cover image A Road Unforeseen: Women Fight the Islamic State

A Road Unforeseen: Women Fight the Islamic State

Meredith Tax. Bellevue Literary, $19.99 trade paper (336p) ISBN 978-1-942658-10-8

In this study, Tax (Double Bind) describes Rojava, an autonomous region in Syria, in the greater context of Kurdish struggles throughout the region. In 2014, in the city of Kobane in Rojava, Kurdish militias, including all-female units, drove back the advance of the Islamic State with little help from outside forces. As Tax shows, Rojava is remarkable not just for the large number of women in the military, but for the fact that "people make decisions through local councils and women hold 40 percent of all leadership positions." Much of her work focuses on neighboring Turkey, where Kurds make up 20 percent of the population but are repressed and attacked by governmental forces. The governments of the U.S. and E.U. have done little in response, nominally because the Kurdistan Workers' Party and its leader-in-exile, Abdullah %C3%96calan, are considered terrorists. %C3%96calan's changing philosophy and the influence of female leaders such as Leyla Zana, a prominent Kurdish activist, have given rise to the concept of "democratic autonomy" now being lived out in Rojava. In a coda, Tax concludes that it remains to be seen how the Rojava experiment in "radical local control... based on democracy, equal citizenship for all, feminism, and ecology" will fare against global capitalism on one hand and "Islamist theocracy" on the other. This is an important look at an unfolding situation little understood in the West. (Aug.)