From brides to battlefield, women taking up new roles with Islamic State

From brides to battlefield, women taking up new roles with Islamic State
A Malaysian teenager detained on her way to join ISIS.

ERBIL, Iraq - Women travelling to join Islamic State militants are no longer just seeking to become "jihadi brides" but are taking on new roles, on the frontline in logistics and intelligence and as medics, according to military and expert sources.

Female presence in Islamic State's battles to establish a medieval-style caliphate across the Middle East has been unusual with the radical Sunni Islamists imposing strict restrictions on women's dress and behaviour and deeming their role as domestic.

But as more foreigners, both male and female, go to join or fight Islamic State, the traditional role of women is being challenged, with reports of women working at hospitals controlled by Islamic State and aiding in logistics.

Colonel Rafat Salim Raykoni, head of a military intelligence unit in the Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga forces battling Islamic State militants, said women fighters had emerged around the town of Sinjar, a frontline in the fight in northern Iraq.

"They are not many but they are starting to arrive on the frontline. Here in Sinjar they are very active," he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in the peshmerga headquarters in the outskirts of Sinjar city.

Raykoni is not the only one to have spotted the trend with high ranking commanders in different areas of Iraq and Syria reporting Islamic State women around the battlefield although so far no female militants have been reported killed.

Pareen Sevgeen, the commander of a Kurdish women militia in Iraq, YJA Star, who is also known by her nom de guerre Beritan, was fighting north of Sinjar earlier this year when her brigade intercepted communications of the jihadis.

"We heard a woman giving order to men. She was saying move there or here, go left or right. She was obviously a commander,"said Beritan while sitting in her compound outside Sinjar dressed in a dark green military uniform.

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