A 19-year-old young woman, whose North Syrian village fell to the hands of the Islamic State, has been forced to wear a niqab since 2014. Once the village was liberated by Syrian and international forces, she found the time to celebrate her freedom. “I felt free when I took off the veil,” she said when she took it off for the first time in two years.

‘I removed the veil and I felt liberated’

‘I removed the veil and I felt liberated’ Reuters/Channel 2 News

 When 19-year-old Souad Hamidi’s North Syrian village was liberated from ISIS’s military control, the young woman regained her freedom. In an interview with Reuters, Hamidi explained her personal feeling of liberation: “I removed the niqab that has covered my face since 2014 and is contrary to what I believe in. I did it to spite those who controlled me in captivity.” 

Over the past two weeks, the Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) have attacked the Manbij city area, attempting to free the area from ISIS. Their success, combined with aerial support from the American-led International Coalition, liberated the region located near the Syrian-Turkish border.

Hamidi, who is originally from the nearby town of Am Adasa, discovered one morning that the very same forces against ISIS had gained control of her hometown. “We saw SDF fighters behind our house, digging to station their snipers, and we thought that they were ISIS fighters, who were still controlling our village.”

Souad Hamidi was liberated from ISIS control

Souad Hamidi was liberated from ISIS control Reuters/Channel 2 News

“We fled, fearing we would be used as human shields during air strikes,” Hamidi continued describing how it felt to see the unplanned battlefield from close up. She said that her family only returned to the village after they were positive that ISIS had truly retreated from the area. Until the village’s liberation, ISIS controlled it under a strict regime that included a rigorous conservative dress-code.

“They would punish anyone who didn’t follow their rules, sometimes forcing them to stay in dug-out graves for days,” Hamidi told. “Since the SDF has taken control over the city, we are living a new life,” she said.

Although she is now free, Hamidi admitted in a discussion held in her home that she still fears that ISIS could return to her village one day. “I want to erase ISIS from my memory. I hope that every area controlled by them is liberated.” Despite her concerns, she decided to convey an optimistic message: “People liberated from them can live a free life like we’re living today.”