No Friends but the Mountains Women of the PKK Guerrillas Iraq/Turkey border, Kurdistan Helin is from Diyarbakir in Southern Turkey. From the age of five, she watched every night as the police came to her home and tortured her father, mother and brother and as they smashed up her home. “In England, most children don’t suffer this”, she tells us, “I was too small to do anything about what was happening then, but decided when I was old enough, that I would. I finally joined the PKK when I was 13” In the 1980s, among the ranks of the guerrilla fighters of the PKK or Kurdistan Workers Party, there were reported to be a dozen women fighting. While figures are inexact, one commander told us as many as 10,000 PKK soldiers are amassing in mountain camps just across the Iraqi border, risking their lives in daily spats with the Turkish army – the military representatives of a government they accuse of unmerciful human rights atrocities and the suppression of a nation of 14 million people. However, what is not widely reported is that a third of these Kurdish combatants are women – a phenomenon perhaps without precedent. In all recent conflicts, from Bosnia to Palestine, women have been amongst those killed fighting, but has there ever been such an exodus of women leaving village life and their families, to take up arms in a foreign land? Each had a story about the family they had left behind, and although they come from diverse backgrounds, and often from different countries, each had an experience that has driven their decision to fight and was at the heart of their belief in the PKK cause. And each believed that the sacrifices they had made, in leaving their homes and committing to a life which precludes marriage and having children, was worthwhile. Text by Katie Scott.