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The Daughters of Kobani

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Member Reviews

The stories of these female warriors were so compelling. I with the book focused more on them! At times, the author veered away from their story to highlight historical or battle information that, while related to their story, didn’t seem to enhance it. The book is relatively on the shorter side so she couldn’t include all of the important historical information. The quick references to things made it necessary for me as a reader to do a lot of further research to assimilate the information accurately. Thanks to netgalley for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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I have recently become extremely frustrated by a whole lot of people having a lot of very loud opinions about stuff they don’t know anything about, and so I’ve decided to make a concentrated effort to not be like that. When an issue arises that a lot of people are yelling about, rather than shouting along with them, I go to my local library and find some books about the issue/region/people and read them. Then, I form my opinions. 
 
Due to recent events, the Middle East has been (I think it always kind of is) a hot-button topic. I started out reading a bunch of books about Afghanistan and Al-Qaeda, but one thing leads to another and that particular rabbit hole lead to the book Black Flags, which is about Isis, which lead here, to The Daughters of Kobani.
 
The Daughters of Kobani is a sweeping journalistic endeavor focusing on a few brave Kurdish women in war-stricken Syria in a town called Kobani, which was near the Turkish border but fell within Isis control. In 2014, women in this town in northeastern Syria waged a war against their occupiers, fighting alongside Kurdish men. 

When one considers the patriarchal society under Isis control, one realizes just how brave and determined these women must have been to stand and fight. Cornered, surrounded by misery and war on all sides, and being regarded basically sub-human under Isis, they still stood and fought. Without training, without a lot of equipment, at extreme risk to themselves, alongside men who often saw them more as a joke than a threat, they fought. If you want a story about people facing down long, impossible odds, I really don't think you can do better than reading about the Kurdish women who fought against Isis. 
 
The book is set against a backdrop that is so dramatic, it almost doesn’t seem real. On the one hand, you have Isis, this sweeping fundamentalist group that was so radical even Al Qaeda wanted nothing to do with them. On the other hand, you have the dictator of Syria himself killing his own people, tearing his own nation apart in an effort to retain control. Civil war on the left and a fundamentalist militia on the right. The people of Kobani were stuck in a terrible situation, with no relief and no way out. 
 
When Isis swept into Kobani, many people fled. Anyone who could, basically did. Soon, however, it became impossible and those who didn’t leave as soon as they saw trouble brewing were stuck. Isis had snipers on the rooftops, IEDs in the streets. People who were caught trying to flee were captured. Some were used as human shields against US strikes. Some details of Isis slavery are woven throughout this book, including stories of slave markets, women in cages, brides being bought and sold, sex slaves, as well as public executions and the like. The people in Isis-occupied territory faced situations I cannot even begin to imagine. 
 
The women in this book ended up doing what they could, how they could. They were outnumbered and underequipped, but despite that, those who could, fought, not only against Isis, but eventually ended up gaining massive toeholds in the women's rights movement as well. Many of them functioned as snipers. Many of them subverted authority where and how they could when they were capable of doing so. The bravery that must have been involved in these actions is staggering, especially considering the situations encroaching from all sides. Despite the odds, however, these women ended up forming the YPJ, or the Kurdish Women’s Protection Unit, and ultimately ended up being one of the deciding factors that turned the tide of Isis, being instrumental in driving them out of Syria and breaking their control over several important cities in the region. 
 
The Daughters of Kobani is a short book, clocking in at just under 300 pages, and perhaps this is both its greatest strength and it’s downfall. On the one hand, the length of the book makes it easy to get through. It's not overly long, so it doesn't walk that line between interest and emotional exhaustion. On the other hand, I felt like there was too much packed into these pages. The author was both trying to tell the stories of the fighters and trying to give a detailed history of the region and conflict as well. This made me feel, at times, like too much attention was being put on one thing and not enough on the other. Occasionally, I was so desperate to get back to the stories of the women, I skimmed information. 

One thing I will say, is that "Kurdish" is a term that gets thrown around a lot on the news when I hear stories regarding this region, and yet I never quite understood what it meant. A nationality? A cultural group? Something else? Due to the fact that these women are Kurdish, I feel like this book informed me quite a bit about what being Kurdish actually means and how it fits into the tapestry of conflict in the region, something I truly appreciate and plan on reading more about so I can better understand. 
 
The Daughters of Kobani is a powerful journalistic work telling the stories of the women who became a defining force in a very painful, brutal, bloody conflict. This is a book about good vs. evil, only instead of being on the silver screen, some made up action movie, this is real life. These are real living, breathing people who acted despite all their fear, and anger, and the extremely high risk to themselves. Most of these women lost absolutely everything, things I can’t even imagine losing, and still they fought. 
 
