Before the Syrian revolution, Layla, who requested that her real name remain confidential, was a university student in a rebel-held district of Aleppo. But in January 2013, after witnessing a bombing at her campus that killed 82 people, including some of her classmates, she now carries a Kalashnikov rifle and supports the Free Syrian Army (FSA) at a checkpoint positioned at the northeast end of the city.
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based, pro-opposition monitoring group, some 5,000 women in Syria are currently engaged in military combat and logistics. AFP reported that one in five fighters is female in the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), the armed wing of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party. In Arabic, they are called muqatilat, meaning women fighters, and they have formed female battalions throughout the country. Muqatilat are small in number in comparison to the male mujahedeen fighters, and even though they carry weapons, they don’t call the shots in the rebel command. Nevertheless, they can be found alongside male fighters on the frontlines — often in defiance of traditional gender roles.