BEIRUT, Lebanon — The Syrian government is arming and training women to fight for President Bashar Assad, according to video footage and activists' reports.
A video posted on Russia Today's Arabic TV channel from the central city of Homs shows dozens of women in combat fatigues marching around a training ground carrying Kalashnikov rifles, performing drills and chanting slogans in support of Assad.
Their trainer explains that the women are trained to use Kalashnikovs, heavy machine guns and grenades, and to storm and control checkpoints.
The formation of the force comes amid speculation that the regular Syrian army, depleted by defections, desertions and casualties, is being stretched by the effort to suppress Syria's 22-month-old uprising. According to a report in Britain's Independent newspaper, the all-female force, named the "Lionesses for National Defense," is part of an effort to supplement the army with a national defense force militia made up of civilian volunteers.
A blurry video posted by activists shows female soldiers at a checkpoint in Homs, and activists in the city say women are often seen guarding pro-government neighborhoods.