ANTAKYA, TURKEY -- She dons camouflage gear and what appears to be an ammunition belt. In the YouTube video above, the woman announces that she arrived from Canada to join the rebel Free Syrian Army, which until now had been exclusively identified with men.
“I am a daughter of Syria, and I came from Canada to answer the call of the country and announce my enlisting to the Free Syrian Army, and joining the Eagles of Damascus Division, Martyrs of Aleppo Brigade, special operation section,” she declares on the video, which could not be independently corroborated.
Standing amid a group of apparent Syrian rebels, she identifies herself in Arabic as Swaida Kanafani, an engineer.
“I address the world that we are not advocates of killing and revenge, we are advocates of peace," Kanafani says in the video. "Our revolution is a revolution of dignity, a revolution against injustice and tyranny. We were never tyrants, and we never had hostile plans against anyone. [Syrian President Bashar] Assad’s gang and their supporters are patrons of terrorism and history will be a witness of that."
A fighter who goes by the nickname Abu Ali, contacted by telephone, said: “As a stance it is great that a woman is joining the revolutionaries and coming back from abroad, but it is not the first woman fighting.” According to Abu Ali, a brigade “consisting of wives of martyrs” is now in the field in northern Idlib province, much of which is now under rebel control.
A YouTube video titled “wives of martyrs creating a brigade” shows a group of women dressed in black carrying weapons, apparently in the Idlib zone of Kafrouma. One of the women explains that, due to the regime’s “killing of peaceful demonstrators and children,” among other violations, the women created their own fighting unit.
“We can move more freely than FSA, we the free women of Kafrouma town created an armed brigade,” she says in the video, which also could not be independently corroborated:
-- Rima Marrouch