On the seventh anniversary of the passing of revered Kurdish-Syrian commander Faisal Abdi Bilal Saadoun, who had played a pivotal role in the fight against the Islamic State (ISIS), his daughter Leyla paid her father a heartfelt tribute.
Visiting his grave on Monday, Leyla proudly presented her seventh-grade report card, symbolising an unwavering commitment to fulfilling her father’s final wish. The commander, widely known as Abu Leyla, had expressed a desire that Leyla would pursue a career in medicine. Leyla carried forward her father’s legacy, aspiring to treat children and injured fighters.
Abu Leyla, renowned as the commander of the Northern Sun (Shams al-Shamal) Battalion, became a symbolic figure for the 2014 battle for Kobane (Kobanê), a significant turning point in the war against ISIS. Despite sustaining injuries seven times during the siege of Kobane, he repeatedly returned to the frontlines. At the time of his death, he was a prominent commander within the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
On 5 June 2016, Abu Leyla lost his life in a Sulaymaniyah hospital in Iraqi Kurdistan, struck by a sniper bullet to the head during an offensive against ISIS in Manbij (Minbic). The operation to liberate Manbij continued under his name, known as the “Operation Martyr and Commander Faysal Abu Leyla,” serving as a lasting tribute to his memory. The SDF also established a military academy in his honour.
Highlighting her father’s heroic stature, Leyla proudly expressed, “I am immensely proud of my father. Wherever there was a war, he stood at the forefront. He always spoke the truth, fighting not only for us but for all children facing the perils of militants.”
Poignantly, Abu Leyla wrote to his daughter during the battle of Kobane, proclaiming their shared purpose.
“Our path is clear. It is our duty to defend and persevere. We will fight for you and children like you. We will shield our chests from all dangers so that the children of this land can live in a better and free future. So that when you grow up, you won’t say that I didn’t do anything for us. Leyla, I miss you dearly. You will be proud of your father, whether I am alive or martyred,” he said.