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Freedom Fighter: My War Against ISIS on the Front Lines of Syria

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Joanna Palani made headlines across the world in 2016 when her role fighting on the front line of the Syrian conflict was revealed. She is one of a handful of western women who have joined the international recruits to the Kurdish forces in Syria and is the first woman fighter to tell her story. Joanna was born to Iranian-Kurdish parents in a refugee camp in Iraq, before he Joanna Palani made headlines across the world in 2016 when her role fighting on the front line of the Syrian conflict was revealed. She is one of a handful of western women who have joined the international recruits to the Kurdish forces in Syria and is the first woman fighter to tell her story. Joanna was born to Iranian-Kurdish parents in a refugee camp in Iraq, before her family were accepted in to Denmark. During the Arab Spring, Joanna realized she needed to do something to protect the values she believes in, and the culture she loves. Leaving behind her life as a student, Joanna underwent considerable military training and travelled to the Middle East, where she spent time over several years fighting on the front line, including at the devastating battle for Kobani.


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Joanna Palani made headlines across the world in 2016 when her role fighting on the front line of the Syrian conflict was revealed. She is one of a handful of western women who have joined the international recruits to the Kurdish forces in Syria and is the first woman fighter to tell her story. Joanna was born to Iranian-Kurdish parents in a refugee camp in Iraq, before he Joanna Palani made headlines across the world in 2016 when her role fighting on the front line of the Syrian conflict was revealed. She is one of a handful of western women who have joined the international recruits to the Kurdish forces in Syria and is the first woman fighter to tell her story. Joanna was born to Iranian-Kurdish parents in a refugee camp in Iraq, before her family were accepted in to Denmark. During the Arab Spring, Joanna realized she needed to do something to protect the values she believes in, and the culture she loves. Leaving behind her life as a student, Joanna underwent considerable military training and travelled to the Middle East, where she spent time over several years fighting on the front line, including at the devastating battle for Kobani.

30 review for Freedom Fighter: My War Against ISIS on the Front Lines of Syria

  1. 4 out of 5

    Barbara

    This should be a fascinating book as it's not every day you get the chance to learn about what it's like to fight with the Kurdish women's army or YPJ. The problem is that Joanna Palani's story is so badly told, so confused and so tied up with her fighting her own inner demons that you've got zero chance of actually getting much insight into the war in Syria. More than anything Palani is an unhappy woman who seems to be looking for a fight with just about everybody she comes across. Her parents, This should be a fascinating book as it's not every day you get the chance to learn about what it's like to fight with the Kurdish women's army or YPJ. The problem is that Joanna Palani's story is so badly told, so confused and so tied up with her fighting her own inner demons that you've got zero chance of actually getting much insight into the war in Syria. More than anything Palani is an unhappy woman who seems to be looking for a fight with just about everybody she comes across. Her parents, her brothers, her school, her friends, her societies and sometimes even herself. She's bloody hard work. I got no clear sense of what she was really trying to achieve. She wanted to be a part of the YPJ but not a full part as she demanded to be allowed to go home to Denmark whenever it suited her. She wanted to be Danish but was furious when her adopted country threatened to take her passport away. She wants pretty much everything pretty much HER way. She's so angry at the world that I couldn't help thinking she needed to sort out her own 'issues' before she went off killing Daesh. I was confused. She hates Turks ahead of all others - which is not unusual for a Kurd - but the war wasn't about the Turks. The 'enemy' seemed to keep changing on the ground but in her mind, it seemed like the enemy was everybody who ever didn't take her seriously. She wants to be a Kurdish fighter but still be allowed to go home. She wants the privileges of the 'volunteers' but not to be treated as an outsider. I have rarely read anything in which a person's loneliness and hunt for belonging is more frustrated by their own stubborn character. Undoubtedly she's a brave woman. Undoubtedly she's a killer who has done things too horrible to put in print. But she's also a very troubled young woman - or 'female' since she doesn't like the word 'woman' because it contains 'man' and prefers 'female' without the slightest hint of irony that it also contains 'male'. This is less a story about war and more one about a person's failure to fit in as a result of being a refugee. I had high hopes but just found it a rambling mess of a book in which everything was somebody else's fault. In many ways she's incredibly lucky to have ended up on the 'side' that seems to have come out of this conflict as the relative good guys. Is she really any less obsessed or blood thirsty than the 'volunteers' who went fight WITH ISIS instead of against them?

