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Report on women freed from ISIS in the area of Minbiç and on the situation of refugees (Rojava, Syria)

For more than 2 months there is a hard war going on in the area of Minbiç. Minbiç is a very strategic for the control over Rojava; it connects Turkey with the headquarters of ISIS, Raqqa. This area is important for the protection of Rojava and the democratic autonomy in Rojava. To be able to create a federal Syria where people of all ethnicities and religions can live in peace together, the liberation of the area of Minbiç is very important. In Rojava since four years a system of democratic autonomy exists. This model is an alternative to wars and instability in the Middle East. It offers the opportunity that all people can live together based on equality, freedom of women, ecology and democracy.

It is a well-known secret that Turkey supports ISIS and will do anything not to lose control in this area. If the area of Minbiç is freed of ISIS, it will open the road to connect the three cantons, which is a nightmare and opposed to the politics and objectives of Turkey. ISIS and Turkey are not only connected by political and economic interests; they are quite close in ideology and practices as well. Because this area is so important for the control in the Middle-East all hegemonic powers are present in this war. There are conflicting interests between the hegemonic powers which impacts and intensifies this war. It is possible to conceive the war in Syria and in Kurdistan as a third world war, where it is the main aim to imply a new division in the Middle East.

Although the war in the area of Minbiç is so intensive and many violations against humanity, against civilians take place; this is not reflected in the media. There is a silence and ignorance on this war and the situations of women and refugees of this region as well as neglect to the needs of the refugees of this region. Civilians have been used as human shields by ISIS and many got hurt as well that until now there is no humanitarian aid for the refugees. Despite many calls for help, still the refugees out of this area are left alone. Humanitarian support is only provided by the local authorities which is not enough in accordance to the huge number of displaced persons.

It is a well-known fact that women and children are the ones who suffer the most in wars. In this war though, the situation of women and children is even worse. ISIS started a special war against women; perceiving women and their bodies as dirty. Women are not evaluated as persons and totally become property of men. Women don’t possess any rights under the regime of ISIS. They are left out without a will or the possibility to express oneself. Women become prisoners in their own houses; besides giving birth to children, they don’t have any rights or value. We can call this war against women.

The area of Minbiç is strongly affected by migration, because of the 4 years on-going war in Syria. This area is mostly inhabited by the Arabic population. Refugees came especially from Aleppo and other towns from the beginning of the war. It is a tragedy that the area people fled to, to escape the war, became occupied by reactionary, inhuman and plundering forces of ISIS.

As Kongreya Star, the women’s organisation in Rojava which organises the society in all its aspects out of  a women’s perspective, we wrote this report to share the experiences of the women living under ISIS in the region of Minbiç and now have been freed as well as to describe the situations of refugees out of this area. The refugees out of this area are mainly women and children.  With the describing of the situation we expect that women’s organisations and humanitarian organisations as well as the international community start to take care.

The situation of women under the regime of ISIS

ISIS created laws against women.  There are many rules and laws for the whole population, but especially against women. These laws affect the life of the women in an extraordinary amount. ISIS has their own police-forces to control and take care that everybody obeys. A system of punishment and torture is installed to enforce their regime.

The women we spoke with who have been freed of ISIS of the region of Minbiç, gave us many examples. It is forbidden for women to leave the house; when they leave the house though, they have to hide themselves totally with black clothes. The hands, eyes, legs have to be hidden completely. When an eye or a small part of the finger of a woman is seen, this woman is arrested and will face torture.  There are many stories the women who have been living under the regimes of ISIS tell. The police of ISIS has a special car in which the women who crossed the rules have been brought away, ‘to pay for their sins’. For example when a part of a finger or eye has been seen, these women have been brought away and could stay for 3 days among cut off heads. To scare, intimidate and disturb the psychology. Torture like this can be valued as psychological warfare.

Another example: once 7 women have been arrested and brought away by the police car of ISIS. A whole day, they didn’t eat. In the evening they got food and felt asleep. Because they were hungry, they ate. The next morning the women awoke, naked, but not knowing how this happened. They remembered nothing. Most likely the women have been drugged and raped. These women left the prison naked and came home naked. Although their husbands might not be a part of ISIS, seeing their women naked, and perceiving their women with the same mindset, threw the women out of the houses.

