Being woman in ISIS: The banality of evil – 5
Interviews and reporting by Fatma Koçak
Translated by Evrim Şaşmaz
It is not easy to put forth a common profile of the women who joined ISIS but when you listen to their stories, you see some striking similarities.
In this part of our interview series, Kurdish Yağmur Kılıç and Tunusian Fatma Hesen Şex to whom I spoke try to explain their adoption of rigid religious rules with the childhood traumas they went through.
On the other hand, they implicitly defend ISIS horror with remarks such as “But it’s not like that in fact. There were mistakes in practice”.
Originally, from the Kurds of Konya, raised in Norway, 24 years-old Yağmur Kılıç is a citizen of Turkey and Norway.
Yağmur does not have child and the name she gave her self in the organization is Um Bekir El Kurdi.
She says that her Norwegian citizenship was cancelled after she came to Syria.
Yağmur tells us about her family: “I had an open-minded family. We did not have rigid traditions. My father had been imprisoned in relation to Kurdish political movement. I was very small when he had been free. He took us and installed in Norway”.
“My mother could not get used to the life in Norway, she missed home. She committed suicide by hanging herself when I was six years-old”, she continues. Then Yağmur tells us that her behaviors changed after her mother’s death and she became withdrawed on herself.
Fearing from hell, falling into hell!
Yağmur tells that after her mother’s suicide, her neighbors constantly said, “Your mother hanged herself, she went into hell”. She explains that she tried to save her mother from hell and saught for ways to do it in her years of childhood:
“I was 12 years-old. There were no one covered up (in Islamic dressing). From time to time, I was covering myself and perform salaat, hiding from my father. They told me that this was how I could save my mother”.
Yağmur got fully covered up when she was sixteen, then her social circle changed. She started to join a masjid close to her home, where religious conversations were taking place. Upon the proposition of those in the masjid she started to see a Kurdish man from Turkey, named Ömer Küçükavcı.
Yağmur tells us that she married to him and given that she was juvenile, her father did not allow it at the beginning but she convinced him later on.
“My husband became my sanctuary, I forgot all my fears with him. I was deeply attached to him”, says Yağmur who then notes that her husband joined ISIS in 2016.
After a while Yağmur’s husband called her to join. He sent money to her. Then Yağmur first came to Hatay and then crossed to Idlib. She was cağtured by Al-Nusra for a while. Afterward, following an agreement between AL-Nusra and ISIS, she was negotiated and she crossed to Raqqa.
“The dolorous end of a journey for love”
Yağmur continues, “When I came to Raqqa, my husband told me that he was regretting that he came her. He mentioned that he was searching for ways to flee. He was doing propaganda against ISIS. If they caught him, they would behead my husband and they would marry to me with someone else. After a while, he reached some people from YPG and we flew together. We crossed Euphrates by swimming and then YPG members came to take us”.
Yağmur explains that she stayed six months within ISIS and during this time, she always stayed at home. She describes her life as “the dolorous end of a journey for love”.
She says that her husband mentioned often the horrors that ISIS did and that she did not go out for this reason. She adds that she really likes having make-up. A couple of times that she had make-up her husband told her, “this is an alibi for punishment, if a neighbor sees they will sentence you to lashes” and then she stopped having make-up.
An alleged confession
Yağmur has a tremendous anger. We ask her “What did you see? What is the reason of your anger?” And Yağmur’s response shows the ideology that the women who joined ISIS adopted to submit to god:
“ISIS people were having 2-3 women but they were not meeting these women’s needs. If the rules are met, this is not haram (religiously forbidden) in Islam. I cannot tell not to do this to my husband. Concubine also exists in Qoran and in Sunnah.”
“The concubines have rights in Qoran. You cannot beat the concubines. ISIS was doing mistakes, they were torturing the concubines. They (Yazidi women) worship the devil, the human worships Allah, no? But they have their rights too.”
“ISIS was not acting according to Islam. They were making mistakes in the marriage issue as well; the man was marrying toa woman one day, and the next day the woman was abandoned in the street If ISIS was right, if they acted according to Qoran, Allah would not have taken them down.”
The jinns of Tunisian Fatma
Fatma Hesen Şex who was born in Bengazi city of Tunusia, is a 41 years-old woman. She is called by her daughter’s name, as she does not have a son.