  2. 5 out of 5

    George (BuriedInBooks)

    Hi everyone. Welcome to my latest review. It’s been a while since my last and this book slipped under the radar so I quickly read and reviewed it. Today I’m reviewing freedom fighter. I thought the female perspective was a nice change as most war memoirs are male. I also haven’t read many memoirs from the conflict against the Islamic State. The writing style was interesting and well thought out the author does well to set the scene and doesn’t hold back on some of the details. Characters were in Hi everyone. Welcome to my latest review. It’s been a while since my last and this book slipped under the radar so I quickly read and reviewed it. Today I’m reviewing freedom fighter. I thought the female perspective was a nice change as most war memoirs are male. I also haven’t read many memoirs from the conflict against the Islamic State. The writing style was interesting and well thought out the author does well to set the scene and doesn’t hold back on some of the details. Characters were interesting and the cover draws your attention, it would stand out on the shelf’s well. In my final review I give Freedom Fighter a very respectable three out of five stars. Thanks everyone for reading

  3. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

    This book a well written and authentic account of the life of Joanna Palini, a Kurdish soldier on the frontline in the fight against Daesh (ISIS). The reading is tough at times, dealing with the gritty nature of the conflict with some very graphic content. The regional politics were an eye opener, revealing how Turkey assisted Daesh, leaving the Kurdish fighters and local populace to suffer great deprivations and losses; in essence supporting a policy of extermination rather than salvation. Refug This book a well written and authentic account of the life of Joanna Palini, a Kurdish soldier on the frontline in the fight against Daesh (ISIS). The reading is tough at times, dealing with the gritty nature of the conflict with some very graphic content. The regional politics were an eye opener, revealing how Turkey assisted Daesh, leaving the Kurdish fighters and local populace to suffer great deprivations and losses; in essence supporting a policy of extermination rather than salvation. Refugees are in the media, some political factions reacting negatively to these people who are desperately fleeing conflict. It was good to learn how Joanna came to Denmark as a Kurdish refugee with her family as a child. As a female she was expected to live by higher standards than her brothers and was beaten many times, the Denmark authorities didn’t give her the support that you would expect because of a fear of intervening in the actions of a different culture. However she fought back against the sexism that she encountered in her family and in Denmark generally. And this part of her nature shows throughout the book, there are times though when she tires and cannot fight any more. In a very honest account, Joanna reveals her weaknesses and naivety at times; providing a stark contrast to her bolder actions. Considering what she experienced in war, I didn’t anticipate how much she suffered under the weight of social media oppression. The keyboard warriors with no insight into her character, bringing her down through their spittle encrusted venom. Although we may be privileged in the west, this underlines an issue we need to address, the impacts of online trolling and hatred can feel as bad as physical abuse. There are astonishing details on the training camps and how the female YPJ fighters work together and contribute as equals to the male fighters in the conflict. This challenges the view that males should be the ones pulling the trigger, as if only males can protect females, but each can contribute equally in a war zone. The way that the female fighters are taught support each other and have feminist goals is striking, if only this could be rolled out across the globe. The author describes many strong female fighters, commanders and trainers who she came across, so many vivid and impressive personalities. And yet there is sadness in the vast amount who were lost to war. Overall this book reveals a need for nations to provide more support for refugees, bringing a smoother integration. We could learn from the feminist policies in the YPJ. But most importantly support those who are being oppressed by regimes like Daesh; hoping to prevent the mass exodus of civilians and the horrors of war. This is a must read book, I have gained insight into a conflict that westerners have been shielded from.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Ursula

