SDF liberated the town of Baghouz (Baxoz), in the district in the besieged region of Deir ez-Zor (Dêrezor) on 23 March 2019. The residents of the town, which had been occupied by ISIS, have been embracing the freedom with gratitude and thanks as they still vividly remember what they witnessed and the suffering they had been subjected to by the hands of ISIS jihadists.
The SDF (Syrian Democratic Forces) fighters, who liberated the town, attributed the liberation of Baghouz to Yazidi women in Shengal (Sinjar).
Melek Ebd-Kerim, a woman from Baghouz has been very inspired by the women’s liberation after the SDF forces defeated ISIS, because she still remembers “the brutal attacks and violence, which caused me to leave my own home and town.”
After the liberation Melek returned “home”. Living in Deir ez-Zor now, she has been active in the Women’s Committee of her town. Participating in the political life and decision-making processes of her communty, Melek spoke to Jin News on the anniversary of the liberation of Deir ez-Zor.
‘Even talking about it causes me to suffer’
A direct witness of the ISIS occupation, Melek said, even talking about the “cruelty” of those days causes her to “suffer” remembering those days.
The life before ISIS were not so ideal for the women of Deir ez-Zor either. Melek has been studying social sciences, but she had to quit her university studies following the attacks of ISIS.
”During the Baath Regime, there was classification among people and discrimination. In addition to the patriarchal and state-set boundaries, there were cultural boundaries for women. A woman living in Deir ez-Zor was not allowed to just go out as she wanted. Women were under pressure from both the Baath Regime and the traditions of the society, and most recently, by ISIS and other groups,” Melek said.
‘Our homes were plundered by force’
Melek describes the occupation of Deir ez-Zor by ISIS, saying ”One day, when I came home, the house was filled with gangs. They said the house now belongs to them and if I join the group, they will give my house back. But I did not accept their offer and left. These attacks were carried out under the control of the Baath Regime.”
When Deir ez-Zor was occupied by ISIS “they imposed their own obligatory laws and system. Women meant nothing anymore. Women were prohibited from going out of their homes and walking alone. Arbitrary curfews were regularly announced.”
Melek remembers a day when she went out of her home without “permission”, “I was shot on my leg by the gangs. I was taken to hospital. Doctors were not allowed to treat a women or bandage their wounds. I did not get treatment until my family came to the hospital,” Melek said.
Executing women ‘with stones’
It was the month of Ramadan, suddenly the sound of warplanes came and they hit the house of Melek’s uncle.
“My uncle died in this attack. ISIS gangs did not allow us to bury my uncle with a proper funeral,” she said.
In addition to those personal family tragedies, Melek witnessed the collective suffering of her community and especially the women of her community. “One day, the gangs brought a woman to the street, just because she got angry when she was imposed with an order. They organized children around her and stoned her until she was…” she said, but she broke down and it was hard for her to finish her sentence. “It is difficult to explain what happened, it hurts when I speak about it.”
The suprise after “liberation’
Melek pointed out that people in the city were ‘surprised’ when SDF announced that the people themselves would rule the city.
“People were so excited. This was a surprise for all of us. Thanks to the resistance of SDF forces, our cities have been cleared of ISIS gangs,” Melek said.
Just like any surprise, the people of Deir ez-Zor were also a bit “nervous” as well, not knowing what would happen after the SDF took control. “When the SDF announced that they liberated the town, the fear of the people was gone. The SDF forces said that the city would be ruled by the people of the town from then on. In a short period of time, SDF forces were loved by the people. The Autonomous Administration was formed on the basis of the unity of the peoples and it has been working with those principles since then,” she said.
‘I feel such a part of the revolution’
The liberation had much more meaning for the women, Melek stated, “Women’s resistance in Rojava Kurdistan has been a great source of inspiration for me. Now I feel like I am a part of the revolution”.
Liberation has been the beginning of a new era for Arab women in the region, according to her. “We, as Arab women, have taken great and historical steps in many issues after the liberation. I had to leave my town when ISIS ruled, but now I am in the women’s committee in the third year of liberation. Within the Autonomous Administration system, women can protect their rights. We have established a free and just system where all peoples live happily together,” she said.