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Author: Subject: Syrian Civil War and all involved
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[*] posted on 24-5-2018 at 05:43 PM


Arab Women in Syria, Inspired by Kurdish Sisters, Join the Fight — and the Movement

By Gayle Tzemach Lemmon
Council on Foreign Relations

May 23, 2018


Defense One Photo/Kevin Baron

"There is no difference between us and them, we are both women. What is really important now is women are having a role."

RAQQA, Syria — Enter this war-torn city and amid the rubble and devastation is an unexpected sight: women.

In the public sphere, in the security forces, back at school teaching, and running shops on the streets where some commerce has returned, Syrian woman are everywhere.

This is a city on whose streets women were bought and sold, held captive, and enslaved by fighters for the Islamic State who had declared Raqqa its capital. Now, six months after its liberation, women are returning to the city with their families and taking on new roles in the rebuilding process, as they restart their lives and open stores.

“I dreamed of opening this shop; now is the right time to make my idea happen,” says Hawla, a shopkeeper in Raqqa who owns a women’s clothing store close to the city center. She opened her store, which sells bras, underwear, and nightgowns, a month ago after returning home following the grinding battle for Raqqa waged by the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces — except something about the city has changed.

“We used to see men in all these stores but now there are women.” Hawla waves her arm toward the street and a front window, whose top half is darkened so that men cannot see in from the sidewalk, and talks about what is next for her and her city.

“I hope the future will be really good after all that we have seen; we were broken and we hope the future will be better,” she says. “At first I was the only one with a shop and now there are more women. It is new for Raqqa.”

For women, Hawla says, things are changing for two reasons: First, ISIS pushed women too far and made them determined to push back.

“When ISIS was here we were suppressed a lot. Women couldn’t do anything. They were telling us, ‘You need to wear the niqab and stick to your home.’ Everything was banned. This made us become eager to work. Their pressure helped us to be liberated,” she says of herself and other women in Raqqa.


Photo courtesy of Gayle Tzemach Lemmon

The second reason Hawla cites for her determination is that when she fled Raqqa during the ISIS fight last year she saw something unexpected: women in liberated territories who were playing all kinds of roles in military and civil society. Never mind that they were Kurdish and she was Arab, Hawla says. What mattered to her was what they had in common.

“There is no difference between us and them, we are both women,” says Hawla. “What is really important now is women are having a role.”

I heard both these themes across Raqqa as I spoke with women about their stories of survival and endurance. The trials they faced at the hands of ISIS along with the experience of seeing other women playing roles in their societies are motivating them, they told me, spurring them on to contribute to their city.

The challenges are many, the destruction is utter and overwhelming, and their numbers, while hard to gauge, are likely small. But there is no doubt that women are gathering themselves and finding ways to push forward for their families, their communities, and themselves. Whether they succeed depends in part on whether the United States and the coalition that defeated ISIS chooses to invest in their future. The mission is not building nations, but a much more achievable goal, already visible and underway: maintaining stability.

In one of the city’s northeastern districts, Rumeilah, I interrupted a women’s council meeting just getting underway.

This local women’s council, gathering in a two-room home just off a quiet street, started its work ten days ago, its organizer Zelikha Ebdi says. Their hope is to gather enough money to fund a sewing factory to put all the women now coming to them to work. Each day women are arriving at the center to sign up to work with the women’s council, security forces, or other local civil society organizations.

“Women in Raqqa have suffered a lot,” says Ebdi. She tilts her head in the direction of the women seated in a circle in this office who speak about how they plan to organize themselves and the services they want to see in their neighborhood. “This is a new step for everyone. We wondered, would women be able to take their part? As we were from Raqqa, we never had that experience before. But all these women are from families coming back to Raqqa.”

Among the dozen women assembled is Bera’a, a mother of three girls. ISIS took her husband three-and-a-half years ago, she says, and she has not seen him since. Seated on the other side of the circle, another women’s council member echoes Hawla’s words.

