A revolutionary feminist is leading the assault on Raqqa, capital of the Islamic State. Rojda Felat, a Kurdish woman in her 30s, has been battling Islamic State (Isis) for three years. She is the joint commander of the offensive on the stronghold of the terrorist death cult, leading 15,000 Kurdish and Arab fighters, supported by US special forces and coalition aircraft of the Syrian Democratic Forces.
"My main goal is liberating the Kurdish woman and the Syrian woman in general from the ties and control of traditional society, as well as liberating the entirety of Syria from terrorism and tyranny," she is quoted as saying in a Times report.
The Kurdish commander has said that she is inspired by women who have given their lives in the fight against IS. Arin Markin is thought to have blown herself up with a grenade rather than be captured, facing possible rape and being sold as a sex slave, during the bloody conflict at the Kurdish town of Kobani in 2014.
Felat has been involved in fighting battles in the town of Shadadi, known as an operation called Wrath of Khabur. "It took us three days to liberate it. It's a strategic route for IS. They used it as the main road between Mosul and Raqqa," said Salah Jamil, a member of the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), in an interview with Middle East Eye.
"The Yazidi girls were sold at the Shadadi market, and today we took revenge for them."
The Syrian town was notorious for its use as a market to sell Yazidi girls as sex slaves captured in the Sinjar region during August 2014.
As with many women in the public arena, Felat's sex life is a topic of debate. When asked a question about whether she was married, she sidestepped the issue by saying: "All the Syrian families are my family. Wherever I go I find my people who welcome me with love."
It's believed that Kurdish women fighters pledge a vow of chastity until the battle with Isis has been won. Some reports state that over 10,000 females are fighting with Kurdish military forces, with some in in all-female battalions such as The Women's Protection Units, a faction of the YPG. One of its commanders, 21-year-old Telhelden, told CNN: "They believe if someone from Daesh [Isis] is killed by a girl, a Kurdish girl, they won't go to heaven.
"They're afraid of girls."
Kurdish forces push Isis back
Since the start of the offensive of Raqqa on 24 May, the Kurdish forces have advanced at least four miles into IS-held territory and occupied five villages.
"Our campaign is moving very well according to the plans, no problems so far," Felat said. "The more we advance towards Raqqa the more Isis's resistance is increased.
"My strong beliefs and honest goals help me overcome any obstacles or challenges. The state of weakness that the woman in Rojava [Kurdish-held territory] and Syria had experienced has gone now. We are not weak anymore. Woman are playing a vital role in leading and managing the society."
Kurdish forces advanced on Fatisah village, north of Raqqa on 27 May, believed to be assisted by US troops, anti-tank weapons and heavy machine guns mounted on jeeps. Felat said the aim of the operation was to "liberate northern Raqqa" and people who live under the "oppression" of Daesh, in a PressTV report.
"The campaign is aimed at repelling terrorist attacks on Shaddadi, Tal Abyad and Kobane, ensuring the security of our people," she added.