Her name in ISIS is Um Meryem. Before she starts to talk she smiles whispering” I have jinns, they are here now”, and then she starts crying.
Fatma’s father was one of the richest persons in Tunisia. She was raised in a family with heterogeneous worldviews.
She tells that her sisters are not covered up, that only she and her mother wear hijab.
She tells us about her mother’s death when she was 10 years-old and she adds: “After she dies, the jinns appeared to me, I withdrawed into myself and I leaned toward worshipping with the fear of hell”.
As she describes, Fatma only covered her head at the beginning. When she married at the age of 25, she wore black burka. Fatma says that her husband did merchandise on behalf of Free Syrian Army (FSA) and that they decided to come to Syria in 2014. She further explains:
“We flied from Tunisia to Turkey, then we crossed to Syria by walk, passing through Hatay. Right after we crossed, I told that I wanted to go back. After a while, my husband got injured in the war. We stayed within the FSA, somewhere near the Turkmen mountain for four months. Later on, my husband wnet to Kafr Hamrah region, and afterwards I never heard hear about him. After I learned that my husband was killed by the FSA, I went next to the Ahrar al-Sham group. I stayed two days in Al-Bab and then I went to Raqqa. I settled in the maddafeh.”
Four months later Fatma was married to Abu Eyşe Cizreî from Saudi Arabia. Her account of this marriage follows, “I stayed married for three months. My husband divorced me accusing ‘you are a wicth, you have jinns’. After staying a bit more in the maddafeh, I married to Nuh Hesen Mubarek from Algeria with the insistence from sisters. He is the father of my daughter Meryem. I stayed married to him for two years but I constantly asked for divorce. I was not accepted. He was bringing fight in every instance and he was beating me. At the end of the two years, I could get divorced”.
After her third marriage, Fatma spent all her time in maddafehs. Instead of confessing the system which she could not accept and she could not get in, Fatma convinced herself by saying “I have my jinns, that’s why I cannotget along with anybody else”.
“I was raped”
After staying silent a while, Fatma restarts to talk and she describes the life she was drifted in:
“In Islamic State, women have no rights at all. Things happen as men want. All three husbands exposed me to violence, they raped me. My daughter was born by rape. That’s why I cannot fully love her.”
She continues: “Within the six year I lived here, the only thing I liked was that nobody messed with my hijab. Apart from that, I could never be part of the entity”.
Fatma further explains herself “I’m a person who does not like adventure, who fears a lot from life. If there is an open door and they tell me to get out, I cannot, I fear. The life gave me a life that is the opposite but I am no adventurous, I don’t want to mess with others’ lives. I have been a silent and unobtrusive person since my childhood”.
“What I want to do is to raise my daughter and live my faith freely. Systems do not have freedom. There is a type of oppression in the Islamic State and another type of oppression in Tunisia. Therefore, I have no expectations from systems. I’m searching for a place which would let me be as I am”.
Fatma does not give up Sharia
Fatma does not give us time to ask questions. She keeps talking as if she is talking to some other place. She narrates without taking breath as if she is draining away what she accumulated:
“I witnessed too much torture in the Islamic State. Internal executions were very frequent; many people who came from my country, Tunisia, were executed. Especially female and male muhajirs were killed without interrogation. Their family would not search and call for them anyway, nobody knew. There was a woman I knew; they killed her while torturing under the pretext that she committed adultery. Nobody even heard about this. Women have no rights; men take them if they want, divorce them if they want”.
“Lastly, I want to appeal to the Islamic State. They did so wrong against women and in arranging life. They never gave space to women’s sensations, feelings, and opinions. They have seen women as tools that can be hold in guesthouses, with whom one man can marry one day and the day after another man can marry. They made women sigh. That’s why they were abolished so quickly”.
“Some still defend them but they had nothing to be defended. Any muhajir woman coming here was raped, they were used as breeding tools. They did not give the servant status to those who were the servants of Allah. Is there any bigger sin than this?”
Fatma’s last sentence is, “If I get out of here, I will go to live to wherever there is a state where Sharia rules are valid”.
Originally published in Turkish on 2 August 2019 08:34
(Thanks to Siliva Şex Dawid for the translation support)