Once a mother fed her child; she didn’t see another possibility because her child was very hungry and crying. She felt sorry for her child and in a camouflaged way, taking care that a part of her breast wasn’t shown, she fed her child. The police of ISIS caught her for sinful behaviour and killed her by putting a instrument with sharp knives on her breast, which cut of the vein. Another woman who showed a small part of skin shared the same fate. She was arrested with the charge of sinful behaviour and got the chance to choose between being lashed or being grasped by this instrument. Not aware of the consequences, she choose this instrument and died a slow and painful death.

It is forbidden for the women to grow their nails, apply make-up, shape their eye-brows. The police of ISIS lifts up the black clothes and removes the gloves to control and humiliate women. When long nails have been seen the nails get removed and when women apply make-up they will face torture.

Women under the regime of ISIS are only an object, a thing. Not conceived as a person or a human being with a own will or personality. This attitude of ISIS becomes at clearest with an example. A young woman had been kidnapped against her will and married of with a man who has been a member of ISIS. This man died and the woman got married off with another member of ISIS. He died as well and again she got married off with another man, who has been a member of ISIS. He died as well and again she got married off with another man who was a member of ISIS. Nobody asked her opinion. In this way she got married off 7 times and finally she found herself pregnant, without knowing who the father is.

Schools have been closed and forbidden. Guys can get education in the mosque, where their learn the religion according to the doctrine of ISIS and learn their rules and laws. They learn about justice and life according to the views of ISIS. Besides this, there is no possibility for education under the regime of ISIS. For girls there are no chances at all to learn. Asking the girls to their wishes, they told us: ‘We only want to go to school’. Education is seen as a threat in the doctrine of ISIS. People who are able to think, reflect, ask questions, are curious are seen as a threat. The system of ISIS is based on blind obedience and fear. To be able to continue their regime, there is a need to stop people of thinking and reflecting, so they can accept their doctrines and obey blindly. There is no space for education or schools in a system like this. Thinking by yourself, interpret religion by yourself, colourfulness in opinions and beliefs are forbidden under the regime of ISIS. There is only space for one opinion, one doctrine, one interpretation of religion, one way of living.

Other beliefs or religions are not accepted, and people with different religions or of different ethnicities can be killed. For example Kurdish people always live under the fear of torture and killings. No chance to live according their own beliefs and customs. They have to hide their identity in order to survive. Only by behaving totally in the way ISIS prescribes, there has been a chance to survive under the regime of ISIS.

The last three months before the war started, life even became worse for the people in the region of Minbiç. Television, internet and telephone became forbidden and satellites have been destroyed, to prevent the people to have any connections with the outside world. In this way the women have been put into the houses, cut off of any information with other people or contacts with other peoples. Even before there houses has been turned into prisons, but without information, connection, the possibility to use internet, they totally became isolated and even more subjected to the regime of ISIS.  Besides information and propaganda of ISIS, no information or contacts were available. With a regime of isolation and disinformation ISIS put the people under their control.

In the times that telephone and internet still was available, the police of ISIS could control the phones and facebook any time on their content and pictures. If the police of ISIS would detect any ‘wrong’ pictures, for example with the colours of Kurdistan, these people could be charged and face torture. There is one example of a man who shared his happiness about the death of a fighter of ISIS on facebook. This man has been killed; his body been thorn apart and his head has been shown to the public for three days. The death body hasn’t been overhanded to his family. Measures like this serve to intimidate and spread fear.

Smoking is banned under the regime of ISIS and the police controls. It seeks in the houses for ash, ashtrays, controls on smell and search for packets. If ash or a packet has been detected, these people face punishment. An older woman told us that she has been leashed 50 times and three days been kept in prison for the detection of a packet of cigarettes.

The regime of ISIS can preserve, because it is based on fear, intimidation and divisions. Many people support ISIS and will report the ‘mistakes’ of family-members or neighbours. In this way a regime of mistrust is installed, where nobody can thrust nobody and everybody stays alone. For example, a man killed his own brother, because he believed in the doctrine of ISIS and according to his views did his brother, who didn’t believe in this doctrine and therefore was considered to be a pagan, deserved death.

