Marie Claire’s latest feature on inspirational women is misleading.
The article by Elizabeth Griffin is titled “These Remarkable Women Are Fighting ISIS. It’s Time You Know Who They Are” — and the women profiled are indeed remarkable. Even if, like me, you generally oppose women serving in combat roles, you have to admire their courage in fighting the evil that is ISIS.
But what is misleading it the claim that they are women. Of the 13 females in the photo essay, two are young girls. As the feature notes,
The women range in age from 18-40, though there are some younger recruits like Hevedar Mohammed, 12, (pictured below). Recruits under the age of 18 are not permitted to fight, though they go through some physical training and participate in the group by way of carrying out ‘household’ chores. Hevedar, like many YPJ, was inspired to join because of the group’s reputation for developing strong, independent women and because of its positive standing in the community.
If twelve-year-old Hevedar is not permitted to fight, why is she photographed holding an AK-47 assault rifle?
Granted, these girls likely do not serve in direct combat. Yet the use of children in military forces and in combat zones is still immoral. While the definition of “child soldier” under international law is murky, the use of young girls in combat areas should be considered by all civilized people to be illegitimate, and certainly not something to be celebrated. As Amanda Taub notes, even if their service is not a violation of international law “publishing photographs of [the girls] in combat gear, with their names listed and their faces clearly showing, places them at risk.”
The Kurdish military deserves support in their defense against ISIS. But we shouldn’t condone the use of children in war zones — or promote them in a national American magazine — even if they are fighting on the side of the “good guys.”