Members of the Islamic State (IS) believe that 72 virgins will be bestowed upon them in death. However, if killed in battle by a woman, they fear they won't receive their virgin bounty. In fact, death by female hand means IS followers won't enter paradise at all. The Sun Girls Brigade (SGB) is a battalion of female Yazidi soldiers fighting to ensure that none of the Islamic State forces make it through those pearly gates.
The Yazidis have their own language and religion. They believe that the supreme being Yasdan is the highest power and seven other spirits emanate from him. One of the seven is the Peacock Angel known as Malak Taus, who is also Yasdan's alter ego. Malak's nickname is Shaytan, Arabic for the devil, which leads to the misconception that Yazidis worship Satan.
This misconception has caused the Yazidi people to be targeted by the Islamic State. From raping and kidnapping their women, to murdering their families, the Islamic State is hellbent on destroying the entire Yazidi community, which has a dwindling population of around 700,000.
If hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, then the IS is being scorched by the Sun Girls right about now.
According to the Daily Mail, SGB was formed in Iraqi Kurdistan by a popular Yazidi singer named Xate Shingali on July 2. The group's (unofficial) name is a reference to their immense respect for the sun as a symbol of protection. If hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, then the IS is being scorched by the Sun Girls right about now.
A source in Kurdistan informed Broadly that on August 3rd a woman known as Commander Khatey took charge over the Sun Girls Brigade. Our interview with the Kurdish speaking Commander was translated by Dr. Niaz Biban.
Khatey informed us that the Yazidi women in the SGB are not afraid to stand up for themselves, or their country.
"I joined the forces because I want to fight for my people and for Kurdistan," Khatey said.
The Yazidi are primarily comprised of ethnic Kurds and have been steadily defended against Islamic State persecution by groups like Turkey's militant Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and the People's Protection Units (YPG) in Syria.
"We are doing very well and we have the full support of the Kurdish government," Khatey said.
Before joining the SGB, Commander Khatey aided the Peshmerga, another Iraqi Kurdistan military force. New SGB recruits begin their training with male Peshmerga soldiers, who teach them how to use AK47s. Since July, the army Khatey now commands has grown to over 400 soldiers.
Entire families are fighting. Women of all ages are a part of this. Some mothers are fighting with their daughters.
"Entire families are fighting. Women of all ages are a part of this. Some mothers are fighting with their daughters." Khatey added that five groups within her own family are currently in combat, including her brother, sister and their children.
The SGB Commander is originally from a region northeast of Mosul in Northern Iraq called Sheikhan. Her drive to fight is personal. The date Khatey took control of SGB is significant for the Yazidi people. August 3rd marks the Sinjar Massacre committed by ISIL one year ago on that day.
Thousands of Yazidi people were slaughtered like animals. Women were murdered, raped, and enslaved - those who survived were forced to run and tens of thousands found themselves stranded without resources. The event was recently labeled a possible genocide by the United Nations. In its aftermath the Sun Girls Brigade was born. On August 3rd, 2015, Commander Khatey stepped in with full ammunition and hundreds of women behind her.
While the news cycle spins at a rapid pace, the Yazidis have been in and out of the media's spotlight. Their story is far from over. From one hundred soldiers at inception to four hundred this fall, and on to what could soon be thousands—these women are manifestations of what it means to reclaim power.
"Some women are fighting for their honor, and some are fighting for Kurdistan," Commander Khatey said. "We are making progress."