Life became forbidden. Laughing about the wrong jokes, music, songs, playing football, colourful clothes; all are forbidden in the regime of ISIS. The women freed of ISIS of the region of Minbiç told us that some foods which wasn’t available in the time of the prophet Mohammed was forbidden. Some vegetables (the cheapest and best available vegetables), lemon salt and some spices have been forbidden. In the last months before the liberation a new law has been announced which stated that gas was forbidden and all food should be prepared on wood, like in the times of the prophet Mohammed. With the only difference that in the town of Minbiç wood is difficult to find. This law didn’t become a practice though, because the war started. In the times gas was allowed, it was very expensive for the people, but not for the members of ISIS. Gas cost 147 Euro for the people and 6,30 Euro for the members of ISIS. The women living under the regime of ISIS and facing this war against women, against life, told us, that they survived every day, but that they didn’t consider their lives as life. They lived as if they were dead.

ISIS builds up a system of fear. The people obey them because of intimidation and fear. For small wrongdoings, hard punishments are given. For example a child who plays football, lives in the danger of his head being cut off. This head will be shown to everybody for three days. This has as consequence that finally nobody dears to play football. The people don’t obey because they believe in the rightness of the laws, but because they don’t have another choice. In many places which have been freed of the regime of ISIS the people show their happiness that they can live normal again and breathe again. Mostly they are especially happy about the possibility to smoke and play football.

According to ISIS, women’s bodies are dirty and shameful. Therefore they can’t see a doctor in a normal way. Women can explain their problems to a nurse who will tell them to the doctor and then the nurse will provide the treatment. If the women can be healed in this way is not what counts. No man saw a part of their body and that’s what counts. Even in the hospitals the police of ISIS controls on ‘shameful behaviour’, i.e. if sick or injured women don’t show parts of their body. Again the well-being of the women is not that what matters in this vision.

It was impossible to leave Minbiç, for meeting family-members or going to a hospital in another town. It was possible to go to Cerablus, Raqqa and Babe, which is also in the hands of ISIS. Besides theses places, even if people were seriously ill, there was no chance to leave the area which was under the control of ISIS.

ISIS kidnapped men and boys to strengthen their army. Many families lost their male relatives and have no clue where they are. ISIS kidnapped them and since then the families didn’t receive any message. This also impacts the families in a strong way and affects their lives and psychology enormously. Even thought they are freed by themselves, they are scared to speak or act which might upset ISIS, out of fear that something can happen with their male relatives.

This war against life against women has a deep impact on the society and the personality. It seeds mistrust and fear. It creates deep divisions in the society and in the families. It creates isolation. This in a society which has traditionally a strong connection and cohesion. In this way it destroys the society. It sows deep wounds in the society and in the people. The regime of ISIS destroys solidarity, trust and love for the self and for other people. It only sows hatred, pain and mistrust. In this way the regime of ISIS has a strong impact on the psychology and health of the people.

Civilians being used as human shields

ISIS use civilians as human shield in the war in the region of ISIS. ISIS doesn’t give permission to civilians to leave the town or the villages. ISIS knows quite well that the military council of Minbiç will do everything to protect civilians; even bringing their own soldiers in danger to protect and rescue civilians.

Therefore no civilian could leave the town or the villages. ISIS shoots on the civilians when they try to leave and put mines around the houses to prevent the civilians of leaving. All refugees we spoke with, told the same story: when they tried to leave ISIS shot at them with a sharp-shooting –rifle (karnas). When people tried to rescue their injured family-members, ISIS shot on them as well. In this way many civilians got hurt or killed. Women, old people, children, even babies got hurt or killed by mines or gunshots of ISIS. When people tried to rescue their injured family-members, ISIS shot at them as well. There are many stories like the story of Aliya. Aliya is a young mother from Minbiç. Her father got shot, when they tried to leave Minbiç. Her father died. When she tried to save her father, she, her mother and her brother got hurt as well. Aliya is now in the hospital, but she doesn’t got any information of her brother or mother. There are many families like Aliya who have been seperated and since then, didn’t get any informations of their family-members. ISIS surrounded the area and shoots on all the civilians who try to leave. The military council of Minbiç bring themselves in danger to save the civilians.

