Video: French women living under IS control in Syria
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FRANCE 24 has obtained rare footage secretly shot by a female student of everyday life for women – including some French women – living under the rule of the Islamic State group in the Syrian city of Raqqa.
Unaware that they are being filmed by a hidden camera, the fully covered women in the cyber café chat to their loved ones in France via Skype.
“I'm not planning to come back mama,” says a woman, dressed in an all encompassing niqab, in perfect French. “You have to get it into your head that I am never coming back.”
This is the central Syrian city of Raqqa, the heartland of the Islamic State (IS) group. Since the IS group seized control of Raqqa last year from Jabhat al-Nusra, al Qaeda’s official branch in Syria, women have been forced to wear the particularly restrictive, Saudi-style niqab.
With a camera hidden under her niqab, a female student, who declined to be identified due to security concerns, shot footage of how women go about their daily lives in what is now one of the most prohibitive, dangerous cities in the world.
Guns in a children’s playground
Guns can be seen everywhere on the streets of Raqqa, brandished not only by IS militants, but also by women – including mothers taking their children to a playground.
In this city, music as well as most other forms of entertainment are banned and the strict codes of conduct are constantly monitored by IS militants.
For thousands of Syrian women living in Raqqa, this is a new reality that was forced upon them.
But there are others who have chosen this way of life, who have come from France of their own free will.
Inside the female-only section of the Raqqa cyber café, the unidentified French woman tells her family back in France not to worry, and that everything portrayed on TV is "fake".
“I didn't take the risk of coming here just so I could come back to France,” the woman tells her obviously distraught mother. “I don't want to come back mama, because I'm happy here…Everything you see on TV is fake, I swear to you, it's not true. Do you understand? They exaggerate everything on TV.”
French authorities believe that an estimated 150 French women have traveled to Syria to either join their militant husbands, serve as mother figures to orphans or merely support the cause.
In an exclusive FRANCE 24 story on a French jihadist in Syria last year, a 27-year-old Frenchman said he had taken his wife and her two young children from an earlier marriage to Syria.
The women and children of jihadists support each other while their menfolk are on the battlefield, he said.