By AFP – May 05,2017 – JORDAN TIMES
A female fighter from the Syrian Democratic Forces, which consists of an alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters, stands near Tishreen Farms, some 17 kilometres north of Raqqa, on Tuesday (AFP photo)
MAZRAAT TISHREEN, Syria — Dozens of black veils dotted a freshly laid sand berm in northern Syria, ditched by women fleeing the Daesh terror group’s bastion of Raqqa as US-backed fighters close in.
Outside the village of Tishreen Farms, 17 kilometres north of Raqqa, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) could be seen laying sandbags to protect themselves from Daesh car bombs and snipers.
With air support from the US-led coalition, the alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters has seized swathes of territory from the extremists, who were stationed less than a kilometre away.
SDF fighters told AFP that women hastily shed their Daesh-mandated black veils after crossing into SDF territory near Tishreen Farms, revealing vibrant, patterned robes underneath.
“Most of the women tear off their robes and burqas as soon as they arrive at our positions,” an SDF fighter said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“Some of the women stomp on the robes because they finally feel safe and are finished with Daesh,” he added.
Thousands of civilians have been smuggled out of Raqqa and surrounding territory in recent weeks.
Ahmad, who fled Raqqa to a village near Tishreen Farms, told AFP that he was one of the lucky ones.
He managed to escape despite Daesh’s brutal measures to block residents from leaving.
“Daesh is using the civilians as human shields to protect itself,” said the man in his 30s.
“We fled as part of a group two days ago, and a Daesh sniper shot and killed two of us.”
In Tishreen Farms, male and female SDF members worked to fill an underground tunnel they say extremists used to avoid coalition air strikes as they transported supplies and ammunition throughout the area.
Daesh has used that tactic — as well as weaponised drones and car bombs — to defend territory across the so-called “caliphate” it declared in 2014.