If her story is true, she is one of the more unlikely candidates to join the ranks of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) rebels fighting on the front lines in the dangerous city of Aleppo.
But this 36-year-old mother claims to have joined the battle in defending her country against President Bashar Al Assad and his government’s forces. Speaking with the AP, this English teacher said she has a message for the president: ”Bashar al Assad, we are your people. We are your people. As you say, if we are your people please stop killing our children, stop destroying our future.”
Her nom de guerre is Guevara, after the Argentinean revolutionary, and she patrols the streets of the city armed with her Belgian FN rifle and dressed in a camouflage jacket, khaki trousers and her hijab.
In other countries in the region — Tunisia, Egypt, Libya — that experienced the Arab Spring, women were standing shoulder to shoulder with men demonstrating against their respective regimes. In Syria, however, women have played a much smaller role in the fight for freedom largely because many of the protests have taken place less in the cities than in the villages, where the mentality is more conservative and religious. Also, because many of the protests have now given way to armed rebellion and the government’s response is a brutal crackdown, it’s often far too dangerous women to be out on the streets.
Unlike the other countries in the region that have experienced the Arab Spring, women have played a much smaller role in the fight for freedom in Syria largely because many of the protests have taken place less in the cities than in the villages, where the mentality is more conservative and religious.
Seeing a female fighter among the rebels is even rarer, but she is reportedly holding her ground. She persuaded her katiba, or rebel division, of some 30 men and boys to allow her to fight alongside them. “At the beginning they told me, It’s very difficult for you as a woman to fight, but I said, No, it’s not difficult. You want to defend your life? I want to defend my life. I have children, O.K.? I don’t want to see my children pieces of flesh, then they accept I shoot it,” she told the AP.
And she reportedly speaks from experience. Recounting her personal tragedy to the Daily Telegraph, she said, “My boy used to be frightened of the bombs, and ask me what was happening. I said, ‘My boy, I promise that I am going to defend your future.’ Now, I will not forget my children’s blood and I promise to take revenge.”
It’s a personal tragedy that reportedly galvanizes her. She told the Daily Telegraph that both her children — a boy, 7, and a girl, 10 — were killed in an airstrike on their home, a story that has not been verified by ABC News. She tells the AP that her husband ” is very proud of me, yes, he is very proud of me.”
But as with all the videos that have been posted by both sides of this conflict, by government soldiers and the Free Syrian Army rebels, it is difficult to find the truth and it is difficult to verify it.