Liberated from IS, Syrian women burn burqas, men buzz beards

In terror group’s former stronghold of Manbij, one cheering woman shouts as she sets veil alight: ‘To hell with whoever invented this thing’

A woman burns a full-body covering in the street as residents celebrate the retreat of Islamic State in Manbij, Syria, August 2016 (YouTube screenshot)
A woman burns a full-body covering in the street as residents celebrate the retreat of Islamic State in Manbij, Syria, August 2016 (YouTube screenshot)

In scenes of joy from a Syrian city liberated from Islamic State occupation in recent days, residents of Manbij were seen celebrating in the streets, with women burning burqas — full-body coverings, which also hide the face — and men cutting beards that had been mandated by their rulers.

“To hell with whoever invented this thing,” one woman cried as she held a lighter to a black robe, in a video obtained by the Middle East Media Research Institute. “They stifled us in this. Let them wear it themselves.”

IS imposes a harsh and extreme version of Islam on the territory under its control, including a mandatory dress code. Under the extremists’ reign, women had to wear long black cloaks that covered all but their eyes, while all adult men were forced to grow beards. Smoking was banned.

The woman herself was draped in an abaya, covering her entire body except for her face.

Children and other women around her clapped and cheered as the cloth began smoking. “This will be the fate of Daesh,” a man interjected, using another name for IS.

The last remaining IS fighters abandoned the city of Manbij near the Turkish border on Friday after a rout the Pentagon said showed the extremists were “on the ropes.” The retreat from the city which IS captured in 2014 was the jihadists’ worst defeat yet at the hands of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an Arab-Kurdish alliance backed by US air power.

In the street celebration, another woman wearing a red head covering helped the first hold the burning robe aloft.

“May Allah burn the hearts of the IS members like they burned us and our men!” she called, receiving hearty agreement of the group. “May Allah burn them in the hellfire, and before that, in the fire of the Kurds!” she added. Cheers again.

“May Allah support the believers and take the Jews, oh Lord,” she cried.

This, too, was applauded.

On the streets, men and women were seen embracing the liberating militias, as men trimmed their facial hair.

One man with a prosthetic arm flagged down a cameraman. “Allah be praised,” he said. “What happened to your hand?” the cameraman asked. “They chopped off my hand,” the amputee said, smiling. “They said I’d stolen a motorcycle.”

“May God destroy them. They slaughtered us,” a young man shouted in a Manbij square. “May they not live for a minute.”

In a photo posted online by Kurdish activists, a young woman defiantly uncovered her face while smoking a cigarette and flashing a victory sign.

Fleeing fighters took around 2,000 civilians hostage Friday, including women and children, to ward off airstrikes as they headed towards the IS-held frontier town of Jarabulus, according to the SDF.

At least some captives were later released or escaped, the alliance said Saturday, but the whereabouts of the rest were unknown.

“There are no more IS fighters” left in Manbij, an SDF member said.

Manbij is a key town in the anti-IS struggle because the jihadists were using it as a waypoint between the Turkish border and Raqqa, the jihadists’ de facto capital.

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