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Using Women to Win in Syria

Women's brigades are fighting on both sides of the conflict in Syria, serving an important purpose for both regime and rebels.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry faces protesters against a military strike in Syria, as he arrives at a U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on Syria on Capitol Hill in Washington, September 4, 2013. The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee will likely vote later on Wednesday on a draft resolution authorizing the use of military force in Syria, several members of the panel said. REUTERS/Jason Reed  (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS MILITARY CONFLICT) - RTX13780

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.

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