She was covered from head to toe in black. Identifying herself only as Um Bassam, the mother of Bassam, she told me she was 25 years old, the mother of four children, a widow, and from the city of Aleppo.
All around her were clusters of other women with similar stories, also clad in black, faces concealed, with their children huddled beside them. It had rained just a few hours before. Babies were crying. Used diapers, discarded clothing, bags, empty tins of beans and hummus, and human feces littered the ground.
Even with this misery as a backdrop, Um Bassam didn’t hesitate to declare her unwavering devotion to the so-called Islamic State, now in its dying days.
Speaking the Arabic of someone who is educated, she explained calmly and with conviction why she remained committed to the idea of the Islamic State.
“We just wanted to live in peace and wear our Islamic clothing, not to go out, not to see men and to be ruled by the law of the Almighty,” she explained.
Um Bassam was speaking from a non-descript spot on the eastern Syrian plains. She and hundreds of other women and children had been trucked in the afternoon before from the outskirts of Baghouz, ISIS’ last speck of land in Syria.
US President Donald Trump declared Thursday that ISIS had lost 100% of its territory in Syria, but that was news to an official from the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, who told CNN the fighting was still ongoing.
The official said more than a thousand civilians had left the last ISIS enclave within the last few hours, joining the more than ten thousand who have fled in recent weeks and been taken into custody by the SDF.
They will eventually end up in what can only be described as internment camps for the former subjects of ISIS.