Female Yazidi “Sun Brigade” : “Fighting ISIL is for Protecting Womankind”

Written by  Published by:Shiite News
Published in Iraq
Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Commander Khatoon Khider has just returned from the frontline in Iraq, where she and her all-female battalion known as Sun Brigade have been fighting ISIL. Yazidi women of the Sun Brigade had been preparing for the moment since the Islamic State terrorists marauded their villages: murdering their men and spiriting away their sisters.

She who is renowned singer in Iraqi Kurdistan, northern Iraq, was performing folklore songs for crowds all over the country. But she could not look on as her homeland and the Yazidi people - one of Iraq’s oldest minorities - was massacred.

“Our holy book prohibits us from killing, so it was not lightly that we decided to take up arms,” she said.

"The Yazidis, who once numbered around 600,000 in Iraq, are monotheists who believe God has placed the world under the care of seven angels. Islamic State considers them “devil worshippers,” and has declared its intention to execute or enslave all members of the sect, Telegraph reports."
She remembers the day ISIS arrived in her village in Sinjar province clearly. They seemed to have come from nowhere on that hot August day in 2014.

The balaclaved men began shooting from their pickup trucks, driving more than 50,000 people seeking safety up Mount Sinjar. Ms Khider, 36, along with her family and friends, was trapped for nearly 11 days without food, water or shade as Isil circled below.

“I will never forget watching those families trying to escape,” she told the Telegraph.

"“There was nothing for us to eat or drink, and no milk for the children. I saw people leave their elderly parents by the road as they could not care for them. I saw mothers throwing their babies off the mountain so they didn’t have to watch them suffer a slow death.”"

Little was known about the terrorist group at the time. Just two months earlier its leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi declared the formation of their "caliphate" across Syria and Iraq. The Yazidis never expected their towns and villages - nestled in the rugged mountains on the border - to become part of it.

“When ISIS approached our area, the Arab residents from the town over were contacting us and telling us and saying that there is no danger to us Yazidis, but they betrayed us and watched as a lot of our women were given to ISIS.”

Escaping from Sinjar and being stranded in Mount Sinjar resulted Death of many for dehydration and heatstroke, and thousands of women and children had been abducted to be sold into slavery.

"Those who managed to escape fron slavery recount stories of unspeakable cruelty. Children as young as nine raped and killed in front of their mothers. Ms Khider’s friend Ceylan was bought at a slave auction in a local market by an Isil emir."

“She was taken by ISIS as a sex slave and when they asked her to go to the bathroom to prepare herself as a bride for one fighter, she hanged herself rather than let anyone touch her,” she says.

They then raped her dead body in front of the other women to make an example.“We are these girls’ mothers, sisters, daughters,” she says. “We weep for them.”

Ms Khider knew she could not return to singing while so many girls were still being held - the UN estimates the current figure to be as high as 3,500. It was then she decided to form an all-female battalion to take Isil on.

She first asked for blessing from her father, who had his own experience fighting during the Iran-Iraq war in the Eighties.

"“I kissed both his hands and asked him to become a soldier,” she said. “Tears filled in his eyes and he told me that this is dangerous work. But I told him that I must sacrifice myself for the sake of my honour and the dignity of my family and my people.”"

She then travelled to the frontline to ask the chief of staff to the Peshmerga, the armed forces of Kurdistan. After consulting the president, he agreed to train them up.

Most of the women, whose ages range between 18 and 38, had never held a gun until they joined. Before the ISIS massacres in Sinjar, they had been students, teachers, cooks. "After Daesh came, the girls left their jobs, schools, everything," she says, using the derogatory Arabic term for the group.

The Peshmerga, which has a proud history of recruiting female soldiers, taught them how to use weapons and what to do the event of Islamic Stateh chemical attack. They taught the battalion to protect all religions in the region without discrimination.

However Ms Khider explained they do not allow Arabs into the group, only women from minority Yazidi and Kurdish backgrounds.
“We are very tough and are treated the same as the men,” she said from their base in Dohuk, east of the Sinjar mountains and 50 miles north of Iraq’s second city of Mosul.

She says their ranks now number 1,000, including some of the freed slaves, and many more have requested to join.

“When they go to the battlefields it is a psychological comfort,” she said. “Yazidi girls suffered a lot under the rule of ISIS, so when we wear our military dress and meet them face-to-face this makes our burden easier, because we go to fight our enemy and protect all of womankind.”

She says she has killed a number of Isil jihadists in battle, but when the women capture a fighter alive they do not treat them as the captured Yazidis were, but rather “deal with them according to the law.”

Ms Khider’s battalion and the rest of the Peshmerga are preparing for their biggest battle yet - the fight to retake Mosul from Isil.
For the Sun Brigade, the city is not just important for strategic reasons. “There are a lot of girls still being held in the city,” she explains.
“We cannot go back to our families until we’ve brought them all home.”

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