Kurdish Women's Protection Unit: YPJ, the fierce all-women force which fought to eliminate Islamic State

The Kurdish Women's Protection Unit(YPJ) hit the headlines this week after a picture of a US soldier sporting a YPJ badge went viral on social media. The fierce all-women force was instrumental in defeating the Islamic State.

US soldier wears YPJ badge

The Kurdish Women's Protection Unit(YPJ) hit the headlines this week after a picture of a US soldier sporting a YPJ badge went viral on social media.
 

(Photograph:AFP)

YPJ's ideology aligned to Abdullah Öcalan

YPJ's world view is aligned to PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) ideologue Abdullah Öcalan, who is currently held in an island prison by Turkey. The PKK is designated as a terrorist group by Turkey, US and EU.

President Donald Trump had decided to pull US troops from northern Syria on October 9 surprising many, especially the Kurds who had fought as "allies" with the US forces in the region while helping to eliminate the scourge of Islamic State terrorists from the area.

(Photograph:AFP)

Cries of 'betrayal'

Abdullah Ocalan had fled Turkey in the 80s and lived in exile in Syria although he believed in armed struggle but in recent years he has leaned towards a peaceful settlement to the conflict. 

As US troops pulled out, cries of "betrayal" rang out among Kurdish supporters. Turkey has branded the YPG militia as "terrorists" which has been involved in a struggle against the Turkish state for decades.

(Photograph:AFP)

Volunteer YPJ British national Anna Campbell killed

In March last year, Anna Campbell, 26, a British national was killed as she fought as a volunteer with the Kurdish Women's Protection Units (YPJ) in Afrin. Campbell was reportedly killed by an airstrike.

Campbell's parents are currently fighting a legal campaign to get her body back to Britain.

(Photograph:AFP)

YPJ instrumental in defeating Islamic State

The fate of the valiant YPJ fighters now hangs in balance as Russian and Turkish troops have entered the area in order to create a "safe zone".

The women fighters were instrumental in defeating the Islamic State terrorists engaging them in the battle of Al-Hasakah in 2015 where it fought alongside the YPG. 

(Photograph:AFP)

Cries of 'betrayal'

Much of the northeast has been controlled by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), whose main component is the YPG militia.

Turkey had previously said it reserved the right to self-defence against any militants who remain in the area despite the truce, a pledge repeated by Erdogan.

The arrival of the Russian police marks a shift in the regional balance of power just two weeks after Trump began pulling out US forces, a move criticised in Washington and elsewhere as a betrayal of the Americans' former Kurdish allies.

Turkey's military operation was also widely condemned by its NATO allies, which said it was causing a fresh humanitarian crisis in Syria's eight-year conflict and could let Islamic State prisoners held by the YPG escape and regroup.

As US troops pulled out, cries of "betrayal" rang out among Kurdish supporters.

(Photograph:AFP)

Women fighters

In March, the Kurdish Women's Protection Unit(YPJ) took part in a military parade to celebrate the elimination of the Islamic State from eastern Syria.

The fierce all-women unit was previously part of the Kurdish YPG, but formed its own unit in 2013. Reports say there are over 20,000 YPJ fighters currently part of the Kurdish resistance in northern Syria.

(Photograph:AFP)

'Turkish state and terrorist factions still violating ceasefire process'

Ankara views the Kurdish YPG militia, the main component in the SDF, as terrorists linked to Kurdish insurgents in southeast Turkey. The YPG militia has been involved in a struggle against the Turkish state for decades.

It launched a cross-border offensive against them on October 9 after Trump ordered US forces out of northeast Syria.

The SDF said in its statement that Turkish forces had attacked three villages "outside the area of the ceasefire process," forcing thousands of civilians to flee.

"Despite our forces' commitment to the ceasefire decision and the withdrawal of our forces from the entire ceasefire area, the Turkish state and the terrorist factions allied to it are still violating the ceasefire process," it said.

"Our forces are still clashing," it said, urging the United States to intervene to halt the renewed fighting.

(Photograph:AFP)