“We suffered for four years, but that has given us the presence to fight for our rights,” Ebdi says. “We saw those women in Qamishli,” she says, speaking of Kurdish women there who are part of the SDF and the local police. ”We knew they were organizing and working for women rights and saw those women in society. We said, ‘Why can’t we do this?’’”

One answer: Arab families in northeastern Syria are traditionally viewed as more conservative than Kurdish families, many of whom saw their daughters join the Kurdish all-women People’s Protection Units, known as the YPJ, in the fight against ISIS.
Related: Read Defense One‘s complete coverage of Syria.

Outside northeastern Syria, experts are quick to discuss all the reasons why the U.S.-backed experiment in women’s equality now underway in this isolated slice of imperiled real estate doesn’t have a chance of spreading or lasting through the year, much less the war. But on the ground, women are making change, slowly, in small steps, and in ways that are reshaping their lives.

“I hated ISIS and I wanted to do something,” says 22-year-old Hind, a native of Raqqa now serving in the Asayish, or local police force. She was one of several young women passing through the hallways of the security forces offices we saw while awaiting our interview.

“ISIS beheaded two of my cousins,” Hind said. “So when I came back I wanted to do something for my city — I loved my city and wanted to be part of rebuilding it. I feel like I am doing something very important.”

She is hardly alone, she says.

“My sister, my friends, a lot of women I know are joining Asayish,” she tells me.

Hind dreamed of becoming a pharmacist. She was in her first year of studying chemistry at the local university when ISIS took power and closed her school. Her family stayed in Raqqa until the end of the battle, when they fled to the northern town of Manbij to escape the brutal fight. As soon as ISIS was defeated, her family returned to their home, much of which was destroyed. For the last three months she has been serving in the Asayish. And for the first time in a long time, she says, she has hope.

“I am happy because the situation is better,” she says. “Everything is okay now — we have returned and our work is going well. It is the first time I feel hopeful because it is the first time I am working, the first time that i feel like I am doing something.”

And she is quick to answer critics who say that all of this is a limited experiment in women’s equality born in Kurdish communities and living on borrowed time.

“I would say they should get rid of their ISIS thoughts in their brain,” Hind says. “We suffered a lot under ISIS, so many girls suffered under ISIS. I want to prove myself because of all that happened.”

“Here,” she says, “we are doing our job.”

Mustafa Mohammed Alali contributed to this report.
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[*] posted on 5-6-2018 at 03:46 PM


Coalition Forces, Partners Begin Phase 2 of Operation Roundup

(Source: US Department of Defense; issued June 3, 2018)

SOUTHWEST ASIA --- Syrian Democratic Forces have initiated ground operations for phase two of Operation Roundup to defeat Islamic State of Iraq and Syria remnants in northeastern Syria, Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve officials announced today.

The SDF ground offensive, aimed at clearing Dashisha, is bolstered by coordinated coalition cross-border air and artillery strikes, and strikes by the Iraqi air force and army artillery positioned near the border.

Iraqi security forces have also enhanced their border presence to prevent the escape of ISIS members from Syria into Iraq.

Operation Roundup began May 1, and the successful first phase ended with the clearance of Baghuz, Syria, May 15.

Powerful Offensive

"This is a well-coordinated, powerful offensive to annihilate ISIS remnants in northeastern Syria," said Army Lt. Gen. Paul E. Funk II, commander of Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve. "Our partners are aggressively taking the fight to what's left of ISIS's conventional force, which has been demoralized by military losses and its leadership's abandonment of the terrorists they left on the front lines."

Coalition strikes supporting Roundup in May exceeded April's strike total by 123 percent, and March's strike total by 304 percent. Ongoing strikes are targeting ISIS command-and-control centers, weapons production and storage facilities, safe houses and facilitation sites.

Coalition and Iraqi forces are also targeting ISIS tunnel complexes and underground storage sites, Funk said.

The multi-ethnic Syrian Democratic Forces remain committed to liberating the people of northeastern Syria from ISIS's control and putting an end to the human suffering in the area, officials said.

CJTF-OIR remains committed to the destruction of ISIS and setting the conditions for follow-on operations to increase regional stability, officials said.

