At least 45 female jihadists appeared in a training video at Saint Simeon Stylites, which is the world’s oldest Byzantine church, near Aleppo, Syria. The women are demanding equality with men on the battlefield.
“We came out to fight for our religion and our country,” exclaimed the commander. “We came out to train women to be the same as men, to defend their rights if they are attacked by that evil tyrant [Bashar al-Assad] and his soldiers and whoever follows him.”
All the women are clothed from head to toe. None claim association with the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) or Nusra Front, the two main radical Islamic groups within Syria.
“I am now on the outskirts of Aleppo and we have trained 45 sisters in marking and shooting,” claimed another fighter. “And after a while, by the will of God, we will be in the heart of Idlib, and after that in Daraa, and after that in the centre of Sham [Syria].”
Many media outlets regularly document stories about females in ISIS. While some show a desire to join the terrorists in battle, they have all previously said they know their place is in the home. The closest they come to action is in the all-female brigade al-Khansa, which terrorizes the streets in Raqqa, Syria, to enforce Sharia law. Other women use social media to entice Western ladies into the luxurious life as a wife of a jihadist. These women do not seem to fit that profile.
“We learnt shooting, and assembling weapons technically, and various other things,” explained a jihadist. “This is so we stand in one line shoulder to shoulder with our sons and the men in the battlefields, because the role of the woman is no less important than that of the man.”
Despite their claims of being equally formidable, the video shows the women struggling with their AK 47 rifles. The high winds cause their burqas to flap out of control and smother their faces. They also do not appear to be familiar with their rifles as the majority jump at the sounds of gunfire.
The church of Saint Simeon Stylites dates back to the 5th century. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated it a World Heritage Site in 2011. St. Simeon is “the most famous of a long succession of stylitoe, or ‘pillar-hermits.’” The church was “built on the site” of St. Simeon’s pillar. St. Simeon chose his life as a hermit but decided to spend his time on a pillar instead of a cave. “Great crowds” traveled from far away to hear him preach atop his pillar until he died in 459. He spent 37 years on top of his famous pillar. Bishops and soldiers took his body to Antioch, but his pillar became a popular spot for pilgrims. In 475, the church was built with four basilicas to protect the famous pillar.