from Women and Foreign Policy Program

The Daughters of Kobani

A Story of Rebellion, Courage, and Justice

Senior Fellow Gayle Tzemach Lemmon tells the extraordinary story of the women who took on the Islamic State and won.

Foreign policy analyses written by CFR fellows and published by the trade presses, academic presses, or the Council on Foreign Relations Press.

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Syrian Civil War

Women and Women's Rights

Islamic State

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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.

More on:


Syrian Civil War

Women and Women's Rights

Islamic State

Military Operations

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.

CNN Entertainment

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.

Kirkus Reviews

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 News

Late Night Lit: Gayle Tzemach Lemmon & Brandon Hobson

Late Night with Seth Meyers Podcast

New Book Tells Story of Women Who Fought ISIS and Hillary Clinton Has The Film Rights

American Military News

The Daughters of Kobani: The Women Who Beat ISIS

Deep State Radio

Gayle Tzemach Lemmon Is Using Her Platform to Shine A Light on Powerful Women in Combat

Tamron Hall Show

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The National Book Review

Women Take The Lead In Fighting ISIS In 'Daughters Of Kobani'

NPR, All Things Considered

Gayle Lemmon Talks About Her New Book, ‘Daughters of Kobani’

Good Morning America

Author Gayle Tzemach Lemmon on the All-Women Kurdish-Syrian Militia Fighting ISIS

Fox News

The Women Who Fought ISIS: Gayle Tzemach Lemmon Discussion

Reaganism Podcast

‘Daughters of Kobani’ Balances Eye-Opening Details With Broad Take on Women in Battle

Arab News

ISIS's Worst Nightmare: The Daughters of Kobani

Christian Broadcasting Network

Women Oppose Extremism Around the World

CNN, Amanpour

International Women’s Day and a Feminist Foreign Policy with Gayle Lemmon

Ms. Magazine

Gayle Tzemach Lemmon on 'The Daughters of Kobani'

The Lawfare Podcast

Transcript: International Women’s Day - Hillary Rodham Clinton

Washington Post Live

The Women Who Helped Defeat ISIS

MSNBC This Week

Inside the Elite All-Women Kurdish Group Fighting ISIS

NBC Nightly News

Sister Soldier

Harvard Business School

‘Daughters Of Kobani’ Portrays The Courage Of Women In Combat

Zenger News

The Daughters of Kobani: The Kurdish Women Warriors Who Helped Defeat ISIS

Christian Broadcasting Network

Gayle Tzemach Lemmon on This Is The Author

This Is The Author

The Chuck Williams Show Interviews New York Times Best-Selling Author Gayle Tzemach Lemmon

The Chuck Williams Show

The Women Who Helped Topple the Caliphate

Foreign Policy

These Are the Women Who Crushed the Caliphate


Why I Wrote “The Daughters of Kobani”


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PBS Newshour

Gayle Tzemach Lemmon in New Book: 'There are Women Leading in the Fight Against ISIS'


'The Daughters of Kobani' Tells a Riveting Story of Women in Combat

The Daughters of Kobani and the Fight Against ISIS: Author Gayle Tzemach Lemmo‪n‬

Intelligence Matters

Defense 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 Citizen

Book Excerpt: ‘The Daughters of Kobani’

Military Times

‘Daughters of Kobani’ Tells Story of All-Women Kurdish Combat Units Who Fought ISIS

Religion News Service

The Behind-The-Scenes Story Of The Women Who Took On ISIS And Won


New and Forthcoming Titles on Women, Girls and Empowerment

Publishers Weekly

The Women Who Took on ISIS—and Won: The Daughters of Kobani

Marie Claire

Hillary Rodham Clinton And Chelsea Clinton’s New Production Company Lands The Rights To ‘The Daughters of Kobani'


InStyle 50 Women Making the World a Better Place in 2021


Town & Country 28 Must-Read Books of Winter 2021 Including Daughters of Kobani

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SheThePeople Non-Fiction Books 2021: Here Are 27 Authors to Watch Out For Including Daughters of Kobani


Lit Hub’s Most Anticipated Books of 2021 Including Daughters of Kobani

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CNN: Twelve Books We're Excited About This Year Including Daughters of Kobani


2020 War on the Rocks Holiday Reading List Including The Daughters of Kobani

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