Viyan Antar, 19, was killed fighting Islamic State forces in Northern Syria last month. Undoubtedly, Viyan, like many Kurdish fighters, was gorgeous. Western media outlets sought to capitalize on the death of the “Kurdish Angelina Jolie”. Her photo was plastered all over the media. Her death was used to further the march for war in Syria. Had this been a US soldier, the incident would have been forgotten before her body was cold. In this case, the media’s treatment of the young Kurdish fighter unleashed a firestorm of criticism and sparked multiple debates.
The first and most obvious is the sexualization of a fighter who gave her life fighting in support of a philosophy that seeks to end the sexualization of women. In something glossed over in the rush to create propaganda, the media failed to mention that Viyan was fighting with the YPG, a Kurdish group dedicated to a certain set of ideas. One of the major beliefs is that people are judged by their service to cause of liberation, not their appearance. Casting Viyan as the teenage beauty queen martyred on the alter of fighting the Islamic State betrayed everything she actually fought and died for. It was a travesty of journalism.