“If You Were Her Enemy, She Would Have No Trouble Killing You”

Nasrin Hamalaw is a mother of eight who has dedicated her life to supporting the women of her homeland. But she's also a "tough as nails" lieutenant colonel in the Peshmerga Women's Batallion, an all-female group fighting the Islamic State terror group in Iraqi Kurdistan. That made her someone you "would never want to be on the wrong side of," according to reporter and editor Neil Shea. "She was just hardcore," Shea told Refinery29. "She was really sweet, but if you were her enemy, she would have no trouble killing you." Shea met Hamalaw while reporting Explorer: Fighting ISIS, an in-depth look at the battle to defeat the terror network that premieres on National Geographic Channel this Sunday. She serves along with all of her children and her husband, whom she outranks. Women have long been part of Peshmerga, the military forces for the region of Iraqi Kurdistan, but the role of female fighters in combatting ISIS across Iraq and Syria, including female Christian militias, is a fairly new phenomenon. In addition to fighting on the front lines, the women of the unit featured in the series "do a lot of social work and protection of women," Shea said. "They operate in shelters, where they take in women escaping bad relationships or troubled families and things like that," he said. Some of those women eventually join the unit and begin earning a paycheck, an often life-changing opportunity in the Middle East. "If a woman can support herself, then she doesn't need a man. She doesn't need to go back to a man who's been bad to her," Shea explained. "So this is one of the other roles of this female unit, which is in some ways almost more important than the combat role." Learn more about Hamalaw and the women of Peshmerga in the exclusive Explorer: Fighting ISIS clip at the top of this story. The episode premieres Sunday, March 6, at 8 p.m. (7 Central) on National Geographic Channel. For more information and clips, visit this link.

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