It was a day for celebration to the remaining residents of the northern Syrian city Manbij. Women tore off their black burqas and smoked cigarettes in free defiance while men were elated to cut their beards.
It has been two long years that the residents have lived under the rule of the Islamic State. The citizens were overjoyed yet in disbelief when U.S. force joined the local army to rescue all in the city.
Women rip of their burqas as residents of Syrian city of Manbij celebrate rescue from Islamic State https://t.co/es8MST3f56
— Iamred Bot (@IamredBOT) August 13, 2016
The Syrian Democratic Forces declared that the city was fully liberated as of Friday, stating that they were “starting a new history after closing the book of darkness.”
The rule and battle was responsible for displacing nearly 100,000 civilians and resulted in more than 400 deaths. It is said to be the most aggressive of all ISIL offensives to breakdown. The liberation was stalled and slowed down due to jihadists who would use the civilians as human shields against the forces and troops. This forced forces to clear the city of jihadists by going house to house
The city of Manbij is of great importance to the Islamic citizens. It became the hub for smuggling of weapons and foreign recruits to the Islamic State from Europe. The city had such a large number of British fighters, that it had earned the nickname by locals as Little London. The battle therefore pitted Syrians against their own and Britons against their own.
— Katia Zacholi (@kataygetos) August 13, 2016
One such Briton who wanted to join the fight against ISIL is 29-year-old Macer Gifford, a currency trader from Oxfordshire. The Telegraph shares the words of the young man who helped defeat ISIL in the city.
“I wanted to join the fight against Isil in Manbij, in particular, because of the connection it has with Britain. I wanted to confront those people who were brought up in the West and given every chance to succeed, but who instead chose to come to Syria to brutalise and terrorise the innocent people here.”
Using a pseudonym to protect his family, Gifford joined a unit of 40 soldiers, that included quite a few Westerners. Gifford also shares that he had fought other Kurdish battles in northern Syria, but that the situation in Manbij was like nothing he had witnessed.
“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. Unlike their other strongholds, in Manbij they did not run away. They’ve had years to prepare for this fight and they’ve stockpiled massive amounts of weapons and rounds.”
Gifford admits that the situation was dire and completely hellish for the time he fought for the civilians’ freedom.
“It was hell on earth. It was unbearably hot, at around 50 degrees, sometimes we didn’t get to sleep or eat for 24 hours, and there’s the constant smell of rotting bodies out on the street.”
The soldier went on to say that ISIL fighters made it virtually impossible to distinguish between them and civilians because they would wear civilian clothing. As many as 4,000 ISIL fighters were killed and Gifford shares that when they struggled for manpower they would use women as snipers and children as well. He went on to say that the Islamic State has no concern for human life and they do not care who is killed in their acts.
“They don’t care who they shoot, whether it’s children, women, the elderly. There was one suicide bomber who blew himself up in the middle of a crowd of young families just to stop them leaving the city.”
[Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images]