Women's Protection Units

Women's Protection Units
Yekîneyên Parastina Jin (YPJ)

YPJ flag
Active 2012–present
Allegiance Rojava, Syria[1] (Democratic Union Party)
Branch Female service units
Type Light infantry (militia)
Size 7,000[2]–10,000[3]
Part of Syrian Democratic Forces

Syrian Civil War

Iraqi Civil War (2014–present)

Website Official website
General Commander[4] Nessrin Abdallah
Kobanî commander[5] Meryem Kobanî
Aleppo commander [6] Sewsen Bîrhat

The Women's Protection Units or Women's Defense Units (Kurdish: Yekîneyên Parastina Jin, YPJ, pronounced Yuh-Pah-Juh[7]) is an all-female Kurdish military organization.

It was set up in 2012 as the female brigade of the People's Protection Units (Yekîneyên Parastina Gel, YPG) militia.[3] The YPJ and YPG are the armed wing of the Democratic Union Party (Syria) (PYD), which has taken de facto control over much of Syria's predominantly Kurdish north, Rojava.[3]


Member of the YPJ with a standard uniform

The organization grew out of the Kurdish resistance movement, and as of late 2014 it had over 7,000 (or 10,000, according to TeleSUR)[3] volunteer fighters between the ages of 18 and 40.[2]

The YPJ joined its brother organization, the YPG, in fighting against any groups that showed intentions of bringing the Syrian Civil War to Kurdish-inhabited areas. It has come under increased attacks from ISIL militants and was involved in the Siege of Kobanî.[2]

Foreign aid

They receive no funding from the international community and rely on the local communities for supplies and food.[2] However, the YPJ with YPG received 27 bundles totaling 24 tons of small arms and ammunition as well as 10 tons of medical supplies from the United States and Iraqi Kurdistan during the Siege of Kobanî.[8]

Military operations in Iraq

The group played a critical role in rescuing the thousands of Yazidis trapped on Mount Sinjar by ISIL fighters in August 2014. One fighter said: "We need to control the area ourselves without depending on [the government] ... They can't protect us from [ISIL], we have to protect ourselves [and] we defend everyone ... no matter what race or religion they are."[9]


The YPJ's ideological foundations were laid by Abdullah Öcalan, the founder of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which is closely linked to the Kurdish militias.[10] Having joined the YPJ, women must spend at least a month practicing military tactics and studying the political theories of Ocalan, including Jineology, also known as the science of women.[11]

The group has been praised by feminists for confronting traditional gender expectations in the region and redefining the role of women in conflict in the region.[2] According to photographer Erin Trieb, the YPJ is in itself a feminist movement, even if it is not their main mission. She asserted that "they want 'equality' between women and men, and a part of why they joined was to develop and advance the perceptions about women in their culture".[2]

Significance in Syrian civil war

Various Kurdish media agencies indicate that "YPJ troops have become vital in the battle against I.S." in Kobanî.[3] YPJ achievements in Rojava have attracted considerable international attention as a rare example of strong female achievement in a region in which women are heavily repressed.[12][13][14][15][16][17]

See also


  1. "PYD announces surprise interim government in Syria's Kurdish regions". Rudaw. 13 November 2013. Retrieved 9 October 2014.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 "YPJ: The Kurdish feminists fighting Islamic State". The Week UK. 7 October 2014. Retrieved 21 October 2014.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 "Kurdish Women Turning Kobani into a Living 'Hell' for Islamic State". Telesurtv.net. 14 October 2014. Retrieved 21 October 2014.
  4. "Syrian Kurds' morale high but arms needed, YPJ commander". ANSAMed. Retrieved 31 July 2015.
  5. "Interview with YPJ Commander in Kobane and Mishtenur Hill". 17 November 2014. Retrieved 13 November 2013.
  6. "Aleppo: New Group of YPG/YPJ Fighters Graduated from Training Course". YPG Rojava. 23 April 2015. Retrieved 2 May 2015.
  7. "#YPJ Female Fighters Shaking #ISIL... - The Lions Of Rojava". facebook.com. Retrieved 4 December 2015.
  8. Istanbul, Constanze Letsch in. "US drops weapons and ammunition to help Kurdish fighters in Kobani". the Guardian. Retrieved 31 December 2015.
  9. "These Remarkable Women Are Fighting ISIS. It's Time You Know Who They Are". Marie Claire. Retrieved 21 October 2014.
  10. Argentieri, Benedetta (3 February 2015). "One group battling Islamic State has a secret weapon – female fighters". Reuters. Retrieved 24 November 2016.
  11. Argentieri, Benedetta (30 July 2015). "These female Kurdish soldiers wear their femininity with pride". Quartz (publication). Retrieved 24 November 2016.
  12. "Female Kurdish fighters battling ISIS win Israeli hearts". Rudaw. Retrieved 8 March 2015.
  13. "The Fight Against ISIS in Syria And Iraq December 2014 by Itai Anghel". The Israeli Network via YouTube. 22 December 2014. Retrieved 8 March 2015.
  14. "Fact 2015 (Uvda) – Israel's leading investigative show". The Israeli Network. 22 December 2014. Retrieved 8 March 2015.
  15. "Kurdish female fighters named 'most inspiring women' of 2014". Rudaw. Retrieved 8 March 2015.
  16. "Kobani: How strategy, sacrifice and heroism of Kurdish female fighters beat Isis". International Business Times UK. Retrieved 8 March 2015.
  17. "Meet The Kurdish Women Fighting ISIS". All That Is Interesting. 11 June 2015. Retrieved 16 October 2016.
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