    This is very much a first person narrative and you may find yourself hating it because it is not a comfortable armchair read. The author is a volunteer fighter for a variety of revolutionary forces in Kurdish lands. She is a killer and a trainer of killers. It is fascinating to discover how she became one, to try to understand her thinking as well as the experiences she explains to us. Joanna Palani is a Danish citizen having come to Europe as a young child when her family sought asylum. She has This is very much a first person narrative and you may find yourself hating it because it is not a comfortable armchair read. The author is a volunteer fighter for a variety of revolutionary forces in Kurdish lands. She is a killer and a trainer of killers. It is fascinating to discover how she became one, to try to understand her thinking as well as the experiences she explains to us. Joanna Palani is a Danish citizen having come to Europe as a young child when her family sought asylum. She has many western values and privileges but feels at home in Kurdish towns and mountains. She has a very strong belief that it is worth fighting hard for the independence of women as well as for the statehood of Kurds. She enjoys the media spotlight on occasion but has also endured severe privation camping on mountains in the winter and near to starvation when food supplies were blockaded. Her life in some countries is literally in danger from opposing forces. It is strange to realise many of her decisions, which her family disapproved of, were made when she was a teenager. The writer is brutally honest about her feelings and motives as she grows up. She often reveals aspects which don't show her in a very good light - to European eyes. This same honesty revels some shocking details of violence and cruelty the writer has encountered and sometimes been the victim of. This powerful story is definitely an eye-opener.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Angela L

    As someone who has seen reports from Syria and just wondered "WHY?" I had hoped for some kind of explanation from this book. I got a no holds barred account of life as a fighter in the country. Joanna Palani is a Kurd whose family was given asylum in Denmark when she was a child. In some ways the account of her life as a female Kurd are almost a disturbing as the accounts of her fights. Women are very much second class citizens with pretty much no rights and I can't begin to imagine how hard it mu As someone who has seen reports from Syria and just wondered "WHY?" I had hoped for some kind of explanation from this book. I got a no holds barred account of life as a fighter in the country. Joanna Palani is a Kurd whose family was given asylum in Denmark when she was a child. In some ways the account of her life as a female Kurd are almost a disturbing as the accounts of her fights. Women are very much second class citizens with pretty much no rights and I can't begin to imagine how hard it must be to try and be accepted within the western world whilst behind closed doors most of your actions are being criticised by your own family. You can almost imagine that it would be a relief to leave this kind of life behind but, by golly, choosing to be a fighter in Syria is extreme. A someone who doesn't really understand the situation there, some political background would have been useful. The no compromise style of the book is pretty shocking though. When you have had so many colleagues literally killed in front of your eyes and cheated death repeatedly it's hard to imagine why you would want to carry on. You would need to be "fanatical" to carry on. Joanna has been abused/abused her body so much it's hard to understand her willingness to continue as she did and I'm sure there's a lot more stuff beneath the surface than she reveals in this book. Equally as a woman with a price on her head it's hard to imagine what a "normal" future could look like for her. I daresay I would have benefitted from some research into the Syrian conflict before reading this so that I could more easily understand the psyche that leads to a life lived this way. A fascinating look at the inside of this horrific war though!

  6. 4 out of 5

    Michael Hutchison

    I did like this book, found it interesting. A good portion of the book captivated me. Taken at face value it is a hell of a story for a woman or man to go through. I thought there would be more fire fight or battle stories. She tells her story more from an interpersonal perspective. She had a tough up bringing and I found it curious that she channeled her energies into fighting for something she loved. Kurdistan and women's rights. The culture of her parents, Kurdish, is so abusive to the female I did like this book, found it interesting. A good portion of the book captivated me. Taken at face value it is a hell of a story for a woman or man to go through. I thought there would be more fire fight or battle stories. She tells her story more from an interpersonal perspective. She had a tough up bringing and I found it curious that she channeled her energies into fighting for something she loved. Kurdistan and women's rights. The culture of her parents, Kurdish, is so abusive to the females. The punishments, beatings, and threats she grew up with, and becoming more western than eastern in her personal culture. Much of the book is consumed with her struggle with the Kurdish, Iraqi, Syrian, and Turkish cultures. The red tape and control the armies have over her. She is not a woman to tolerate that well. She came to fight and just let her fight. Tell you something else, and not just because of this book, but because of some of my other readings. There are so many different groups in the middle east, so many tribes, cultures, religions, organizations, etc., and they all seem to hate each other. She was young when she went to fight but not as young as many of the YPG and Peshmerga women fighters. Dam shame that is the life they have to live and that there will never be a Kurdistan state. I think she went into the war the way most volunteers do and came out alive they way most do. Hope she has a good life and deals with her ghosts.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Gail Owen

