The real story behind ‘Angel of Kobani’

A hysteric sharing and glorifying the image of the “Angel of Kobani” or “Rehana” on social media around the world launched this girl into media space. She is Kurdish fighter who has become a symbol of resistance against Islamic State. According to the stories, she’s slain as many as 100 Islamic State fighters. Only one hitch: she’s probably not who people think she is.

Town Kobani in northern Syria still struggling to repel off attacks of Islamic State jihadists. Kurdish fighters there, backed by air strikes from an international coalition, are battling with Islamic State. But it’s hard to get images or news directly from Kobani, with access for journalists limited. Against this backdrop, stories are being shared on social media networks of fighters who become internet legends. And none more so than “Angel of Kobani” whose image has come to symbolise the female fighters pitted against the ISIS and its Jihadists, whose respects for women’s rights are seen as severely limited. Thousands have shared this picture on Twitter and Facebook, with stories of her bravery and the idea that she has killed large numbers of ISIS fighters.

But where does the image actually come from? In fact the woman now known as “Rehana” was photographed at an event in Kobani, but on 22 August – months before her image began trending. She was at a ceremony for volunteers and was wearing a military style uniform. The Swedish journalist Carl Drott was the only international journalist in Kobane at the time and had a short exchange with her before the ceremony. He says she was not a front line fighter at all, volunteering instead with the home guard or police force of Kobane. He says its therefore unlikely she has killed huge numbers of the enemy. “She came up to me and said she used to study law in Aleppo but that Islamic State had killed her father so she had decided to join these forces herself,” Drott says. “I tried to speak to her afterwards but never managed to find her or get her name.” (The name “Rehana” seems to have come later and is not a common Kurdish name).

The following day, this image was posted on the blog ‘Bijikurdistan’ which supports the Kurdish effort in Kobani. It then seems to have gone largely unnoticed until it was shared on Twitter over a month later by an English-language news outlet based in the Kurdish region, Slemani Times. That is when the stories and mystery around her began building up on social media.

Despite the fact that some were claiming she was dead, it was on 13 October that others started naming “Rehana” (still alive in this version). This is also when her story went truly global. It happened through a tweet which was retweeted 5,500 times. “Rehana has killed more than a hundred #ISIS terrorists in #Kobane,” that tweet said. “RT and make her famous for her bravery.” And so the Angel of Kobani came into existence.

On 5 October, rumours of her death began to trend. An influential Saudi Twitter user known as @alfaisal_ragad posted an image to her 200,000 followers saying that a Kurdish woman has been beheaded by an IS fighter. On 10 October Twitter user @Kurdistan_Army was among those sharing the image of the beheading beside the photo of the woman who would come to be known as “Rehana” smiling for the camera. The association had been made. The rumours and speculation continued.

How this story around “Angle of Kobani” will develop remains to be seen…


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Charles is the editor for 248 Shooter a midwest based gun news and gear review site as well as Online Content Director for On Target Magazine. He is an avid student taking classes from top tier trainers around the country. Charles shares his love for training as well as experience and opinions on some of the most talked about gear and products used by competitive shooters, military, leo and civilians.