Foreign Policy Blogs

Syrian couple under Islamic State rule aspires to flee to Turkey


A Syrian human rights group reported on the struggles faced by a young couple living under Islamic State rule in Raqqa. The two of them are thinking of getting married and fleeing to Turkey.

The Syrian human rights group Raqqa is being Slaughtered Silently recently issued a report describing the life of a young Syrian couple that is unfortunately enough to live under the rule of Islamic State. Mahmoud, age 26, and Zeina, age 23, confessed that they have been dating for two and a half years. They went to university together and prior to Islamic State taking control of Raqqa; they used to have fun with one another meeting in cafes and public parks.

But following Islamic State taking control of their city, they can no longer enjoy the normal activities that boyfriends and girlfriends usually do in the United States and other countries across the globe. If a man and a woman meets in a public park or a café, they will be interrogated by the Hisba Patrol and Khansa Battalion. If the two aren’t close relatives or husband and wife, both the man and the woman will be arrested.

The woman will be lashed or perhaps if she is especially unfortunate, she will be tortured with a biter, a torture device that traps a woman’s breasts and mutilates them. JerusalemOnline reported earlier this week that two Syrian women had fallen victim to the biter. One of them was a woman wearing a niqab Islamic State deemed immodest and the other one was a Syrian mother who was breastfeeding her baby in public. According to that report, numerous Syrian women have fallen victim to the biter, implying that should Mahmoud and Zeina be caught, it is also a possibility for them.

Given this, the couple told Raqqa is being Slaughtered Silently that they contact each other over facebook or what’s up in order to agree upon a place to meet that is far away from the Hisba Patrol and Khansa Battalion. Zeina reported: “I give him details to help him identify me. For instance, I will carry a red bag with some inscriptions, as in Raqqa all women wear the niqab and it is difficult to distinguish between them.”

“At the beginning, hearing Zeina’s voice and seeing her even for a few seconds with the niqab was enough,” Mahmoud told the human rights group. However, now even that is no longer bearable for him: “I thought of another trick that will allow me to see her. I talked with my father, who owns a woman’s clothing store. I suggested to him that I take the morning shift and he takes the evening one.” During the morning, Zeina goes to Mahmoud’s father’s store to buy a few items and that will permit them to interact uninterrupted. However, even there they did have a scary moment when an Islamic State patrol entered the store when the two of them were alone and talking to one another.

Nevertheless, the two of them aren’t deterred from seeing one another. As Zeina stressed, “We know the seriousness of the situation, but our feelings for one another make us stronger.” This is especially the case whenever there is bombing. Following such attacks, Mahmoud is not permitted by Islamic State to call Zeina, but he contacts her over Facebook and gets very worried when there is not a quick reply.

Both Mahmoud and Zeina stressed that this situation is no longer bearable for them. They are thinking about getting married, leaving Raqqa, and moving to Turkey. Raqqa is being Slaughtered Silently emphasized that the story of Zeina and Mahmoud is that of numerous young couples that are presently trapped under Islamic State rule. They desperately seek a way out, so that their lives can return to normal. If Mahmoud and Zeina take this move, they will join the 2.5 million other Syrians who also felt the situation was unbearable and opted to leave the country.



Rachel Avraham
Rachel Avraham

Rachel Avraham is a senior media research analyst at the Center for Near East Policy Research and a correspondent for the Israel Resource News Agency. She is based in Israel and publishes in a variety of media outlets throughout the world. She is the author of "Women and Jihad: Debating Palestinian Female Suicide Bombings in the American, Israeli and Arab media." Avraham has an MA in Middle Eastern Studies from Ben-Gurion University and a BA in Government and Politics with minors in Jewish Studies and Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Maryland at College Park.