Reviewed in the United States on February 28, 2020Format:
Kurdish women have played a central role in Kurdish society and politics despite the fact that they live in a male-dominated world still plagued by profound challenges with regard to women’s rights, forced marriages, honor killings, and even in some areas female genital mutilation. Nonetheless Kurdish women have served as chiefs of tribes and rulers, in some instances described as ‘lionesses,’ for their bravery and determination. Meanwhile, in the last decades in particular, Kurdish women in Iraq and Syria have served as outstanding, courageous, and relentless fighters in the struggle against Isis. When the Sun Rises offers a stirring fictionalized account of the struggles faced by these remarkable women, true lionesses.
The story begins in Kobane, situated at the border between Turkey and Syria, in 2014, when the city was under siege by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, also known as Daesh.
The protagonist is Karin, a medical student at university who together with her best friend Roza decides to join the fight against Daesh in the desire to defend their home and their families. Both Karin and Roza experience heartbreaking losses which push them toward making the difficult decision to join up despite the sacrifice of having to leave their families and, in Roza’s case, even a child behind. The two women try to stay together throughout their training in the Women’s Protection Unit (YPJ) and in battle. They also form strong bonds with other women in their unit as well as a few men with whom they interact.
The writing is vivid and believable with colorful descriptions of family life in Kobani and the sounds and scents of Kurdish life which makes the destruction wreaked by the war even more devastating. The author provides compelling insights into the various complex emotions experienced by these women who reach their decisions to join up for a range of reasons, but are united in friendship and affection until the end.
The book ends on a positive note, with a glimpse of a recovering city and the sense of life resuming.
As a bitter coda to this moving account which was released in October 2019, just at that time, the Turkish offensive into north-eastern Syria led to the Second Northern Syria Buffer Zone Agreement and forced Kurdish military forces to withdraw from Kobane while the city was placed under the control of the Syrian army and the Russian military police. My heart goes out to the fictional Karin and all her sisters who have been fighting so valiantly for autonomy.”