Kurd woman leading Kobane battle against ISIS: Activists

Turkish soldiers on a tank sit opposite the Syrian town of Ain al-Arab, known as Kobane by the Kurds, at the Turkish-Syrian border in the southeastern Turkish village of Mursitpinar, Sanliurfa province, on Oct 11, 2014. A Kurdish woman fighter i
Turkish soldiers on a tank sit opposite the Syrian town of Ain al-Arab, known as Kobane by the Kurds, at the Turkish-Syrian border in the southeastern Turkish village of Mursitpinar, Sanliurfa province, on Oct 11, 2014. A Kurdish woman fighter is leading the battle against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants in the Syrian battleground town of Kobane, a monitoring group and activists said on Sunday. -- PHOTO: AFP

BEIRUT (AFP) - A Kurdish woman fighter is leading the battle against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants in the Syrian battleground town of Kobane, a monitoring group and activists said on Sunday.

"Mayssa Abdo, known by the nom-de-guerre of Narin Afrin, is commanding the YPG in Kobane along with Mahmud Barkhodan," Syrian Observatory for Human Rights head Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.

The secular and left-leaning Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) group has been defending Kobane, on the border with Turkey, since ISIS fighters launched an assault on September 16.

The group, the de facto army of the Kurdish regions of north and northeast Syria, is the armed wing of the powerful Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD).

As is the custom for Kurdish fighters, Mayssa, 40, uses a pseudonym, with hers coming from the Afrin region where she was born that is located like Kobane in Aleppo province.

"Those who know her say she is cultivated, intelligent and phlegmatic," said Mustefa Ebdi, a Kurdish activist from Kobane.

"She cares for the mental state of the fighters and takes interest in their problems," he said.

Women traditionally form a major part of Kurdish fighting forces, and they are well represented among Kurdish forces in neighbouring Turkey and Iraq.

On Oct 5, young Kurdish woman fighter Dilar Gencxemis, identified by the YPG by the nom-de-guerre of Arin Mirkan, blew herself up outside Kobane in an attack which reportedly killed dozens of IS militants.

She became the first Kurdish woman suicide bomber since the 2011 start of Syria's conflict.

Since the withdrawal of government forces from Kurdish areas of Syria in mid-2012, the PYD has set up local councils for Kurds to run their own affairs, with women filling 40 percent of seats.