The story of Hajer & ISIS’ all-female battalion

She sat just opposite of me and poured some coffee in my little cup with some cardamom seeds floating on the surface. She didn’t seem posh or phony wearing that simple dress that revealed her arms, her legs, and a little of her chest. She breathed her cigarette in deeply and stared through the glass window blowing smoke out of her mouth to form fancy little circles in front of her face.

“Many of their Jihad slogans are just lies,” she said. “Yes they are bearded, they pray, and they keep repeating a few verses from Quran about Jihad. But then you will soon realize that they are just cheap, greedy mercenaries who care only about their own interests at the expense of the religion. Anyway, they are not coming from another time in history, nor from Afghanistani caves. They’re well informed on many different levels – knowledge, security, military, media, journalism, and even social relations – yet definitely not religion.”

This is how Hajer started telling her story. The 25-year-old dissident had recently run away from the Al-Khansaa Battalion which is a female military group that affiliated with ISIS. Hajer had worked in one of the popular “night clubs” near the river. Hajer attempted to explain with she joined the terrorist organization, as there is a huge stigma now attached to her by an unforgiving society after working in that disreputable place.

Staring through the window at a flock of birds flying away, she lit up another cigarette and said, “I joined the battalion on 2/7/2014 – that’s five days after its launch. That was by the help of Um Rayan – the strongest woman in ISIS at that time. She’s from Tunisia. She came to Syria from Iraq after she had both her daughters married to two senior fighters, who in turn recommended her to form this new female military group called Al-Khansaa. I’d gotten to know Um Rayan with the help of another woman named Um Islam Al-Jazrawiyah, wife of the Saudian Abdullah Abo Islam.”

Squeezing a small black-head in her calf, she continues to talk, “ISIS broke the typical habit of all the other Islamic military groups by allowing women to join the terrorist organization and be in high executive positions. This kind of propaganda aims to lure in more women and girls who are attracted to the prospect of becoming full-fledged ISIS fighters. Look at the movies that they produce – tall fit women revealing their eyes in a sexy way to attract other men. Look at the portrayals of men – mysterious characters that stimulate a sense of curiosity and adventure.”

Lighting up yet another cigarette, she turned off her phone. There seemed to be an insistent caller on the other end of the line.

She continued, “Um Rayan, she’s a woman in charge of a hundred people. She’s got lightly colored brown skin and an athletic body type, despite being forty seven years old. She took care of me, so that’s why her assistant Kawther from Homs hated me the most.

“Am I talking and smoking too much, Sir?”

The story is, Al-Khansaa battalion was formed in 2/2/2014. The idea of forming a female fighting groups was considered long before then, but what made them hasten to launch it was the event which occurred near Al-Sbahiah check point when three ISIS fighters were murdered by men disguising themselves as females by concealing their true identities with Burqas. Another incident happened in Al-Mishlab as well where 4 ISIS fighters were murdered in a similar fashion. To prevent this from happening again, Um Rayan did her best to launch the female group as soon as possible and she was successful. Initially, we were 35 women – 3 Syrians, 2 Yemenis, 4 Saudis, 1 Kuwaiti, 7 Tunisians, 3 Libyans, 9 Chechnyans, 3 Egyptians, and 3 Iraqis.

“The urgent task of female fighters was to search women in streets and shops, lest another incident similar to what happened before could take place. Also, the group was tasked with punishing and correcting other women’s behavior. But that’s only part of the truth. In actuality, the main goal was to create ‘female jihadis’ – made up of both locals and immigrants between the ages of 18 and 25. Those were the main conditions when one joins them. Other things could be discussed later.”

The call for afternoon prayer went off loudly from the mosque near the place while we were sitting. She stopped talking and says, “Allahu Akbar. May Allah forgive us for what we did, and may we, someday, start to pray whole-heartfully, not with false intentions.”

She continued, “ISIS had expelled the Huzeifah ibn Al-Yaman battalion, a Free Syrian Army group that had joined ISIS previously, from the Hospitality Palace [a large location in town] and accommodated the single female fighter all together there instead. The married fighters were accommodated with their families in nearby luxury flats.”

She blew out a deep breath and said, “They occupied our land and founded their own community. The first office for the group was in the third floor of the Al-Karnak hotel and the training location was in the forest, north of the city. On 2/24/2014 we started our first shift accompanied by a pickup truck with a few male fighters to support us. And from the first day, Um Rayan had her heart securely focused on her goal. Our first task was to prevent female clothing shops from displaying clothes in their store fronts and commanding that they obscure all details on the female mannequins by covering their faces with plastic bags. We were then told that only women could sell female clothing, so we were ordered to have all female clothing shops, hairdressers, and decorators run by men shut down. Also, male OGYN doctors were then prevented from practicing their profession and all their clinics were shut down. Female doctors were ordered to only perform abortions for women married to ISIS members who had no-offspring contracts made in case the woman would become pregnant. This condition was always included in the marriage contract and only the permission of the woman’s father was required along with two witnesses, who usually were members of the organization.

“Do you remember what the Shabiha [pro-Syrian-regime militia] did in the southern suburbs of Aleppo? It’s just the same, and when a pregnancy happens, we do our job,” she said.

“After all women in the city started dressing the same and looking the same, the only way to distinguish them was by looking to their shoes! Women’s shoes and feet are quite different from men’s. So, we did catch four men disguised in women clothes, but it turned out they were ISIS members from Al-Tamaseeh military, one of the most brutal militia in ISIS. We got punished later by them for doing that!

