Welcome to the Women for Women International Book Club! This month we’re reading The Daughters of Kobani: A Story of Rebellion, Courage, and Justice by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon.
This incredible, true story chronicles the all-female militia that fought back against ISIS in Syria. The skill and courage of these soldiers challenged perceptions of women in Syria as they became a leading force in neutralizing the threat of ISIS—a group that kidnapped and sold women into slavery across the region.
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Why The Daughters of Kobani is important...
Women for Women International believes that strong women build strong nations. The Daughters of Kobani is a testament to the incredible impact and power that women have to change the course of their nation and make history.
Lemmon’s telling of the conflict that took place between the female-led Women's Protection Units or Women's Defense Units (in Kurdish: Yekîneyên Parastina Jin, or YPJ) and the Islamic State in Kobani, Syria is gripping. The warriors featured in this story not only fought against ISIS, they fought to make women’s equality a national priority. The YPJ inspired many women along their journey to take a stand for their futures and became an unexpected military leader.
The Daughters of Kobani is an inspiration and a call to action to fight for equality in the face of adversity. It also provides insight into the complex political and social factors that led to the development and rapid rise of ISIS, as well as the varied global interests in the region.
Although the accomplishments of the YPJ made few international headlines, their story demands to be heard because it is proof that when women mobilize, they can change the world.
Trigger Warning for The Daughters of Kobani:
Violence, terrorism, war
Check out the discussion questions below and connect with readers on Instagram to share your reactions, thoughts and questions by using the hashtag #WFWIBookClub, and tagging us with @womenforwomen. We want to hear what you think—share your take on the book with us!
1. What surprised you about the role of women’s rights and women’s emancipation in this story?
2. A main motivating factor in the establishment of the Women’s Protection Units is women’s independence and equality. Did the limitations and oppressions that the women in this story faced bring to mind other movements for gender equality, in the past and at present? How about here at home?
3. Even as children and young adults, many of the women we meet in the book—Azeema, Rojda, Nowruz, and Znarin—recognize the flaws in their society’s treatment of women. How are they ahead of their time in standing up to tradition with their involvement in sports, pursuit of romance and education, and a general sense of following their own path? Did they remind you of women in your own community, your own family?
4. How did the American military commanders treat the Women's Protection Unit members once they arrived to train them and provide supplies? What was the general attitude toward their efforts and tactics? What, if anything, surprised you about the relationship between the Americans and the all-women’s units?
5. Compare and contrast the personalities and leadership styles of Azeema, Rojda, and Znarin. What did each of them bring to their positions to help them maintain morale for themselves and be resilient after injury and defeat?
6. What role did the internet and social media play in the international coverage of and response to this war, as well as to the ways it was fought on the ground? Consider how the women kept in touch with their families and each other even in the midst of battle. What was the role of cameras and TV?
7. How does the daily onslaught of war affect the women, emotionally and physically?
8. What would you do if you were called to arms in the way that these women were? What rights would you be willing to fight for—or have you fought for?
The questions above are selected from the author’s website. For a full list of discussion questions, please visit The Daughters of Kobani Reading Group Guide.