(ends)

Operation Roundup Hits ISIS Remnants in Iraq, Syria

(Source: US Department of Defense; issued June 01, 2018)

SOUTHWEST ASIA --- Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve and its partners increased offensive activity against Islamic State of Iraq and Syria targets in designated parts of Iraq and Syria throughout May.

Since the May 1 start of Operation Roundup, Syrian Democratic Forces resumed major offensive operations in the middle Euphrates River valley. Since then, the SDF has continued to gain ground through offensive operations, coupled with precision coalition strike support.

During May, the coalition has conducted 225 strikes with 280 engagements. This demonstrates a 304 percent increase over the 74 strikes conducted in March, and a 123 percent increase over the 183 strikes recorded in April.

Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve and its partner forces continue to exert pressure on ISIS senior leaders and associates to degrade, disrupt and dismantle ISIS structures and remove terrorists throughout Iraq and Syria. ISIS morale is sinking on the front lines as privileged ISIS leaders increasingly abandon their own fighters on the battlefield, taking resources with them as they flee, task force officials said.

Over the coming weeks, Operation Roundup will continue to build momentum against ISIS remnants remaining in the Iraq-Syria border region and the middle Euphrates River valley.

Coalition military forces conducted 41 strikes May 25-31, consisting of 49 engagements in Iraq and Syria:

May 31 Strikes
On May 31 in Syria, coalition military forces conducted six strikes consisting of seven engagements against ISIS targets. Near Abu Kamal, four strikes engaged an ISIS tactical unit, destroying three ISIS vehicles, an ISIS command-and-control center and an ISIS fighting position. Near Shadaddi, two strikes engaged an ISIS tactical unit and destroyed two ISIS command-and-control centers.

On May 31 near Basheer in Iraq, coalition military forces conducted a strike consisting of one engagement again an ISIS tactical unit.

May 30 Strikes
On May 30 in Syria, coalition military forces conducted six strikes consisting of six engagements against ISIS targets. Near Abu Kamal, three strikes destroyed an ISIS fighting position. Near Shafah, a strike engaged an ISIS tactical unit and destroyed two ISIS vehicles. Near Hajin, two strikes engaged an ISIS tactical unit and destroyed two ISIS fighting positions.

There were no reported strikes in Iraq on May 30.

May 29 Strikes
On May 29 near Abu Kamal in Syria, coalition military forces conducted a strike engaging an ISIS tactical unit, destroying an ISIS vehicle.

There were no reported strikes in Iraq on May 29.

May 28 Strikes
There were no reported strikes in Syria on May 28.

On May 28 near Qayyarah in Iraq, coalition military forces conducted a strike consisting of two engagements against ISIS targets.

May 27 Strikes
On May 27 in Syria, coalition military forces conducted five strikes consisting of five engagements against ISIS targets. Near Abu Kamal, four strikes destroyed three ISIS fighting positions. Near Shadaddi, a strike engaged an ISIS unit and destroyed an ISIS vehicle-borne improvised explosive device.

On May 27 near Baghdad, coalition military forces conducted a strike consisting of one engagement against ISIS targets, destroying an ISIS-held building.

May 26 Strikes
On May 26 in Syria, coalition military forces conducted 11 strikes consisting of 12 engagements against ISIS targets. Near Abu Kamal, 11 strikes engaged an ISIS tactical unit, destroying two ISIS logistics hubs and two ISIS vehicles.

There were no reported strikes in Iraq on May 26.

May 25 Strikes
On May 25 in Syria, coalition military forces conducted eight strikes consisting of 11 engagements against ISIS targets. Near Abu Kamal, seven strikes engaged an ISIS tactical unit and destroyed three ISIS fighting positions. Near Shadaddi, a strike destroyed six ISIS fighting systems and three ISIS logistics hubs.

On May 25 near Kirkuk in Iraq, coalition military forces conducted a strike consisting of three engagements against ISIS targets, destroying two ISIS-held buildings.

