A Road Unforeseen: Women Fight the Islamic State (2016)

In war-torn northern Syria, a democratic society—based on secularism, ethnic inclusiveness, and gender equality—has won significant victories against the Islamic State with women on the front lines as fierce warriors and leaders.
A Road Unforeseen recounts the dramatic, under-reported history of the Rojava Kurds, whose all-women militia was instrumental in the perilous mountaintop rescue of tens of thousands of civilians besieged in Iraq. Up to that point, the Islamic State had seemed invincible. Yet these women helped vanquish them, bringing the first half of the refugees to safety within twenty-four hours. Who are the revolutionary women of Rojava, what are their chances for survival under attack from all sides, and what lessons can we learn from their heroic story?

“This is the book I’ve been waiting for—only it’s richer, deeper, and more intriguing than I could have imagined. A Road Unforeseen is a major contribution to our understanding of feminism and Islam, of women and the world, and gives me fresh hope for change.”--Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Nickel and Dimed and Living With a Wild God

“A Road Unforeseen is essential reading to understand the extraordinary democratic revolution led by the Kurds in Syria. This is compelling history but also a clarion call to the US and the international community to support this fragile project that elevates and celebrates human rights, democracy, and equality for all genders, races, and religions.”--Carne Ross, author of Independent Diplomat and The Leaderless Revolution

“Meredith Tax tells the tangled and amazing history of Kurdish politics—from family feuds to terrorism to radical democracy and feminism—with just the right mixture of admiration and concern.”--Michael Walzer, author of Just and Unjust Wars and The Paradox of Liberation

“We in the West are so unused to thinking of Middle Eastern and Muslim women as liberated, let alone as feminist revolutionaries, that Meredith Tax’s remarkable book, A Road Unforeseen, comes as a welcome correction. By tracing the historical and political evolution of a group of Kurdish feminist guerrillas, Tax shows us what revolution looks like with feminism at its center, even in the midst of the repressive and violent attacks on women and Kurds in Turkey, Iraq, and Syria. This powerful and persuasive book is a must-read for anyone who takes the plight of women seriously.”--Helen Benedict, author of The Lonely Soldier and Sand Queen

“At last we have a book that tells us what we crave to know each day as we open the newspaper to read about IS, Islamists, shifting alliances, enslaved women, fleeing immigrants, and shocking cruelties. Meredith Tax shows us how the Kurds of Rojava are trying to put in place a system of equality between men and women and take local, democratic control of their lives, which would be remarkable anywhere, let alone in a war zone. As Tax so clearly demonstrates here, putting women at the center of a struggle for freedom changes everything. It’s time to learn about the extraordinary Rojava and the hope it offers that another world is possible.”--Ann Snitow, author of The Feminism of Uncertainty

“This book lifts the lid on one of the best-kept secrets of our times, the birth of a revolution in the Middle East driven by gender equality and direct democracy. Meredith Tax makes a well-researched, cogent, and passionate case for why we should all get behind this experiment, at once fragile and gutsy, in Rojava, northern Syria, and Turkey.”--Rahila Gupta, author of Provoked and Enslaved

“An indefatigable political thinker and activist takes us on a forensic journey into the gendering of geopolitical conflict and resistance."--Beatrix Campbell, author of Diana, Princess of Wales: How Sexual Politics Shook the Monarchy and End of Equality: The Only Way Is Women’s Liberation

Reviews and Press

Rahila Gupta, “Who Are the Liberators of Raqqa?,” Feminist Dissent, Nov. 27, 2018


Chris Slee, "The Kurdish movement for radical change in Syria and the broader Middle East," LINKS International Journal of Socialist Renewal, April 3, 2018


Elia Gran, “When Women Lead the Revolution,” Indypendant, Sept. 19, 2016


Bill Weinberg, “Syria’s Kurdish Contradiction,” Los Angeles Review of Books, Oct. 8, 2017


Spencer Sunshine, “The Feminist Transformation in Radical Kurdistan,” Toward Freedom, Feb. 7, 2017


“Kurdish women soldiers aren't just fighting ISIL, they’re leading society in a different way: author,” National Post (Toronto), Oct. 6, 2016


Burt Cohen, “Kurdish Women Beat ISIS,” Keeping Democracy Alive (podcast), Sept. 27, 2016


Benj DeMott, “Common Sense,” First of the Month, Sept. 25, 2016


Chris Carr, “The Dry Cleaner Cast,” [podcast], June 2016


Stephanie Bastek, “Women vs. ISIS,” Smarty Pants Podcast, American Scholar, Aug. 23, 2016


Ian Masters, “Supporting the Women Who Fight ISIS,” Background Briefing (podcast), Aug. 21, 2016


Publishers Weekly, Aug. 18, 2016


Janet Biehl, “Review: A Road Unforeseen – Women Fight the Islamic State,” ROAR, Aug. 15, 2016


Bill Fletcher, Jr., “Changing the Paradigm: Women, National Liberation and Revolution in the 21st Century,” Alternet, July 16, 2016


Bea Campbell, “Who are they, these revolutionary Rojava women?,” openDemocracy 50.50, July 12, 2016


Eleanor J. Bader, “Writer-Activist Meredith Tax Gives Voice to the Women Fighting ISIS,” Lilith Blog, July 6, 2016


Wendy Smith, “The Good Fight,” Publisher’s Weekly, July 1, 2016