The Daughters of Kobani Audio Book Review

The Daughters of Kobani: A Story of Rebellion, Courage, and Justice

Authored and Narrated by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon

Audiobook, 6 hours and 49 minutes

Published by Penguin House Audio, February 2021

Language: English


The Yekîneyên Parastina Jin (YPJ) are all-female militia battalions known as Women’s Protection Units in English.  Ethnically they are comprised mainly of Kurds, although other Syrian groups and foreign volunteers are also in their ranks.  They share equal status with their male counterparts, the YPG.  During the on-going war in Syria, the YPJ/YPG were instrumental in the defeat of ISIS, and were supported by U.S. airpower in their campaigns to liberate their homeland.

Philosophically, the YPJ follows the teachings of Abdullah Öcalan, a Marxist who advocates equality for women, a radical belief within the Islamic sphere.  His desire for an independent Kurdish state spawned the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), whose attacks against Turkey resulted in the PKK being designated a terrorist organization and the imprisonment of Öcalan.

In this book, author Gayle Lemmon attempts to explain the complex history of the Kurdish people in the twentieth century, the role of Abdullah Öcalan, and the war in Syria.  A tall order on its own, and then she weaves in the individual stories of a few YPJ protagonists against this background.  Often the focuses on the very real oppression of women in Islamic societies.

I was hoping for a military history of the YPJ, along with an explanation of their tactics and organizational structure.  I was also curious about their relationship with their male counterparts in the YPG and how they were viewed by ISIS.  I am still wondering.  The combat performance of the YPJ is not discussed until halfway through the book.  Then it is from the perspective of a few protagonists, seen through the author’s lens of a feminist struggle against the patriarchy.  Islam is not mentioned, even though an extreme fundamentalist interpretation was the motivation behind the atrocities committed against both men and women who had the misfortune to fall under the rule of the Islamic State.  In the end there is far too much politics and not enough analysis of the YPJ as a fighting force, skip this one if you are interested in military history.