“Later on, the real goals behind the formation of our group unfolded. It’s to secure marriage for immigrant members of the organization, though the Al-Khansaa group as well as the local community rejected the idea completely at first. Those in Al-Khansaa who wanted to marry ISIS fighters would express their desire by wearing a white sheet just behind their transparent Niqabs.

“European fighters in the organization preferred to have European women as wives on the basis of communication purposes. But then they started to ‘taste Syrian flesh’ on lustful basis, and not for political reasons as some people claim. Girls in the city did not fancy such relationships due to the fact that these men are complete strangers who act in a manner unfamiliar. Fatima from Salhabiyah is one example of a Syrian girl who refused to marry a Tunisian fighter after her father – lured by money – accepted the fighter’s proposal. The only way she could express her refusal was to kill herself. Fatima said ‘no’ by committing suicide on 3/5/2014.

 “We, women, are oppressed wherever we go, as were lots of ISIS women.

Many fighters abuse their wives using different sorts of violence and there’s no shelter those women can retreat to. Some of them dared to come and complain to us about the harsh and cruel behavior of their fighter-husbands, but what can we do for them? Nothing. I still remember when one came with burns from melted wax all over her body. He did that to her because she couldn’t keep up with her partner’s excessive sexual desires which were increased by his drug use.

On 3/2/2014 attempts at shutting down female schools started with attacks on both Hamida Altaher and Abdulhadi Kazim secondary schools. They scared the girls as much as they could. They shouted in their faces very loudly – criticizing the way they were dressed, commenting on very trivial things about their appearance like have a face cover that was too thin or a ponytail that was too high under the black veil or exposed eyebrows. They arrested 10 students, but when one of those girls shouted at them, “we do not lack intelligence or religious faith, but you want to take us back to the stone age when all you really care about is this,” and she pointed down to her genital area. She was told off very violently by them. Later the girls were whipped by Um Hamzeh as a punishment. Um Hamzeh is the former whipper in Ahrar Al-Sham military group. Teachers, however, did not get whipped, they got ‘bitten’ instead. One of them was transferred to the hospital as a result.

Hajer then interjected a side-thought into the conversation and said, “We only ate delivery food from Al Hadry, a famous restaurant in Raqqa, even juices. We only drank natural juice. I do not regret it. God knows that I left them forever.

You know, Europeans are more sadistic and violent than the others. For example, the British female fighters boast of brutal torture. The one who used the ‘biting’ tool is British – pure British. She also oversees where the Yazidi hostages are kept and used as sex slaves. She was known as Um Salama. I remember her very much. She was redheaded and men like this type of women. It is not just women’s jealousy, this is the truth.”

Hajer was surprised that I did not know the ‘biting tool’ she talked about, so she started describing it. “It is a metallic tool – very similar to pliers. There are different types of this tool – some have sharp edges on both sides and this one is used on women breasts, so you can imagine the pain and the damage. I remember one time there was a woman nursing her infant in Al-Rashid park. She was hiding no one could see her but we found her. She was tortured with this biting tool and transferred to the hospital as a result with a completely damaged breast.”

I asked Hajer, “Didn’t you feel afraid?” She answered, “No, maybe one time only. To be honest, I enjoyed it, I enjoyed torturing Syrian women – especially when their fathers or husbands were there. May God forgive us all. As I told you, I was afraid only one time when the International Coalition targeted the Al-Khansa headquarters, which was previously the political security building. I was 200 meters away from the building. 30 women died that day. The next day, they brought in a Jordanian pilot named Muath Al-KasasbehI and said he was the one who bombed the headquarters. I still remember how Um Salama and Um Rayan tortured him. It was the most brutal torturing I have ever seen. We also witnessed his execution – all 605 female fighters in Al Khansaa. At that time I actually cried.”

Hajer added, “What really confuses me is the religious courses. They use strange Hadiths. I really do not know where they got them from. Sometimes they bring up texts that are not in line with the principles of Islam, but we need to be loyal and interpret it vividly, without omitting or adding, may Allah forgive us.

“Prophethood will remain in you for as long as God decides for it to remain and then God will remove it when He decides to remove it. After Prophethood, there will be a rule on the style of prophethood, and it will exist for as long as God decides for it to exist. Then He will remove it when He decides to remove it. Then there will be a kingdom in which people will face trials and tribulations and it will continue to exist for as long as God decides for it to exist. Then He will remove it, when He decides to remove it. After this, there will be an oppressive kingdom and it will continue to exist for as long as God decides for it to exist. Then He will remove it, when He decides to remove it. Then there will once again be a rule on the style of Prophethood.

“This hadith is considered a weak one, but they teach it as if it was part of Quran.

As a woman I say that any country that does not respect women, or any state with laws that do not protect women’s rights, will disappear no matter who stands behind it – even if it wears the guise of Islam.”

Ahmad Ibrahim – Syrian writer from Tel Abyad

source :

media activist from the city of Raqqa, student at the Faculty of Law at the University of the Euphrates. Director of the Media Office of Raqqa, founding member of "Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently", founding member of the documentary project of "Sound and Picture". I work in documenting violations committed by Assad's regime and ISIS group and extremist organizations inside the city of Raqqa, as I work in programming, design and visual media. I hold a certificate of coach in digital security, and a certificate of journalist coach, and a certificate in documenting violations against human rights, and a certificate in electronic advocacy. I underwent a training under the supervision of "Cyber-Arabs" in collaboration with the Institute for War and Peace "IWPR", about the management of electronic websites and leadership of advocacy campaigns, and a training of press photography under the supervision of the photojournalist "Peter Hove Olesen".