Is the book perfect? No, but this is a story that needs to be told. The Daughters of Kobani is a sweeping narrative about the power of women. Ultimately, it’s a story about heroes.
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This book is well-researched and a powerful look at the courageous women who were on the leading the fight on the frontlines and were instrumental in defeating ISIS. A must read!
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This is a very important read. Nothing but respect and admiration for the courage of the women of the Kurdish militia that became part of the world’s best hope for stopping ISIS in Syria.

Drawing from hundreds of hours of interviews, bestselling author Gayle Tzemach Lemmon introduces us to the women fighting on the front lines, determined to not only extinguish the terror of ISIS but also prove that women could lead in war and must enjoy equal rights come the peace.
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The Daughters of Kobani has SO MUCH POTENTIAL.  The true story of an entire female-led force defending their freedoms from an advancing army dedicated to wiping their way of life out is an unbeatable premise.  The real women of the YPJ are deserving of all the awe and international acclaim we can possibly give them.  Unfortunately, I felt like in “Daughters of Kobani,” we spent far too little time with them. Lemmon does a great job analyzing the wider conflict in Syria, and giving backstory on the innumerable political and military factions jockeying for power.  What I wanted more of was, honestly, emotion.  I wanted to know more about what brought these young women to the militia, and how they and their fellow soldiers grappled with society’s constraints. How did the relationships between men and women within the YPJ/YPG reflect the ideals of equality - were there hurdles that had to be overcome?  What did these women hope to do after the war? 

Lemmon deftly intertwines the self-governance of the Kurds and the autonomy of women in this book, and it’s a fascinating paradigm to watch play out. I just wish we got hear more from the women themselves.
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I became familiar with the YPJ (the women's unit of the Kurdish People's Protection Units) a few years ago and was fascinated by the news reports and documentaries about these women fighting for their homeland and, by extent, the Kurdish culture which has so often been oppressed by majority governments.  This book gives a good overview of the conflict in Syria, the various opponents, and the intervention (or lack thereof) by foreign powers.  

I was expecting to hear a bit from the YPJ women themselves, but the author focuses on four characters and the chapters detailing their backgrounds and actions during the war take on a third-person narrative style.  There are also extensive passages about American agents liaising with Kurdish forces that -- while part of the overall story about fighting ISIS -- were not as interesting to me as the sections about the YPJ fighters.  Overall I found this book good but I was hoping for more about the lives, thoughts, and dreams of the YPJ women and material that delved deeper than the mythical Amazon mantle their stories are so often shrouded in.
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Take one war. Combine with women's oppression. Mix with inestimable courage and bravery. The final product...the daughters of Kobani, Syria. Four major female characters are highlighted to illuminate the tenacity and heroism of the Kurdish women who became an all female militia and helped direct men in battle to take back their land against ISIS and other geopolitical forces. In a world where women are expected to be more docile, these rising warriors sacrificed much in the inhumanity of war. The author, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, spent several years researching and traveling to Syria to explore the history of the war and to observe this group of dedicated women fighting not only for their land and tribe but also for women's rights and long term political and social change. Kobani is pressed right up against the Turkish border along with nearby Iraq ,and the people experienced minimal rights within their own country being essentially stateless, with Arab families living on the land owned by the Kurds. The author, with painfully exhaustive research becomes a guide to the history of the war while giving tribute to the women. This non fiction piece is a testimony to accomplishing a goal with grit and boldness. Hillary Clinton thought so. Along with Chelsea, they are adapting this book as a TV series. May we all be so lucky to view both.
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I'm a big fan of strong female protagonists in thriller novels, but nothing beats the real thing.  The Daughters of Kobani is an impressive tale featuring incredible Kurdish women commanding and fighting alongside their male counterparts to evict ISIS from their homeland.  These women warriors displayed as much bravery, courage, tenacity, cunning, intelligence and righteousness on the field of battle as anyone I've ever read about throughout the history of armed conflicts.  It's one thing to support the war efforts of your people, it's quite another thing to lead from the front and dispel the myth that women aren't equal to men in the military.  These amazing women challenged conventional wisdom and went against their male-dominated society to simultaneously fight an armed, determined enemy and the just cause of equal rights for women.  After years of horrible war with many losses, they reigned victorious in battle and in the politics of gaining rights for women.  I salute these real life heroines and recommend everyone read this book.  We all have a lot to learn from these incredible women.
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