MANBIJ OFFENSIVE An unforgettable celebration of freedom
Tarannum Haider Maliha
Amira was with her younger brother and sister , playing outside their home, on the streets of Manbij, when his elder brother came. He seemed worried but it already had become normal for the 12year old Amira as she had been seeing worried faces of her father, mother and elder brother since the Syrian Civil War started in 2012. She was tired of seeing those worried faces and that’s why she wanted to spend as much time as possible with the younger ones with smiling faces in the family. She’s just waiting for the end of the war so that her elder brother could took her to see the Citadel of Aleppo as he promised. Though her brother said that it’s severely damaged because of the shelling and bombing during the war, she still wanted to visit.
Entering the house she could sense that something really bad has happened. She heard her family and neighbours discussing that their city is under the control of ISIL . She couldn’t understand anything except the fact that something worse is waiting for them. Gradually it became clear to her. Two years, from 2014 to 2016, she has seen ISIL killing people, beheading and jailing her own people in the public square for minor crimes like smoking or listening to music or for not wearing burqa. She has seen ISIL smuggling weapons and using children as spotters, women as sniper or sex slaves.
Seeing all these she believed that there’s no way out of this. But in a morning of June 2016, she heard about Manbij Offensive, an operation conducted by the Syrian Democratic Forces . She again saw how fiercely they fought to free Manbij, how the operation slowed down as the jihadists used the civilians as human shields, forced troops to clear the city house by house. She also got to know that the foreigners don’t only come to their city to brutalise and terrorise their people. There are some foreigners who come here to rescue them, save them from all the torture.
To end this two years torture the SDF had to operate a fierce operation. This battle has displaced nearly 100,000 civilians and left more than 400 dead. One of the British fighters, Gifford, who has fought with the Kurdish army in other battles in northern Syria said, “It was like nothing I’ve experienced before. There was constant gunfire and shelling, and I mean 24/7, night and day. You couldn’t travel more than 10 yards without a sniper trying to take a shot at you.”
But after two months’ deadly battle, on 12 August 2016 the SDF has established full control over Manbij. It was totally unexpected and unbelievable for the people of Manbij. When the SDF declared the city liberated on Friday the celebration started right away. Some women ripped off their black burqas, some smoked cigarettes while the men cut their beards showing peace signs. They started hugging the rescuers and thanked them wholeheartedly.
One woman told Channel 4 News, “I feel happiness. I feel joy. And it is like a dream, I cannot believe it. Things I saw, no one saw.”
That’s something no one ever has thought of in Manbij for last few years. The day was not an ordinary day. It was their day of freedom. The end of a nightmare. It was the day which they were afraid to dream about. The celebration knew no bound as it brought joy to a city which had lost every bit of hope to be free.