cover image The Daughters of Kobani: A Story of Rebellion, Courage, and Justice

The Daughters of Kobani: A Story of Rebellion, Courage, and Justice

Gayle Tzemach Lemmon. Penguin Press, $27 (304p) ISBN 978-0-525-56068-5

National security analyst Lemmon (Ashley’s War) delivers a fascinating portrait of Kurdish female fighters and their role in the Syrian civil war and the fight against the Islamic State. Beginning in 2012, Lemmon explains, ISIS took advantage of a rebellion against the Assad regime to seize control of vast swaths of territory in Syria. The country’s Kurdish ethnic minority, concentrated along the northeastern borders with Turkey and Iraq and long oppressed by the Syrian government, formed People’s Protection Units to advance the cause of self-rule and defend Kurdish villages from ISIS and other extremists. In 2013, a few hundred women formed a “separate and equal” satellite of the People’s Protection Units, stipulating that in their new organization “women could and would lead men in battle, but women would not be led by men.” They soon gained a reputation as fierce and effective fighters, which Lemmon demonstrates in a riveting account of how four women took part in the battle for the city of Kobani. Aided by U.S. intelligence and occasional air strikes, these and other members of the Women’s Protection Units helped to retake the city from ISIS. Lemmon briskly sketches the biographies of individual fighters and commanders, and unravels the complex history of the region with skill. This deeply reported account enthralls and informs. Agent: Elyse Cheney, Elyse Cheney Literary (Feb.)