    Powerful and important Wonderfully written, emotive and tense from the off. This book is set to educate about what is really going on in the frontlines of the Syrian war and illustrates how important it is to fight for women all over. This seems to be both an eye opener to a different perspective to the one we’re fed by the media, but also a story of friendship and sacrifice. As you progress through the book it is hard going and gruesome as the true horror and terror of war are revealed. Refugee Powerful and important Wonderfully written, emotive and tense from the off. This book is set to educate about what is really going on in the frontlines of the Syrian war and illustrates how important it is to fight for women all over. This seems to be both an eye opener to a different perspective to the one we’re fed by the media, but also a story of friendship and sacrifice. As you progress through the book it is hard going and gruesome as the true horror and terror of war are revealed. Refugees are so often dehumanised by the media. Joanna tells of her personal struggle as a refugee on Denmark, where as a female she is treated differently to her brothers and is beaten. The Danish authorities, aware of the cultural differences don’t know how to properly intervene. Perhaps in this context it’s not surprising she goes to fight for women in Syria. A well written book, that I would highly recommend to anyone interested in educating themselves about what happens on the fron line of a war of our times. Thanks to Joanne Palani for her frank and honest account.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Juliat

    Joanna Palani was a student in Copenhagen when she decided to go to join the YPJ, the all female brigade of the Kurdish militia in Syria. This memoir tells her story of the battles she has faced because of her decision. This is reasonably well written but it being translated makes it difficult to read. It covers some horrible things that I was not aware of in my safe little world. So perhaps this should be widely distributed to raise awareness about what has happened to thousands of people whose Joanna Palani was a student in Copenhagen when she decided to go to join the YPJ, the all female brigade of the Kurdish militia in Syria. This memoir tells her story of the battles she has faced because of her decision. This is reasonably well written but it being translated makes it difficult to read. It covers some horrible things that I was not aware of in my safe little world. So perhaps this should be widely distributed to raise awareness about what has happened to thousands of people whose only crime was being born in the wrong place. Also making us aware of the political mine field this opened up as fighters against ISIS were prosecuted the same as supporters. I hope Joanna will have a good life in the future.

  9. 4 out of 5

    clanger3920

    An interesting perspective of the fight against ISIS. An interesting account of the fight from a female perspective and the complexities brought about my international law and the concepts that countries have of the fight against ISIS and the potential threats that combatants have on national security.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Σταμάτης Σταματόπουλος

    One star less than five only because of the erratic writing. In my opinion the text needed some more editing. Nevertheless Joanna's story is exceptionally interesting, powerful and gripping. Through her book she offers us an overview not only of the situation in the Syrian war, but (maybe even more importantly) the position of women in the conflict and the Kurdish life in general.

  11. 5 out of 5

    AJ

    Very raw and at times brutally honest. It doesn't necessarily give a proper insight into what it might have been like to be a female freedom fighter in general however it's important to emphasise on the fact that this is Joanna Palani's personal story and how much strength it takes to tell a story like this out public.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Caragh Whitehead

    I really enjoyed this book as I learnt so much from it. There is so much history in this area of the world that I don't know anything about.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Kieran Bennett

    Fascinating personal account, even if the author comes across as a walking fuck up waiting to happen.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jerry Maguire

  15. 4 out of 5

    Claire

  16. 5 out of 5

    Bill

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jerry Lee

  18. 5 out of 5

    Sean

  19. 5 out of 5

    James Anderson

  20. 4 out of 5

    E. Mary

  21. 4 out of 5

    Priscilla

  22. 4 out of 5

    Linda Ranger

  23. 4 out of 5

    Emma

  24. 4 out of 5

    علي مهره

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Good

  25. 4 out of 5

    Tatum

  26. 4 out of 5

    Teemu Vidgren

  27. 4 out of 5

    Leah

  28. 4 out of 5

    Sean Harrison

  29. 4 out of 5

    william marshall

  30. 5 out of 5

    Zara

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