force) units, militias, and less definable formations is this woman. Her name is Hêza. She is a member of what is called the Shengal Women’s Units (YJŞ).
Hêza is a Yezidi (Êzidî), a small (and shrinking) ethnic group that has been the focus of such ISIS barbarity over the last three years that a measurable portion of its population has been exterminated or completely displaced. Most Yezidi males encountered by ISIS are killed, regardless of age. Those captured are tortured and killed. Yezidi women — also regardless of age — are sold and traded as sex slaves.
Thousands of Yezidi females have been treated thus, from toddlers on up. What they have endured (and continue to endure) under the control of IS is beyond my ability to comprehend, much less describe. Open slave markets reminiscent of Roman times exist in IS-controlled cities. Institutional rape is a foregone reality. Gynophagia (a form of sexual cannibalism) and gynophagic erotophonophilia (sexual cannibalism involving murder or mutilation of a women during sex) have been documented.
Do too much research and you’ll read or see such things as will make you fight not to vomit.
Hêza was captured in August of 2014 after the siege of Mt. Sinjar. She was a slave to Daesh masters (or “gangs” of Daesh) for over two years, attempting suicide by poison at least twice, but eventually escaped and joined the YJŞ. The YJŞ is an all-female, all-Yezidi unit, which is currently fighting in Raqqa.
In a recent interview recorded by the YPJ, Hêza says,
“I avenge the Êzidî women. I want to write the history and story of freedom in this fight.”
This is Rojin Shingal. She is another YJŞ soldier now somewhere in Raqqa. So are the women shown below.
The YJŞ is at least nominally affiliated with the YPJ (Women’s Defence Units) and allied with Kurdish forces. Its commander, Deniz Şengal, was recently interviewed by the Ajansa Nûçeyan a Hawar news agency. Said Şengal,
“ISIS gangs enslaved over 5,000 Êzidî women and brought them all to Raqqa. So, it is our duty to save Êzidî women from ISIS gangs and avenge the women sold as slaves in Mosul and Raqqa. Whatever the price may be for the emancipation of Êzidî women is, we are ready to pay it.”
YJŞ soldiers began deploying to Raqqa sometime after July 3rd in unknown strength. Any casualties they may have suffered there are currently unknown; as of this writing the Kurdish YPG (People’s Defense Units) haven’t updated their “fallen martyr” page since July 11th.
Fighting in Raqqa and the surrounding area is, in gross understatement, chaotic. It’s a maelstrom of competing factions and bitter fighting, punctuated at times by heartbreaking rescues, acts of improbable valor, and to use a banal, insufficient word, atrocity. The city itself, like Mosul and others, is a ruin.
Among those fighting for Raqqa are Kurds, Yezidis, Syrian government troops (which recently seized four nearby oil fields and just today gained control of the Rumayalan Dam), IS-hired mercenaries, Syrian-hired mercenaries, Iranian-hired mercenaries, Jaish al-Thuwar and other SDF elements, foreign volunteers, and even, reportedly, Turks and Turkish-led mercenaries fighting both IS and the Kurds. It’s impossible to keep up with all of it, at least from behind a desk half a world away.
They’re not the first all-female units, of course; there have been several such Kurdish formations for some time now, and the Syrian Democratic Forces just announced last week they’d established the Battalion of Martyr Amara for Arab women to fight Daesh. There is also a Christian force known as Beth Nahrin, comprised of Syriac Christian women. Beth Nahrin was involved in the liberation of al-Hawl and Hasakah province over a year ago.
Observed clinically, the proliferation of all-female units in the region is an interesting phenomenon. It was dismissed in its early days by pundits as publicity stunts, token gestures, or posturing without any real impact in combat. This is perhaps due to the enthusiastic response of Western readers and social media addicts to images of heavily armed, beautiful female Kurdish fighters rucking off into the distance to do battle with Daesh.
I don’t think it’s that simple. I believe it’s entirely possible we’re seeing a unique, regional evolution in warfare, a response to the formalized and regulated depravity of the Daesh “caliphate.” Women in the region are viscerally aware of Daesh’s institutionalized trade in sex slaves, and unabashed (often public) degradation of females. They’ve seen the perverse, widespread pride IS takes in the perpetration of vile sexual acts upon subjugated women in every ISIS-controlled territory.
Why wouldn’t they react?
It is not surprising at all that we’ve seen the establishment of all-female units; in fact it’s quite likely that some of them are more ruthless and battlefield effective than their male counterparts.
The stars of today’s Woman Crush Wednesday are Hêza, Rojin Shingal, Deniz Şengal, and every other woman like them.
Good hunting, ladies.
There are a number of place you can watch to keep up with the progress of fighting in Raqqa and the region:
Read the Southfront SDF feed.
Watch this brilliant living map of battlefield activity.
Join us every Wednesday through the end of July for another installment of Woman Crush Wednesday. Beginning in August you’ll see one every other Wednesday.
This article was brought to you today in its entirety by Daniel Defense. Follow them on Instagram, @DanielDefense, or on Facebook, /DanielDefense/.
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About the Author: It might not be too surprising that David Reeder, who never met a $50 word he didn’t like, one of the “leaders” of the pedagogic and frequently obstreperous Breach Bang Clear team — insomuch as they have a leader (the terms orchestra conductor and rodeo clown are equally apropos). A former POG who tastes like chicken, Reeder cannot play the harmonica. He founded Breach-Bang-Clear quite accidentally at his young son’s behest several years ago. He is the Mad Duo’s Chief Wretched Flunky and Breach-Bang-Clear’s HMFIC. A LEO for many years and former AF Security Forces SNCO, he was an O/C at the National Homeland Security Training Center for many years and a longtime MOUT instructor at the Bold Lighting UWS. Reeder has appeared on Fox News Business and written for a number of publications, from US News & World Report and Military.com to RECOIL Magazine and Soldier Systems Daily. All of that sounds way cooler than it actually is. You can read more about him here. Follow his banality on Instagram, @davidreederwrites.
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