The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Syrians lift veils and cut beards after being liberated from Islamic State rule

A man gets his beard trimmed in Manbij on Friday. (Rodi Said/Reuters)

After the city of Manbij in the north of Syria was liberated from the Islamic State, residents reacted with spontaneous celebrations on Friday, cutting off their beards and lifting their veils.

Manbij, located between Kobane and Aleppo, was ruled by the Islamic State group for about two years.

But over the course of more than 2 months, Kurdish and Arab fighters who belong to the Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) group took control of the city.

According to photos taken by Reuters journalist Rodi Said, residents reacted emotionally to their liberation. Men cut off their beards after having been forced to refrain from doing so for months.

One woman was photographed as she smoked a cigarette — something that was prohibited under Islamic State rule.

Under the Islamic State, women were forced to cover their faces. But on Friday, some of them were photographed with lifted veils.

One woman set fire to a niqab, a veil that covers all of a woman's face except the area around her eyes.

Residents interviewed by news agency Reuters appeared to be thankful to the fighters who had liberated them.

"You are our children, you are our heroes, you are the blood of our hearts, you are our eyes," one woman was quoted as thanking the SDF fighters by Reuters.

According to the British Telegraph newspaper, the Islamic State had previously threatened residents of the town, telling them that they would be killed if they attempted to leave. The U.S.-backed Kurdish and Arab fighters said that their opponents used civilians as human shields, making it more difficult to win control of Manbij.

Due to its strategic importance as a trading hub for weapons and as a base for foreign fighters, the battle for the city dragged on for months over the summer.

For the Islamic State, losing Manbij is a significant setback.

For the residents, it has been the end of a two-year-long nightmare.

Jubilant Syrians recount horrors of Islamic State in Manbij (Video: Reuters)

Read more: 

With ISIS on the run, new wars could erupt in Iraq