Asia Ramazan Antar (also known as Viyan Antar) was a Kurdish girl who entered into an arranged marriage but divorced after three months and joined one of the Women's Protection Units (YPJ - an all female militia in Syria) to fight ISIS.
The group has been praised by feminists for confronting traditional gender expectations and redefining the role of women in conflict in the region. YPJ militants often enter the militia over hardships endured in the family, like lost relatives caused by attacks or fighting. They play a role in changing the Islamic thinking and societal traditions by taking arms. These women say they are changing their community and society by doing so.
Viyan was fighting to stop three suicide bomber vehicles in August 2016 when the third detonated too close to her and she was killed.
You can read more about her here.
You can read more about the aims and goals of the YPJ here.
Below is a short story I wrote featuring her.
The bullet whizzes past my head and slams into the adobe wall. A shower of dust and grit rain onto my hair. It stings in a couple of places. Like most villages and cities in war-torn Syria, the buildings here are broken and crumbling.
Cautiously, I peer through the aperture in the thick wall. Out there, somewhere, Daesh hide among the houses. A thin wail rises from behind me. Huddled in there are a cluster of women and children. A small boy's piping voice carries.
"Asia. I want my Asia!"
Don't worry, my sweet. Sister Asia is watching and while she watches no evil will befall you. Alas, not so for my older brothers. I wonder how my mother fares. From the things Roxana tells me, I hope she is dead also.
"Are you hit?"
Roxana's voice calls softly across the small, dark room.
"No. It was close but I still wait, ready to bring down fire on the head of any that stir out there."
She grins and peers down the dusty, barrel of her own rifle, searching the rubble below. Roxana came two months ago and already her body count exceeds many of the rest of us. She doesn't hold back. She has no caution. They robbed her of everything, now she fears nothing.
I think of my life before they came. Peaceful, ordinary. I go to school, help my mother, quarrel with my older brothers. At night father sits with us to talk of our day. My father. I remember - his eyes dart about. He finds places for us to hide. My mother screams as they drag her out. How she sobs when my brothers and my father kneel. Gunshots. Their blood waters the dust. I don't know where Mother is for they took her away. I emerge with little brother and all that is left is a broken home, broken bodies and a broken family.
But I have it better than Roxana. They didn't find me.
The door opens. Over my shoulder I see our commander. She is a short woman, once a mother, now a widow but the muscles bunch on her forearm as she lowers her rifle to the ground. Lines bite deep into her face. Her dark eyes are hard but our fighters adore her. We follow her through showers of bullets and when she says kill, we kill. We know she will lay down her life for us without hesitation.
"Time to move out, girls."
Her voice is clipped and gruff. No time for niceties.
"We've word that enemy suicide bombers are moving toward one of the villages. We intend to stop them."
When freedom's fight is over, I'm going to live in one of those villages. I'm going to tend my home and raise my children in safety. Little brother will live there too and we will be happy. It cannot happen unless I fight. I and my sisters-in-arms must defy this enemy that kills our men and destroys our women. The harsh ones who take our land and homes. An enemy rapacious and cruel.
"The intel is reliable?" Roxana asks.
The commander nods. I remove my rifle from the window and follow Roxana out.
A firm grip on my arm pulls me up short.
"The children are safe here."
I know the commander wants to reassure me about little brother.
"Can I kiss him before we go?"
She shakes her head.
I sigh. Freedom's cause will not wait.
The jeep leaps and bounds. My teeth rattle. My bones rattle. The oily fumes turn my stomach. We will take up positions above the village and rattle the enemy when he comes.
My sister fighters and I move cautiously through the village. I see no one and wonder where all the people have gone. They help us with food and water. Sometimes they give gifts. My skin prickles. We climb above the road and hide.
I hear the engines and we see three jeeps roaring along. We know they contain deadly bombs. The vehicles draw near. Crack. I aim for the tires of one. My aim is true and the tires pop. It rolls and explodes. Roxana takes out another. Dust billows. I run closer to get the third in sight. Boom. I am too close! A thunder splits the air. It is on me, around me. A sudden searing pain and a flash so bright my eyes burn. I hear women scream. Little brother's face rises before me. I wish I'd kissed him goodbye.
Everything fades away.
I am Asia. I fought to protect my people, my country and the liberty of women. I pay the price in freedom's name. Our sisterhood will fight on and on until the invaders are expelled from under Syrian skies. Our country will be different. We will be free.