Woman fighters in Aleppo

More than four years into the Syrian conflict, cities like Aleppo continue to endure more and more deaths and destructions every day. Leaving the house, going to school or grocery-shopping – life itself – have become a struggle for hundreds of thousands of civilians, especially women and children. Some try to flee and find refuge in neighboring countries. Some choose to stay, or have no choice but to stay, and fear for their life and the life of their loved ones. Others, including women, decide to take up arms.
In Aleppo, a female fighting unit – also known as “Ummu al Muminin Aysa’’ – fights alongside the FSA (Free Syrian Army). This unit consists of three students and ten teachers aged between 17 and 35. One of them, Fatma Halebi (24), says fighting is not a choice but an obligation for her. “I used to be an English teacher, now I have to fight. As a woman, it is even harder for me to be in that position”, she says. The unit chief, who uses “Ümmü Amr” as her nom-de-guerre, is a mother of two. Her husband runs an electronic store in Aleppo. “In our culture, women usually stay away from fighting. But in Aleppo nowadays, women have to learn how to use a weapon and how to protect themselves and their children”, Amr says. “I have never killed anyone in my life but I am responding to those who fire at me.” After a short training, these women fighters are sent on guard duty in the Salahaddin neighborhood of Aleppo, where fighting has been the fiercest in the past months.