A platoon of female Peshmarga in a military training camp near Sulaimani. Photo: Rudaw
SULAIMANI, Kurdistan Region — Eighty female volunteers have signed up to join Peshmerga forces to fight the Islamic State in the Kurdistan region of Iraq, according to Peshmerga Regiment commander Colonel Nahida Ahmed, but budget shortfalls have prevented them from finishing the enlistment process.
“Due to a hiring budget shortage in the government sector, the military has been halted and this hampers the female volunteers attempting join the female Peshmerga special regiment,” she told Rudaw.
“Female fighter applications are left in officials’ drawers,” she lamented.
The Female Peshmerga Regiment is tied to the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) party. It was established in 1996 and now has 500 female fighters that have undergone special military training. Since 2003, they have been assigned to missions like maintaining border security and the supervision of women’s shelters across the region.
“Since ISIS has initiated its military campaign in Iraq and attacked Kurdistan, women fighters from the female Peshmerga forces deployed in the frontlines have been fighting against the Islamic extremists,” Ahmed said. “My deputy was killed in a battle with ISIS.”
According to official figures, 110,000 male Peshmerga are serving in both 70 and 80 units of the Peshmerga Ministry and 5,000 new volunteers have recently signed up to join.
“The number of female Peshmerga is underrepresented in the military forces, there should be as many female Peshmerga as there are males,” Ahmed added.
Bahar Abdulrahman, the director for women’s affairs in the Kurdistan Parliament, said the causes of female underrepresentation in the military are interwoven with social and cultural factors. “Women are not assigned to challenging tasks that require physical stamina,” she said.
“I don’t want to get married, that’s why I decided to join Peshmerga forces,” said 32-year-old Shima Mahiadin. She has been serving in the female Peshmerga Regiment since 2009.