A new model of social organization is taking shape in the Kurdish areas of northern Syria. Rojava, as it is known, comprises three cantons in the western section of the historical homeland of the Kurdish people, which is now divided up among Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey. In terms of social equality, ethnic pluralism, and antisectarianism, the territory is a regional standout. That is especially the case when it comes to women’s advancement.

Western public attention began to turn to Rojava in 2014 and 2015, when the territory’s militias, the People’s Protection Units (YPG) and the Women’s Protection Units (YPJ), played a central role in ousting the Islamic State, or ISIS, from Kobani, a city in northern Syria. Observers latched on to two features of the group: first, its success against ISIS, which U.S.-backed Iraqi security and Syrian opposition forces had struggled to defeat, and second, the prominence of female fighters in its ranks.

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