Souad al-Kiyari Free Syria Woman Fighter
“Do not you dare think that if men are no more, the struggle ends, we women will be here still, you will have to get through us too, so it is time for you to leave our land”, she shouted in front of a camera filming the clashes, addressing President Assad. That is what a fighter who knew Souad al-Kiyari told us.
Souad Abboud al-Kiyari, also known as Um Abboud, is from Abou al-Thouhour region in Eastern Rif Idlib. She was 37, divorced for more than ten years and had no children.
Souad was always with fighters opposed to the regime in Abou al-Thouhour. She always stood in the frontline in battles and skirmishes, fighting with men against the regime and at the same time against the stereotypical gender roles imposed on women of her town, including sitting at home and taking care of children.
Souad was killed by an airstrike that hit the periphery of Abou al-Thouhour military airport on Saturday, January 20, 2018 as she refused to flee as other women did here.
Souad refused to leave her home and her land and defended them until she died against Assad forces and militias advancing towards the town to control the airport in the last few weeks.
“My sister was hit in the head after an airstrike targeting the outskirts of the airport, I tried to tend to her wounds, and I took her to al-Ihsan Hospital in Saraqeb city, but she passed away minutes after our arrival to the hospital”, said Khaled al-Kiyari.
“Souad is the first woman to carry weapons in our region, she had decided to follow the path she set for herself since the beginning of the Syrian revolution, which is to fight against the Syrian regime until it is defeated”, he added.
“She was not like other women in the neighborhood. She had her own character that did not fit with customs and traditions, she never limited herself to the boundaries set for women in our society like other women did”, said Abir, Souad’s neighbor about her social life.
Her peculiar character and breaking stereotypes were met with two opposite reactions from her community. Some of them welcomed her behavior and considered it an act of heroism and courage, especially that it comes from a woman, and a women are usually seen as physically weak and dependant on men for protection.
The majority of people rejected her behavior and considered it “shameful” because she is a woman and she should stay home and perform chores suitable for women from a small town of the east.
These opinions did not stop Souad. “Despite all the criticism she was put up against, Souad wanted to challenge society, especially that her family was not against her, and with time women and men of the neighborhood got used to her character and personality”, said Abir.
“Sometimes, I think she never accepted the women’s lifestyle as she was a divorced woman and never married again, as if her mind functioned in a different way than ours, may God have mercy upon her soul”, she added.
“Um Abboud joined the armed rebels in 2012, she was a brave women and gave men strength. Whenever we saw her and heard her strong words challenging the regime and the enemy, she would boost our morals”, said Ahmad, a fighter.
“Souad proved to be stronger than men on many occasions. I still remember how she went to the airport on the first day after its liberation along with a group of journalists. Only the fiercest fighters dared to enter the airport then. I don’t regard Souad as a fighter only; she sparked a revolution wherever she went. Once she was cooking for the fighters of one of the battles, she was lifting their spirits”, he added.
There were no women brigades in the armed opposition in the province of Idlib, unlike in Aleppo or Rif Damascus. Pro-Assad militias previously controlling the city had women fighters from other regions.
News about a woman in Idlib who fought and challenged stereotypes and social oppression are heard here and there, but her story was not documented. That’s why pictures, videos, and testimonies featuring Souad are very important considering that she is a simple woman but was brave enough to lead many battles.