Two women, going by the names Om Omran and Om Mohammad, have risked their lives to wear hidden cameras in the ISIS-controlled city of Raqqa in northern Syria.
The pair documented the full extent of the regime’s oppression for the Expressen newspaper. In Raqqa, women are forbidden from leaving the house alone and are punished if their bodies are not fully covered. Even in advertising and products, any depictions of less than completely covered women are altered. When the women go to purchase hair dye in a store, all female faces in advertising are completely scribbled out. According to the shop owner the scribbled-over women are “wearing a niqab.”
In the footage they captured, you can see armed ISIS fighters on the streets of Raqqa, along with women from ISIS’s religious police force Hisbah. The self-proclaimed Islamic State took control of the city in August 2014 and transformed it into their capital and base of operations in Syria.
After their take over, ISIS steadily placed more and more restrictions on women. Initially, women were allowed to wear regular niqabs and were not required to cover their entire bodies, and both men and women could be educated. According to Om Mohammad, the militants changed all of this immediately.
“But every week, after Friday prayers, people were given orders about the new rules that applied. It ended up with women being forced to wear gloves and double niqabs, and having to stay at home. Girls’ schools were shut down. Teaching was dominated by Sharia studies. The entire old schooling system disappeared and was replaced with Isis schools.”
ISIS has made their brutal public executions commonplace. Under their regime, homosexuals are thrown from roofs as punishment. The pair described an execution they witnessed with their own eyes.
“They execute with bullets, desecrate the body, decapitate it, stick the head on a spike and put it on display at the roundabout.”
“The body will become one with the ground. Only the clothes will be left.”
The film concludes with Om Mohammad in her home, removing her niqab and letting her hair down — a revolutionary action to take in ISIS-controlled Raqqa.
“I long for the time when I can remove both the niqab and the darkness that comes with it, permanently,” She says.
“Nothing matters more than freedom.”