Sitting out in the sun surrounded by young and inquisitive boys, the elderly lady from the town of Maskanah which is in the governant of Aleppo in northern Syria explains the events leading up to her departure from her hometown, what life was like under Islamic State (ISIS) and her resistance to the organisation.
She explains “ISIS militants entered our area but airplanes began to bomb them. Airplanes have never bombed us before. When ISIS militants came they were bombed. They forced us to leave our homes, and that’s why we left.” She further recounts her experiences of living under ISIS rule. She expresses a general sense of contempt and annoyance when speaking about how her life was during that period.
The Hisbah (religious police) aimed to maintain strict order, respect and adherence to their principles of dress and appearance especially for the women and children, which were often rebuked by the elderly lady and other women.
The Hisbah in 2014 developed a female wing of female religious/moral police in Raqqa and Mosul called Al-Khansaa Brigade who would specially tend to female affairs, modes of conduct and proper appearance. These woman, according to sources, would have the same power and authority as their male counterparts and even were allowed to carry weapons and drive cars, things that other women were strictly not allowed to do.
The elderly women recounts the daily harassment of the women of Maskanah by a man called Abu Fatimah al-Mana’i who “used to go from one place to another all day” harassing woman, asking to see IDs if he thought they were not dressed appropriately. These incidences, although irritating, carried a real danger of escalating into a bigger problem, causing severe punishment or even death for women who were thought of as resisting or acting in a contemptuous way towards the status quo.
Women who wore makeup under their burka, or for wearing an abaya, which was deemed to fitting were also sometimes beaten as punishment.