A First for Female Soldiers in Kurdistan’s Peshmerga Army

Kurdistan’s famed Peshmerga army has gone from its founding back in the 1920s as essentially little more than a rural guerrilla band, to a 21st century Middle Eastern military powerhouse.

With the actual translation of the word “Peshmerga” to the Kurdish tongue meaning “Those who face death“, these mountain warriors proved their mettle during the US-led coalition fight against the ISIS terrorist organization as well as taking the fight to other pro-Iranian militias inside the borders of Iraq.

Keeping in mind that the Kurdish homeland stretches from Eastern Azerbaijan to Northeast Syria to nearly all of Eastern Iran’s border with Iraq, Kurdistan encompasses nearly all of North and East Iraq as well as a huge swath of Southeast Turkey, Iraqi Kurdistan does have a modicum of independence.

Since the US and coalition forces invaded and eventually overthrew Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, the United States has ensured that the autonomous area officially known as the Kurdistan Region enjoys at least a certain degree of semi-independence from the Baghdad central government.

Despite being smack-dab in the middle of the Muslim World, much of it steeped in militant Islamic fundamentalism, the overwhelmingly Muslim population of Kurdistan has proven they are far from the same mindset as most of their neighbors.

During the war with ISIS, the Kurds not only made a point of protecting the Christian and Yazidi minorities within their borders, but also incorporated a number of Christian and Yazidi militias into the Peshmerga.

With all that aside, the US Central Command is reporting (via the Command’s Public Information Office) that Kurdistan’s Peshmerga has also completed another regional first;

Milestones mark a journey and Kurdish security forces continued to move forward in November with the graduation of their first female military instructors in the region.

More than a dozen women in the Peshmerga are now certified to teach their fellow soldiers various skills and classes, including weapons, basic first aid, the law of armed conflict and preventing gender-based violence.

In Erbil, Iraq, the four who graduated at the Bnaslawa training center during a packed morning ceremony Nov. 28, 2019, had spent three months improving their knowledge and abilities to earn the coveted instructor patch.

“Srme,” who did not use her full name for security reasons, has fought Daesh militants for eight years. As a teen, she first volunteered for front line combat and served with no military training for six months before joining the Peshmerga.

Her new title gives her the opportunity to provide newer soldiers – both male and female – the lessons they need to continue the fight. Having already reached a rank equivalent to sergeant, she said she was proud to earn the additional distinction.

“For a woman to teach males is a big deal for us,” Srme said.

Graduates of the Advanced Instructor Course leave and become subject-matter experts for their units or stay and take the additional Master Training Course to become teachers at the center. The ceremony was barely over before Srme was already speaking to the school’s leadership about her ambition to join the master course.

Italian Army Col. Giuseppe Levato, Multi-National Kurdish Training Coordination Center commander, estimated that women make up less than 1 percent of the Kurdish security forces, but a variety of reforms planned by the government are expected to increase their number.

Another dozen female Peshmerga are expected to graduate from a KTCC combat medic course this month.