- Foreign policy analyses written by CFR fellows and published by the trade presses, academic presses, or the Council on Foreign Relations Press.
In 2014, northeastern Syria might have been the last place you would expect to find a revolution centered on women’s rights. But that year, an all-female militia faced off against ISIS in a little town few had ever heard of: Kobani. By then, the Islamic State had swept across vast swaths of the country, taking town after town and spreading terror as the civil war burned all around it. From that unlikely showdown in Kobani emerged a fighting force that would wage war against ISIS across northern Syria alongside the United States. In the process, these women would spread their own political vision, determined to make women’s equality a reality by fighting—house by house, street by street, city by city—the men who bought and sold women.
Based on years of on-the-ground reporting, The Daughters of Kobani is the unforgettable story of the women of the Kurdish militia that improbably became part of the world’s best hope for stopping ISIS in Syria. Drawing from hundreds of hours of interviews, bestselling author Gayle Tzemach Lemmon introduces us to the women fighting on the front lines, determined to not only extinguish the terror of ISIS but also prove that women could lead in war and must enjoy equal rights come the peace. In helping to cement the territorial defeat of ISIS, whose savagery toward women astounded the world, these women played a central role in neutralizing the threat the group posed worldwide. In the process they earned the respect—and significant military support—of U.S. Special Operations Forces.
Rigorously reported and powerfully told, The Daughters of Kobani shines a light on a group of women intent on not only defeating the Islamic State on the battlefield but also changing women’s lives in their corner of the Middle East and beyond.
Reviews and Endorsements
This momentous work of reporting by the author of The Dressmaker of Khair Khana is a profile in courage.
Oprah Magazine’s Most Anticipated Books of 2021
A remarkable true story about an all-female Kurdish militia who helped drive ISIS from northern Syria.
The Women’s Protection Units proved their heroism time and again throughout the campaign against the Islamic State. I was always concerned that our Syrian Kurdish partners would never get their full due; this excellent book by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon documents their contributions perfectly. I strongly recommend it.
Joseph L. Votel, General, U.S. Army (retired)
Lemmon briskly sketches the biographies of individual fighters and commanders, and unravels the complex history of the region with skill. This deeply reported account enthralls and informs.
Publishers Weekly (starred review)
The Daughters of Kobani is an unforgettable and nearly mythic tale of women’s power and courage. The young women profiled in this book fought a fearsome war against brutal men in impossible circumstances—and proved in the process what girls and women can accomplish when given the chance to lead. Brilliantly researched and respectfully reported, this book is a lesson in heroism, sacrifice, and the real meaning of sisterhood. I am so grateful that this story has been told.
Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Big Magic and Eat, Pray, Love
Absolutely fascinating and brilliantly written, The Daughters of Kobani is a must-read for anyone who wants to understand both the nobility and the brutality of war. This is one of the most compelling stories in modern warfare.
Admiral William H. McRaven, author of Make Your Bed
The Daughters of Kobani is proof of the power of women to shape their future and the power of girls to create the world in which they want to live. The brave example these women have set against the longest odds should inspire us all.
Reshma Saujani, founder and CEO of Girls Who Code and author of Brave, Not Perfect
A well-told story of contemporary female warriors and the complex geopolitical realities behind their battles.
One of America’s premier storytellers has risked her life to research perhaps the most important subject of our times: the empowerment of women and the establishment of a truly egalitarian society. Documenting the extraordinary struggles of a small group of women battling ISIS, Lemmon has showed us unequivocally what female leadership can do for a society. It is breathtaking to behold.
Sebastian Junger, author of Tribe
This book is the extraordinary and humbling story of the women leading the fight against ISIS.
Angelina Jolie, actor, director, and activist
The Daughters of Kobani is real-time history told with rigor and heart. Marrying two important narratives—the United States’s entry into the Syrian conflict from the air and the lived experience of Syrians fighting ISIS on the ground—it is a remarkable contribution.
Hassan Hassan, coauthor of ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror
This passionate and incisive book takes us into the radically brave hearts of the women who fought ISIS. The Daughters of Kobani is a gift to the women of the Middle East and to us, inscribing their sacrifice onto the history of a war no one will soon forget.
Azadeh Moaveni, author of Guest House for Young Widows
Moving and inspiring, Gayle Tzemach Lemmon’s The Daughters of Kobani vividly recounts the astonishing story of the all-women’s army that fought and died to stop ISIS. These are fiercely brave women whose courage is unforgettable.
David Ignatius, columnist for Washington Post and author of The Paladin
The Daughters of Kobani offers a courageously reported, must-read account of a group of women fighters who risked everything to defeat ISIS and take their future into their own hands. Gayle Tzemach Lemmon has written an invaluable book for those seeking to understand the direction of twenty-first century conflict.
August Cole, coauthor of Burn-In
In the NewsWhy I Wrote “The Daughters of Kobani”
MediumThe Women Who Fought to Defend Their Homes Against ISIS
TimeHow a Small but Powerful Band of Women Led the Fight Against ISIS
PBS NewshourGayle Tzemach Lemmon in New Book: 'There are Women Leading in the Fight Against ISIS'
MSNBC'The Daughters of Kobani' Tells a Riveting Story of Women in Combat
Military.comThe Daughters of Kobani and the Fight Against ISIS: Author Gayle Tzemach Lemmon
Intelligence MattersDefense One Radio, Ep. 87: “The Daughters of Kobani” with Gayle Tzemach Lemmon
Defense One‘Daughters of Kobani’ – The Story of Kurdish Women Who Fought for Religious Freedom and Equality Against ISIS and Won
The Daily CitizenBook Excerpt: ‘The Daughters of Kobani’
Military TimesThe Behind-The-Scenes Story Of The Women Who Took On ISIS And Won
ELLENew and Forthcoming Titles on Women, Girls and Empowerment
Publishers WeeklyThe Women Who Took on ISIS—and Won: The Daughters of Kobani
Marie ClaireHillary Rodham Clinton And Chelsea Clinton’s New Production Company Lands The Rights To ‘The Daughters of Kobani'
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InStyleTown & Country 28 Must-Read Books of Winter 2021 Including Daughters of Kobani
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