Being woman in ISIS: The banality of evil – 7
Interviews by Fatma Koçak
Translated by Evrim Şaşmaz
Fatora from Kosovo and Intisab from Syria… Two women from different geographical regions but with the same age, meet at the common end.
Both of them married to radical Islamist men when they were students; Fatora was in the University of Pristina and Intisab was in the University of Haleppo. They joined ISIS through these men.
Intisab says, “There was war, I did not have any other choice.” Fatora, on the other hand, was in the last female convoy that got out of Baghuz and she lost her arm when one of the women in the convoy committed a suicide attack. She sums her learned helplessness as, “I loved my husband very much; following him, I came here. I did not have any other choice.”
Fatora Raman from Kosovo
Fatora Raman who was born in Pristina, the capital of Kosovo, has her childhood in the middle of Bosnian stories.
Fatora says, “We did not see the war but we always listened to what happened,” and she describes her family as “a secular, educated family. My father was harshly against radical Islam.”
And this is how she explains the reasons that led her to ISIS: “My family is Muslim, they fast, they practice salah. They are harmless, they don’t know much about jihad. As Muslims, we have seen paramount tortures during the civil war. My family did not experienced it directly but we always heard what was going on in farther neighborhoods. I grew up in the middle of the torture stories against Muslims. Most of my family members migrated to Germany and France. It was only, me, my parents and my siblings who stayed in Pristina.”
“Whatever happened to me happened because of love!”
When Fatora was a student of education in the University of Pristina, she met Abdullah Raman. After meeting him, she covered herself up; she dropped of the university and she got married to him. She expresses that her whole life changed afterwards and that her family did not accepted this change, that they objected her marriage.
Saying “I was in love with him, whatever happened to me happened because of love,” she bends her head and starts to narrate her story of Syria journey:
“After I got married to him, I started to read Qoran. My husband had heard what was going on in Syria and he constantly said that he would go to jihad. He was graduated from engineering but afterwards he did not practice his profession. He was always going to mosque and seeing some people over there.”
“I was in love with my husband, I married him against the odds. My family did not welcome my husband. When he mentioned jihad and showed me some videos, I was so terrified. On those nights when he showed me kafirs being beheaded, I could not sleep.”
“He told me to go together; I was fearing but I also did not want to stay there and get back to my family. I was so afraid that he would leave me behind, that’s why I accepted to come to Syria.”
“I was in between my father and my husband”
“Did you come together?”, we ask her. Fatora tells us that her husband came along in 2016 and she continues:
“When my husband came to Syria, my father really wanted me to get divorced. He said ‘Dear daughter, get divorced, come beside me, work and I will accept you’. But I did not want to leave hiö. We were speaking with Abdullah on the phone and he told me that there was emirs in the Islamic State. He was calling me to go to Syria.”
“On one side, there was my father, on the othe side I had the man I loved; I experienced this dilemma for a very long time. Then, one day, I made my decision and I went to Turkey through the contact persons he provided me. I crossed to Hatay and came to Syria.”
“I was captured by al-Nusra in Idlib for a while. My husband intervened and he brought me to Raqqa.”
“When I came to Raqqa the war had already been intensified, we could not stay there. We crossed to Mayadin with my husband. He died in an airstrike.”
“Lastly, I went to Deir ez-Zor and I started to stay with sisters who were staying in the maddafeh in Baghuz. They either lost their husbands or were divorced. Children and women, we were in under very harsh conditions.”
“My husband was an emir in the Islamic State and he was named Abdullah Kosavi. We did not have children; we did not have time to make children. He died in 2018. Afterwards, sisters insisted for me to get married but I did not accept.”
“I did not have such a dream of life”
At that point, Fatora stops talking. After staying silent a while, the words come to her mouth: “I did not have such a dream of life; that was not on my mind.”
When we ask her, “What kind of life did you have in ISIS?”, she responds:
Going for hegira, doing jihad, I never had a thought on choosing such a life. I was a harmless person. I just wanted to be nets to my husband. I am too tired, what I have gone through here exhausted me. I want to have a calmer life.”
“Death, torture, pain… This is what I went through in the Islamic State. When I was in Baghuz, I spoke to my mother. She really wanted me to return. I wanted to return but I did not know how to; I was with sisters and I did not know where to go. I had no hope of getting out; I thought I would die there but I didn’t, it’s the Allah’s will. I left my arm there (she shows us her shoulder).”
“I lived in the Islamic State, I don’t deny it but I did not lived there willfully. Life drifted me away. I stayed there until the last minute but I had to stay, I did not have any place to go anyone to get in touch. I had to stay there. If I had the chance to make a choice, I would leave right after my husband died. I left my arm here, when we were evacuating the city, there was an explosion and I lost my arm.”
“The human being lives through everything; I would not imagine that I could live through the things that happened to me but I experienced it, I saw it…”
Intisab Hindavi from Syria
Finally, I interview Intisab Mıstafa Hindavi from Syria. Until now, we listened to the participation stories of (muhajir) women who came to ISIS from abroad. Now, Intisab tells us how the organized face of the evil captured women in Syria.
25 years-old Intisab was born into a rich Sunni family in Aleppo. His father was trading iron and radical Islamist ideology always existed in the family.
When Intisab was a student in the University of Aleppo, the civil war started; his father and his brother died in the very first years of the war. Intisab continued her education until 2014 and she worked for a while in UNICEF for the children who lost their parents because of the war.
Marrying to a man named Yakub (from Saudi Arabia), she migrated to Raqqa along with her mother and her sisters.
She describes her departure from Aleppo as, “We did not have any chance to live in Aleppo. My husband was a mujahid in the Islamic State but he was not a soldier, he was an accounter. We came to Raqqa through his connections.”
“ISIS was not a choice for me, it was an obligation”
“I did not like the Islamic State, neither did I hate it”, says Intisab and she continues:
“I lost my entire family in this war. My brother, my father and my sisters were killed. Lastly, my mother was killed in Baghuz. Now it is only me and my sister.”
“I had a child from my first husband who went to war when it got intensified. He died there. I married again in Raqqa. I had three children from my second husband who was dead in Baghuz.”
“When there were no chance of surviving in Raqqa, we first went to Hajin and then we crossed to Baghuz. I’m a faithful person. I was grown into a rigid Islamic tradition. When my father and my brother died, we went to Raqqa because we did not have any other place to go, we did not have safety for our lives.”
“The Islamic State was not a choice for me, it was an obligation. There is war in this country and everybody is killing each other.”
“I never accepted the Islamic State because I never accepted religion being imposed in rigid molds. In fact, the Islamic State was hard for everybody, many people experienced torture. When we look at the consequences, this war exhausted us all. I want it to be over now.”
“Rakka’da yaşama şansımız kalmayınca Hacin’e, oradan da Bağuz’a geçtik. Ben inançlı biriyim, ailem Sunni. Katı İslami gelenekte büyüdüm. Babam ve kardeşim ölünce gidecek bir yerimiz olmadığı, can güvenliğimiz olmadığı için Rakka’ya gittik.
“İslam Devleti benim için bir seçim değil zorunluluktu. Bu ülkede savaş var ve herkes diğerini öldürüyor.
(Thanks to Siliva Şex Dawid for the translation support)
Originally published in Turkish on 4 August 2019