Female Fighters of Kurdistan (Part 3/3)

Uploaded by vice on Jul 23, 2012


THOMAS MORTON: We're in the goat house, basically.
It's like a farmhouse kind of on the
other side of the mountain.
We slept here.
It's just from yesterday, this kind of felt like a third
grade slumber party.
God, it's like the whole fucking
yard is an alarm clock.

The day after PJAK's birthday, we finally headed up to the
mountains to meet the female division we'd be fighting
with, or at least hanging out with.
The one-hour car trip across one hill we were promised
turned out to be a nine-hour journey that involved numerous
hills, numerous stops to get the truck out of the mud,
possibly took us across the Iranian border at some point,
and required a magic [INAUDIBLE]
with the fourth and final river.

This is it.
We just met the guys who are going to be hanging out with
us, and they took our cell phones so we can't sext while
we're here.
I kind of expected it to be kind of buried in the trees
and covered with those weird perforated leaf things they
put on helicopters and stuff.
This is pretty out in the open, I guess, just incredibly
impossible to get to is all.

We took a short hike up the hill to our soldiers' camp and
ran another awkward handshake line.

This particular PJAK division fights for women's rights in
and around the Iranian border.
Thankfully, after a grueling morning trek, we caught them
just as they were sitting down for tea.

THOMAS MORTON: How are women's rights there--
better or worse than they are for Kurdish women in like
Turkey, and Syria, and Iraq?
Is Iran the worst?

THOMAS MORTON: The leader of the division took us on a
short tour of the camp, where the women were all boning up
on their Apoism after lunch.
If you took away the sniper rifles, they'd, basically,
look like college kids out on a nice day doing their
[INAUDIBLE] reading.
We were still a little unsure if this was really business as
usual, or if we were being given the old
dog and pony show.
The division had a pretty permanent looking bunker dug
into one of the hills, filled with sleeping bags and posters
of PJAK martyrs they were keen on showing us.

THOMAS MORTON: Again, a little suspicious on the whole, is
this all just set up for us, front.

THOMAS MORTON: Does everybody have their portrait
taken when they join?

MALE SPEAKER 1: Finally, study time ended, and the division
reassembled to run some drills and show us what makes them
the most fearsome female warriors in the Middle East.

THOMAS MORTON: Probably a closer resemblance to, like, a
girl's summer camp than what I would associate with usual
military drilling.
The Kalashnikovs are a little different, but that could be
replaced by archery.

I don't know if I hit the rock or not.
I feel like I'm getting all the positive reinforcement
with everybody else though.
It's more about putting in an effort.

THOMAS MORTON: Just basic army stuff, just having lunch on
the grass and then line dancing.

THOMAS MORTON: It's interesting, I don't know,
every time you think of women soldiers, I think of like Lt.
Vasquez in "Aliens," girls butching themselves
up to meet the boys.
It's kind of refreshing to see female soldiers who, on their
own, hold on to a modest amount of femininity.

Shortly after the circle dance, somebody radioed our
division leader that they'd compromised their unit's
security by firing their guns.
And so, our time with the ladies of PJAK came to an end,
with us completely baffled how these very nice, but not
exactly professional, female fighters could ever hold their
own against the Iranian Revolutionary Guard--
that is, without a lot of outside help.
But as confusing as it was to watch a supposed crack squad
of PJAK guerrillas giggle and clap their way through basic
calisthenics and introductory riflery, it actually sums up
the whole Kurdish situation pretty nicely.

There are sort of two competing narratives with the
Kurds in Iraq.
In one, they're the classic scrappy underdogs who, by dint
of their skill and sheer commitment to their cause,
beat the greatest army in their region and establish a
beachhead for their future nation.
In the other, they are the persecuted minority, who
appeals to the West to save them from genocide, and are
now forever grateful for America's intervention on
their behalf.

The thing is, they're sort of both true.
And the Kurds are more than happy to use whichever one
suits their needs at any given time, and whichever one suits
the needs of their allies, whoever those happen to be on
that particular day.
It's basically the old schoolyard technique of
pitting the bigger kids against each other.
I tell them, hey, Craig just beat me up, and he says you're
too much of a pussy to do anything about it.
But the Kurds have raised it to the level of national
political philosophy, which is, honestly, a pretty great
approach if you're a homeless ethnic group sandwiched
between Iran, Turkey, Syria and Iraq--
just provided the older kids never catch on.