As US-led forces continue to battle Islamic State (Isis) militants in Syria and Iraq, civilians who have been rescued from cities controlled by the militants feel like they are now "liberated".
The Syria Democratic Forces (SDF), in its attempt to rid Syria from the terrorists, started to cut off routes leading to major cities by taking over villages on the outskirts of the Manbij pocket, near the Syria-Turkey border.
A 19-year-old resident from Am Adasa village told Reuters, "I felt liberated." Souad Hamidi's village was taken back from the hands of IS (Daesh) fighters by US-backed forces last week. The village is situated around 70km from Aleppo.
As soon as her village was freed, the teenager got rid of the black full face veil, which the Islamists had forced women to wear. She changed into a red headscarf and said: "They made us wear it [black full face veil] against our will so I removed it that way to spite them."
The militant outfit had been controlling Am Adasa village since 2014, when it had announced its caliphate across Syria and Iraq. With support from American forces, SDF troops including Kurdish YPG militia and Arab fighters entered Hamidi's village and launched an offensive against IS.
"We saw [SDF] fighters behind our house, digging to station their snipers, we thought they were Daesh [Isis] fighters, who were still inside the village." she said.
Hamidi and her family left their village "fearing we would be used as human shields during air strikes," returning only after the Isis forces were completely thrown out of the area.
She described how Isis used to oversee the dress code of people living in their strongholds. "They would punish people who did not follow their rules, sometimes forcing them to stay in dug-out graves for days. Since they [SDF] took control, we are living a new life," Hamidi added.
However, she still fears the thought of IS returning to her village. "I want to erase Daesh from my memory. I hope every area controlled by Daesh is liberated, that people are free of them and can live like we do now," Reuters reported.