The situation of refugees

According research of the people’s council of Minbiç 50.000 people have been freed. These people became refugees. Only the people’s council of Minbiç supports the refugees. The support mainly comes from the canton of Kobanê, but the situation of Kobanê is not well by itself. Rojava still face an embargo, the borders are closed and Kobanê faced a hard war with a total devastation of its infrastructure and a lot of a damage to its people. Therefore the canton of Kobanê is not in a situation to support 50.000 refugees; its possibilties don’t suffice.  The people’s council of Minbiç called many times to the international organisations for humanitarian aid for the refugees, but untill now no humanitarian support has been delivered. Though there is an urgent need for all the basic supplies for the refugees. The people’s council of Minbiç and the military council of Minbiç do what they can to support the refugees; sharing their own limited resources with the refugees. There is a lack of everything: a lack of food, medicines, hygienic facilities, clean water, soap, medicines, blankets. The refugees sleep on the naked earth.

In the beginning phase, the refugees lived in the desert. Now, there are camps set up for the refugees, but the facilities in these camps are very poor. Besides tents there is nothing. The people have nothing to sleep on. Most refugees live in the emptied village. But here the situation is not good as well. The villages are cleant of mines, but there is still the chances that mines will explode. The public buildings are so strong destroyed that they are not in a shape to be used. The living standards are far below human standards and the refugees face serious problems in meeting their basic needs. 30.818 refugees are registered as living in the villages.

It is possible to speak of a humanitarian problem, because there is a lack of food, clean water, hygienic facilities and healthcare. Therefore contagious diseases spread fast. The refugees only receive bread once in three days. There is no milk for the children. Hunger and diseases threaten the life of the refugees, which are mainly women, children and elderly people.

Call for international institutions and women’s organisations

Three years ISIS ruled in the area of Minbiç and left deep injuries in the souls of the people and in the society. Three years the women in this region lived as slaves. Their life wasn’t counted as life. They weren’t valuated as humans.  Three years women and children lived under the fear of this regime. This regime of ISIS has a very deep influence on the psychology, health, personality and society. These deep injuries won’t heal soon. A system like this has a deep influence on the self-perception, self-valuation and confidence as well in the perception of others. A system like this creates deep divisions, which don’t heal easily.

Now the people have been freed, but actually the same situation continues. They are displaced with nothing and nobody takes care. The same threats continue. Diseases, hunger, unclean water threaten the lives of women and children.

Although this situation has been shared with international institutions and broadly has been evaluated, humanitarian support has not been given. If value had been given to these women and children, humanitarian support had been given to them. In this way, it is possible to state that the special war against women and children continues. Maybe they have been liberated, but nobody, besides the people’s council of Minbiç carries responsibility for them. The hegemonic powers state that they want to intensify the war against ISIS, but they don’t take care of the people who have been suffering under ISIS. We call the international institutions to carry out their responsibility for the humanity.

This war is especially a special war against women. Therefore we call women’s organisations to be in solidarity with the women who have been living under the system of ISIS. There are many ways to express the solidarity.

Conclusions

The people in the war region of Minbiç who have been forced to leave their houses and livelihoods are in an urgent need in the support of food and health-care. The restricted means of the people’s council of Minbiç don’t suffice. There is still a part of the population who haven’t been reached and whose needs are not known. There is a shortage of clean water, food and medicines. Dirty water, rotten food, insufficient nutrition and bad housing conditions are the cause of illnesses and the fast expansion of illnesses.

Lastly

We believe that this human tragedy shouldn’t be ignored. According to our opinion, it is the duty of everybody who believes in universal human values to get rid of the marks of the traumatic experiences of this society which were created by the devastating actions of the enemy of humanity: ISIS. It is not our aim of the offensive to free the area that lots of losses are paid because of restricted possibilities.

There is an urgent need for food, clean water, medicines. In this way we call humanitarian, international and women’s organisations to provide with humanitarian assistance.


Committee of Diplomacy of Kongreya Star

Mail: r.women.d [at] gmail [dot] com
2.08.2016

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This entry was posted on Thursday, August 18th, 2016 at 2:31 pm and is filed under Autonomy.