Syria’s Kurdish women cooking for the 'resistance'
AFRIN - At a makeshift kitchen in Syria's Afrin, two women with rolled-up sleeves vigorously stirred a large steaming pot of minced meat.
The mothers, sisters, aunts and wives of the Kurdish fighters battling a Turkish offensive prepare daily meals for their loved ones on the front.
"We help our children, our people. We help the resistance," said Amal Abdu, whose three nephews belong to a Kurdish force facing a Turkish-led operation against the Kurdish-majority enclave.
Ankara on January 20 launched an unprecedented military operation in the region to oust the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), unleashing a relentless volley of shells from across its border with Syria into the enclave.
The semi-autonomous Kurdish authorities have called for a "general mobilisation".
Many women are taking part in the war effort, including at the front with the YPG's Kurdish Women's Protection Units, the YPJ.
Others are working non-stop to provide meals to the fighters.
"With our souls, with our children, we will defend Afrin, until the last drop of our blood," said Abdu, mother of a girl and three boys, elegant gold earrings protruding from her navy blue hijab.
On the menu was kibbeh -- balls of minced meat mixed with crushed wheat, a Middle Eastern speciality.
As well as preparing hot food, Abdu placed large loaves of bread, tomatoes and cucumbers in white plastic bags, carefully closing them for delivery to the front.
Meanwhile, a young woman vigorously washed large green peppers in a blue basin fed by a garden hose.
- Equality even in combat -
This kitchen, set up by Kongreya Star, a Kurdish feminist organisation, is one of many that have sprung up across the region.
"We came, on behalf of the woman, to support our forces, the YPG and the YPJ," said Amina Hamo, a Kongreya Star member with hair pulled back into a knot.
"There are lots of women coming from all over the canton of Afrin to help us.
"The Turks must know that our forces are not alone, we are at their side, and whatever we are asked, we are ready," the 23-year-old said.
Six women of all ages sat on the floor in front of her, peeling and slicing stacks of onions.
In a corner of the room, a pile of egg cartons sat alongside plastic bags bursting with potatoes waiting to be peeled.
Sitting on a low stool, a woman with a grey scarf loosely knotted over her black hair and the sleeves of her green coat rolled up, washed a blue basin. In front of her ripe tomatoes soaked in a big container.
In Syria's conservative society, Kurds see themselves as something of an exception, encouraging gender equality even in combat.
Kurdish forces, backed by the United States, were the backbone of the Syrian Democratic Forces that battled the Islamic State group.
Female commanders such as Rojda Fellat played key roles in last year's offensive to oust the jihadists from their northern Syrian stronghold of Raqa.
Fatma Sliman's son and daughter are taking part in the fight against Turkish forces and allied Syrian rebels, while she oversees kitchen operations for Kongreya Star.
"When we prepare food, we give (the fighters) strength against the enemy," she said. "I feel that I am also defending, what we do is like a weapon, like fighting."