This Portrait Of Freedom Takes Our Breath Away

There are everyday images of freedom — flags, parades, and so on — and then there's this. Videographer Shervan Derwish and photographer Jack Shahine captured a powerful moment at the edge of the war against ISIS. The women in the photos have just escaped areas controlled by the so-called Islamic state, where they are forced to cover themselves head to foot. Here, they're seen yanking off their veils as they cross into Kurdish-controlled areas, in an image that's at once hopeful — and a stark reminder of how dire the situation in the region has gotten. ISIS, the militant group that's taken over vast swathes of Iraq and Syria, has imposed a radical and oppressive interpretation of Islam on those they rule. Women living in ISIS-controlled areas are no longer allowed to leave the house without two layers of veils and a male companion, The Guardian reports, and local populations of Yazidi women and girls have been forced into sexual slavery by the militants. The photos were snapped inside the border of the Kurdish YPG-controlled area outside of the Syrian city of Tel Abyad, near Turkey. The images have been making the rounds on social media this week, but it's not clear when exactly they were taken. According to the Associated Press, the Kurdish YPG (People's Protection Units) are closing in on IS fighters in the area, assisted by U.S. airstrikes. Turkish officials say 3,300 Syrians have entered the country, fleeing the battle. Were the women planning to make a statement, or just caught in an off-the-cuff moment of joy? It's impossible to say, although the brilliant print on her dress seems to suggest the former. But, it's kind of great to imagine they were wearing wild colors underneath all this time, as a silent act of rebellion.

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