Battle-hardened after two years fighting Islamic State and other Islamist rebel groups in the multi-sided Syrian civil war, Kurdish guerrillas linked to the PKK have in recent weeks made a series of military gains that have spotlighted their growing sway.
The Kurdish region of Syria was largely left to its own devices by the army of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, drawing accusations the PKK’s Syrian branch was in league with Damascus. PKK officials in Syria have denied those accusations.
Last week, the PKK’s Syrian-based units advanced into Iraq and punctured Islamic State lines to help tens of thousands of Yazidis escape an encircled Mount Sinjar. […]
Syrian commanders say the security and quality of life is improving as their guerrilla forces expand rapidly, propelled by thousands of young volunteers. Recruitment is boosted by the deployment of women soldiers on the front line, often in all-female units.
“The jihadists don’t like fighting women, because if they’re killed by a female, they think they won’t go to heaven,” said one female fighter.
Aldar Khalil, a top PKK official in Syria, said the guerrillas don’t have vast stocks of heavy weapons but can easily buy lighter arms—mostly guns, ammunition and rocket propelled grenades—on the black market from well-established smuggling networks, using contributions from citizens and donations from Europe.