The unit was created in 1996 in order to help combat Saddam Hussein loyalists. Since that time they have predominantly existed in a supporting combat role but have recently been used on the front lines at Kirkuk and securing oil fields in Bai Hassan.
The majority of the women are volunteers and have been trained alongside SWAT teams and special forces units. They are led by Colonel Nahida Ahmed Rashid, who began her military career fighting for the Kurdish separatist movement as a teenager and is now the highest-ranking female officer in the Kurdish army.
Some Western media outlets have framed the use of female soldiers as terrifying to the forces of the Islamic State and that they find it dishonourable to be killed by women. However others have pointed out that the IS and al-Qaeda field their own all-female battalions.
A BBC correspondent followed the Peshmerga women was impressed by their motivation to protect other women who have been victims of the IS forces. She also described the support they received from their families and community. “People know that they’re fighting a very, very tough fight,” she said. “But also, in a way, they know that these are pioneers, not just in Kurdistan, but in the region.”