The Daughters of Kobani Book Summary - The Daughters of Kobani Book explained in key points
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The Daughters of Kobani summary

Gayle Tzemach Lemmon

A Story of Rebellion, Courage, and Justice

4.4 (78 ratings)
34 mins

What is The Daughters of Kobani about?

The Daughters of Kobani (2021) tells the riveting, edge-of-your-seat tale of a group of Syrian Kurdish women who took up arms against the terror group ISIS. Brimming with pathos and unimaginable courage, it’s a story of women fighting evil and winning, against all the odds. But it’s equally about women defying a culture that would deny them their rights –⁠ and striving toward a better one.

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    The Daughters of Kobani
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    A Nation Divided

    It was a soccer match that would live in infamy.

    In the early 2000s, two rival clubs faced off in a championship game in the Syrian town of Qamishli. Envision the scene: the home side is made up of Kurds, a stateless ethnic group spread across four Middle Eastern nations. Opposing them is a club from Deir Ezzor, a town with a majority Arab population.

    The game begins like any important match: with trash-talking and insults hurled from player to opposing player. But, soon, the rivalry turns ugly. A brawl breaks out, and before long Syrian authorities show up to intervene. And their intervention isn’t peaceful. Police begin shooting at the unarmed Kurdish fans, killing over two dozen and injuring another hundred.

    In response, young Kurds lashed out at their local governments, inciting riots and defacing murals. The uprising quickly spread to nearby towns, resulting in the destruction of government offices and the jailing of thousands of Kurds. 

    Order soon returned. All told, the unrest lasted only two weeks. But the events marked a sea change in Syrian politics. In particular, they revealed the willingness of young Kurds to confront the Syrian government, led by its dictator, Bashar al-Assad.

    That willingness would be put to the test again seven years later, in 2011 – the year that marked the start of the Syrian civil war.

    In early 2011, a group of young Syrian schoolboys marched against the Assad regime. It was a peaceful protest, and it took place on school grounds – but Assad reacted with violence. He had the boys rounded up, arrested, and tortured. They were beaten, electrocuted, and hanged upside down.

    Outraged, the boys’ fathers and other Syrians organized a march in the city of Deraa. It, too, was peaceful. But, again, Assad resorted to violence: his soldiers opened fire on the protesters. Soon, other protests began to flare up in surrounding towns, and, before long, the conflict grew into a global conflagration. Millions of Syrians were being displaced from their homes, while sovereign powers like Russia, the United States, Qatar, Iran, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia sought to use the conflict to fight proxy wars among themselves.

    As part of the conflict, young people in the majority-Kurdish regions in northeastern Syria began signing up to fight in militias called People’s Protection Units, known collectively as the YPG. The YPG was somewhat of an anomaly: though they didn’t support Assad, they didn’t necessarily want to see his regime toppled, either. Their primary objective was Kurdish autonomy. So, rather than throw their support behind one side or the other, the Kurds fought to protect their regions from external attack –⁠ no matter who the aggressor.

    At the same time, Kurds feared the Islamic extremism they saw stirring among the anti-Assad rebels. And they were right to be afraid. Taking advantage of the chaos and power vacuums created by the civil war, a group called the Islamic State – better known as ISIS or ISIL – was setting up to take control of territory and spread its ideology throughout the Middle East.

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    Best quote from The Daughters of Kobani

    ISIS fighters would shout Allahu Akbar or God is great. . . . Azeemas soldiers would shout back in Arabic, Kobani is the greatest!

    —Gayle Tzemach Lemmon
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    About the Author

    Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, is a journalist, author, and public speaker. She’s written extensively on women’s issues in Syria and Afghanistan, as well as on women in the US military, foreign policy, and child marriage. Her previous books, Ashley’s War and The Dressmaker of Khair Khana, were both New York Times best sellers.

    Who should read The Daughters of Kobani?

    • Fans of thrillers and action films
    • Feminists empowered by stories of brave women
    • Students of Middle Eastern conflict and international relations

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