In This Review

The Daughters of Kobani: A Story of Rebellion, Courage, and Justice
The Daughters of Kobani: A Story of Rebellion, Courage, and Justice
By Gayle Tzemach Lemmon
Penguin Press, 2021, 288 pp

An admiring, almost fawning portrait of women who fought to free Kurdish towns in northern Syria from the control of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, in the late 2010s, this book is a useful illustration of the ideological influence of the Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan, the founder of the militant Kurdistan Workers’ Party and a longtime political prisoner in Turkey. It is organized around the biographies of four Syrian Kurdish women as they grow from unruly teenagers into mature, seasoned, and effective military commanders who were instrumental in the liberation not only of the northern city of Kobani but also of Raqqa and other ISIS-controlled areas in Syria. The stories of unseen snipers, booby-trapped buildings, nighttime river crossings—and, more deeply, of self-doubt and heroism—are well crafted. In portraying these women, Lemmon chooses not to delve deeply into the role of Kurdish nationalism, with its strains of utopian socialism and feminism. Instead, she thinks these fighters, in their eagerness to take on roles typically forbidden to women, are simply mounting a rebellion against the strictures of patriarchal family life. Like the female guerillas of Colombia’s FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia), however, these women are fighting for a cause, and, like their Colombian sisters, they are likely to find it hard to demobilize.