Qamar: A Syrian Arab mother of two fighting Islamic State

24-year-old Qamar from Manbij joined the SDF to fight Islamic State.

Qamar, meaning ‘moon’ in Arabic, lived under Islamic State (Isis) rule, lost her husband and participated in the capture of Manbij from the jihadist group.

Kom News spoke to the 24-year-old Syrian Arab woman, whose life was turned upside down by the conflict in Syria, but who is building it anew.

What did you do before the war?

I used to live a civilian life and worked at the Women’s Art Institute. When the crisis started, I was living in Damascus – the Sayda Zainab district. The situation worsened so we fled and moved to Manbij, as it was our hometown. After a while, Isis came here and occupied Manbij. My husband joined the armed forces because of Isis, because of a single cigarette. He was caught smoking instead of going to attend prayers. So, Isis arrested and flogged him. He stayed in prison for ten days.

When they freed him, his body was flattened from the beatings and torture. He wanted revenge so he joined the SDF to fight Isis, he became obsessed with it. The people in Manbij started going to mosques and praying not because they were afraid of God but Isis. People here believe in God, it’s our religion, we are Muslims after all, but they were imposing something else, which made people abandon religion and God.

In the end, we managed to escape and moved to Aleppo. My husband joined the SDF here, he was a member of the Jund al-Harameen unit. He was martyred in the fight against Isis. After that they [Isis] started looking for me. I have no brothers; my only protection was my husband and I have two kids. They said I was an apostate’s wife, so I couldn’t return to my hometown. They wanted to take me as a sabaya [sex slave]. They had a system called jihad al-nikah [sexual jihad] where a woman would marry a different man every month.

Why did you choose to join the armed struggle?

I felt that I should do something, that I should prove myself and protect my kids, so I joined the armed forces. I first participated in the Manbij offensive as a civilian. I would guide the forces on the roads because I knew the area. After liberation last year I returned to my hometown. The situation here became better after Isis and we reorganised our lives.

I began working for my children and things were good. But this is still a rural and tribal area, so after a while people began pressuring me to get married. They told me that I was still young and that people would start spreading rumours and talk badly about me and best way to prevent this was marriage.

My second husband was a relative. I told him before marriage that my only condition was that he would commit to my children and never leave them. After just a week, I discovered that he was an alcoholic and suffered from mental illness.

He started asking me to abandon my children and began mistreating me, doing things I can’t describe. I couldn’t accept his behaviour, towards me or my children, so I left him.

Eight months ago I started yet another new life with my kids and joined the Asayish (security) forces. I was deployed to a military hospital a month ago. I try my best to go to the frontline and not stay at the base. But my friends won’t let me do this all the time because they say I have kids.

What it’s like to be a mother and at the same time a fighter?

It seems normal now. There was some difficulty in the beginning however. Sometimes I wouldn’t see my kids for long periods of time, but at same time I feel obligated to this. Not forced or anything. I want to live and my kids want to live and we can’t simply live on handouts.

How old are your kids?

My son Muhammad is four years old and my daughter Rania is five.

If you weren’t fighting, what would you want to do with your life?

I didn’t think about this at all.

What’s your dream for after the war?

To live a happy, decent life with my children.

Interview by Huseyin Dogru (@hussedogru).