Sniper Guevara has Assad's troops in her sights as she aims for revenge
Published 06/02/2013 | 04:00
Her fame has spread throughout Aleppo. Her comrades have nicknamed her Guevara, but to many of the city's residents she is known simply as "the female sniper".
Standing stock still, her finger suspended over the trigger, she stares through the sight of her Dragonov rifle. Her view framed by the jagged concrete edges of the fist-sized hole cut into the wall of her hideout on one of the most dangerous front lines in Aleppo, Guevara, named after the revolutionary, watches the enemy – government soldiers – moving along the other side of the street.
"I like fighting. When I see that one of my friends in my katiba (rebel division) has been killed, I feel that I have to hold a weapon and take my revenge," she says.
Dressed in green khaki trousers, a grey jumper dress, tight fitting hijab and a camouflage combat jacket, Guevara (36) cleans and loads her gun, sitting in a half-demolished building.
Despite the war, her eyebrows are perfectly plucked, and she wears blusher and a little eyeliner, small leather boots with heels, and a gold bracelet. A female fighter in Syria's conservative Muslim society is rare, often considered improper. But she commands the respect of her fellow fighters – some 30 men and boys, some as young as 16.
It is not easy to be a sniper, she explains. "You have to be quick, careful and smart not to let them shoot you. And you need to be patient. I wait for hours at a time."
Through her peephole, she sees soldiers less than 700ft away, mingling among the civilians trying to continue their livelihoods despite the war.
"The civilians go home in the late afternoon. When the streets clear it is a very good chance to shoot the soldiers. I think I have killed soldiers. You can never be 100pc sure that they are dead, but I have hit them at least four or five times."
Her tone is dogmatic, almost fanatical: "It makes you feel good. Whenever I hit one I shout 'Yes!'"
A former teacher of English, she had children, a boy and girl aged seven and 10, but they were killed in an airstrike that demolished their home months ago.
"My boy used to be frightened of the bombs, and asked me what was happening. I said, 'I promise that I am going to defend your future'. Now, I will not forget my children's blood and I promise to take revenge."
A Syrian of Palestinian origin, Guevara learned how to fire a gun in Lebanon, in a military training camp run by the Palestinian militant faction Hamas.
In Syria, she has long fought for her cause: "When I was a student in Aleppo University – years before the uprising began – we created an underground opposition newspaper.
"We formed a political party for Palestinians and held secret, underground meetings to discuss how to overthrow Bashar al-Assad's regime." They took part in the protests that began in March 2011, bought video cameras and filmed the suppression.
She left her first husband for not being sufficiently "revolutionary".
When her second, the commander of her brigade, refused to let her fight with him on the front line, she threatened to leave him too.
"I said, 'I have the strength to hold a gun, so why can't I fight?'" He trained her in the art of sniping.
At night sometimes, she admitted, she wakes up crying, at personal loss and the horrors she has witnessed.
"I have seen more than 100 bodies in the last few months.
"So many people were killed in shelling and air strikes. And I have had many near misses. Once a bomb exploded nearby, wounding people who I was with in a car and I thought, 'Oh my God, death is near'".(© Daily Telegraph, London)