‘We have a lot of our women in Mosul being held as slaves. Their families are waiting for them. The liberation might help bring them home’
In a region with a proud history of all-female fighting forces, the Yazidi brigade has seen its numbers bolstered in recent weeks as more and more women break free from the Isis jihadist group’s oppressive regime.
Speaking in an interview with Fox News, the brigade’s leader Captain Khatoon Khider said there are 500 recruits awaiting training to join the 123 who have already taken their place alongside the Peshmerga on the front line.
The brigade has become known as the “Force of the Sun Ladies”, and it is already battle-hardened after helping to take back Sinjar from Isis and continuing to guard its mountain home.
They are just some of the 2,000 Yazidi women who were captured and forced into sexual slavery when Isis raided Mount Sinjar in 2014 – but the UN estimates Isis still holds an estimated 3,500 people captive in Iraq, the majority being Yazidi women and girls.
While the Iraqi army is not yet ready to take the fight to Isis in Mosul, the Kurds have taken up positions within miles of the jihadists’ stronghold, preparing for an assault.
Captain Khider said the brigade played a support role on 13 November last year, when their hometowns were taken back from Isis occupation, engaging in direct combat and helping to clear streets.
She says they know taking Mosul will be the real test – but it is one that is important to the Yazidis for more than just strategic reasons.
“We have a lot of our women in Mosul being held as slaves,” she said. “Their families are waiting for them. We are waiting for them. The liberation might help bring them home.”
Freed from slavery and daily rape, trained by the Kurds and now fighting to defend their homelands, the Force of the Sun Ladies has become “an elite force and a model for other women in the region”, Captain Khider said.
“Now we are defending ourselves from the evil; we are defending all the minorities in the region,” she said. “We will do whatever is asked of us.”