Definition of Strikes

The coalition's strike report contains all strikes conducted by fighter, attack, bomber, rotary-wing, or remotely piloted aircraft, rocket propelled artillery and ground-based tactical artillery.

A strike, as defined by coalition officials, refers to one or more kinetic engagements that occur in roughly the same geographic location to produce a single, sometimes cumulative effect in that location. For example, a single aircraft delivering a single weapon against a lone ISIS vehicle is one strike, but so is multiple aircraft delivering dozens of weapons against a group of ISIS-held buildings and weapon systems in a compound, having the cumulative effect of making that facility harder or impossible to use. Strike assessments are based on initial reports and may be refined.

Task force officials do not report the number or type of aircraft employed in a strike, the number of munitions dropped in each strike or the number of individual munition impact points against a target.

-ends-
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[*] posted on 7-6-2018 at 04:50 PM


Operation Roundup in Syria Continues to Target ISIS Terrorists

(Source: US Department of Defense; issued June 05, 2018)


French soldiers assigned to Task Force Wagram provide fire support to Operation Roundup in Qaim, Iraq. with their Caesar 155mm truck-mounted artillery guns. (US Army photo)

WASHINGTON --- In Syria, Operation Roundup is in its 36th day of targeting and destroying remnants of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, Army Col. Thomas Veale, Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve spokesman, told Pentagon reporters today via teleconference from Baghdad.

"The increased operational tempo under Operation Roundup includes 225 coalition partner strikes in May," the spokesman said. "That's a 304 percent increase over March and a 123 percent increase over April strikes. We and our partners have pounded ISIS remnants from the ground and air in relentless pursuit of their leaders and fighters."

Sagging ISIS Morale

ISIS' morale is low and its leaders are scurrying for their lives, he said, noting that thanks to increased coalition and partner pressure, quite a bit of ISIS traffic is now flowing west toward Syrian regime-held territory.

Veale also announced the removal of a key ISIS operative from the battlefield in Syria. Amed al-Hamdouni, a courier for ISIS senior leadership, was killed during a coalition operation May 17 near Dashisha, Syria, he said.

Al-Hamdouni carried messages among high-level ISIS leaders throughout Syria and Iraq. His death hurts ISIS leadership's ability to communicate securely and increases their risk of public exposure or further isolation, Veale said.

Turning to Iraq, Iraqi security force partners continue to provide excellent internal security and border security to protect Iraq's sovereign soil and citizens, Veale said.

Iraq's citizens are increasingly coming home, and to date, more than 3.7 million Iraqis have returned, he said.

The spokesman emphasized Iraqi security forces' key role in securing the Iraqi side of the border with Syria in Operation Roundup. "Iraqi border guard forces and the Iraqi army have covered the western border as our partners' ground defenses attack ISIS remnants in Syria," he said.

Operation Reliable Partnership

The coalition also continues support to Iraq through Operation Reliable Partnership, which will enhance Iraqi forces' ability to train and equip themselves, Veale said, adding, "Reliable Partnership will build resilience and security and sustainment capabilities, as well as the growing air enterprise, security policy and operations, intelligence and counterterrorism."

The United States views Operation Reliable Partnership as an investment in Iraq's future security and, as the successful defeat-ISIS operations have shown, is also an investment in global security, Veale said.

"We look forward to continuing the successes of this partnership," he added.

"Our mission remains unchanged: to defeat ISIS in designated parts of Iraq and Syria, and to help set conditions for follow-on operations to increase regional stability," the spokesman said.

"We, the military arm of the global coalition, work by, with and through our partners to achieve and help sustain security that enables stabilization activities," he said. "Military action will only take us so far by providing a safer environment in which to work. We now encourage the international community to take advantage of the space, time and opportunities military successes have bought."

Veale said the coalition and its partners have dealt severe blows to ISIS. However, he added, the enemy is adaptable and determined to rise again.

"There is no doubt momentum is on our side, but we're facing a determined enemy and there is much work to do," the spokesman said. "We're grateful for the support of the global coalition of 71 nations and four international organizations, and we are ever mindful of the sacrifices our predecessors and our partners have made."

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