Sisters in Arms

Mosul Dam, September 2016

I was eventually to see and join female Peshmerga. After weeks and weeks of talking, begging, arranging and rearranging I was meant to see them. It was a very exciting moment.
But stop. Before I could see them I had an interview with the respective general who started the conversation with "I know that you are an American spy". Now, I definitely don't know how to say "WTF" in Arabic, but I do know the feeling when your belly is about to make some sumersaults in a row. I was sitting in his office right beside the dam that was liberated from IS some months before. I was totally dumbstruck.

It's not really a joyride through the vast bombed areas between Teleskuf and Mosul Dam. Miles after miles flatended villages, burnt cars, dead cattle... and I already saw myself ending with a double tab in the head.
He looked at me intensly for what felt an eternity before he fell into thundering laughter. So did his aides and, eventually, I.

Then I met the girls. There was tension in the air, everybody felt that the big Mosul offensive was about to start (it actually started one week after my meeting). Most of them very young, very young in fact. However there was something in their eyes that spoke for something else: Hardship.

Some of the young women have been through hell. Some of them saw their families being butchered by IS. Others were captured and traded as sex slaves throughout the so called Caliphate. Some of them killed when trying to escape. I still have great difficulties in thinking of what they have been through. "We have nothing to lose" one of them would tell me. "It's either to win or to die. We must not have remorse with these animals." Being killed by a woman means no entry to heaven according to the belief of the extremist fighters. So they are, in a way, very afraid of the female Peshmerga. Their motivation is beyond salary and promotion, it is about destiny.

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