In the final instalment of a five-part series exploring what life was like for women living under ISIL (ISIS) in Syria and Iraq, one woman shares her account of defying the group to run a hair salon from her home.
Atyaf’s story – Mosul, Iraq: ‘I want to empower women’
My name is Atyaf Talaat and I have a hair salon in Mosul.
One day, the salon was open and ISIL raided it. They took everything they could put their hands on – furniture, money, gold. They took what they wanted. And everything else, they broke. They behaved like bandits, robbers.
No hairdresser dared to work any more. But I kept working, secretly.
I got more and more clients. They would come to my house, sneaking in and out.
With me, they regained hope. They said: “We’re going to leave your house all beautiful.”
But it was risky. If ISIL had caught me, they would have slaughtered me.
Under ISIL, women were humiliated ... They were like puppets. They took women out when they wanted, then put them back in their place.
Inside, I was scared. But I stayed strong. I did not want to show my children how afraid I was.
By staying true to who I was and not letting the situation destroy me, I was able to boost people’s morale. We are human beings, we are women.
I want to strengthen Iraqi women, to affirm their existence. I want to show their strength to the whole world, especially the strength of the Mosul woman. I do not want her to be oppressed or relegated to the shadows. I want her to earn the recognition and respect she deserves. I want to empower women.
Under ISIL, women were humiliated, almost erased from existence. They were objects, only taken out for pleasure. They were like puppets. They took women out when they wanted, then put them back in their place. Women became a commodity, bought and sold.
But, despite all of this, I kept working. Thank God, I succeeded and continue to succeed.
This account was gathered for the documentary Women of ISIL by filmmaker Thomas Dandois. It has been edited for clarity and brevity.