'I felt liberated': life after Islamic
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[June 17, 2016]
By Rodi Said
AM ADASA, Syria (Reuters) - When
U.S.-backed forces seized Souad Hamidi's village in northern Syria from
Islamic State last week, the 19-year-old swiftly tore off the niqab she
had been forced to wear since 2014 and smiled.
"I felt liberated," Hamidi told Reuters after swapping her black
face-covering veil for a red head scarf. "They made us wear it
against our will so I removed it that way to spite them."
For the last two weeks, the Syria Democratic Forces (SDF), supported
by U.S.-led air strikes, have waged an offensive against the Islamic
State-held city of Manbij, near the Syria-Turkey border.
The SDF have been cutting off routes into Manbij, encircling the
city by seizing outlying villages like Hamidi's, Am Adasa.
Hamidi said she woke up one morning to hear that the SDF, which
includes the Kurdish YPG militia and Arab fighters, had arrived in
"We saw (SDF) fighters behind our house, digging to station their
snipers, we thought they were Daesh (Islamic State) fighters, who
were still inside the village," she said.
"We left, fearing we would be used as human shields during air
strikes," she said. The family later returned once SDF fighters had
pushed out remaining Islamic State forces.
For pictures of Saoud Hamidi click http://reut.rs/1rryn4r
Am Adasa had been under the militants' control since 2014, when
Islamic State proclaimed its caliphate straddling Syria and Iraq.
The governments of Syria and Iraq have launched offensives on other
fronts against the group.
Under Islamic State, life was strictly regulated, Hamidi said,
including dress codes.
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Souad Hamidi (2nd L), 19, poses for a photograph inside her family
home, in the outskirts of Manbij, Aleppo province, Syria June 11,
2016. REUTERS/Rodi Said
"They would punish people who did not follow their rules, sometimes
forcing them to stay in dug-out graves for days," she said. "Since
they (SDF) took control, we are living a new life."
Sitting in her family home, Hamidi said she still fears Islamic
State may return one day.
"I want to erase Daesh from my memory," she said. "I hope every area
controlled by Daesh is liberated, that people are free of them and
can live like we do now."
(Writing by Marie-Louise Gumuchian; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)
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