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Behind the Scenes of the Front Lines Fight Against ISIS

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Klara, a Kurdish commander and leader of the battle to rout ISIS from Raqqa, shows us around the site of a still-smoking ISIS car bomb. Image by Jon Gerberg/PBS NewsHour. Syria, 2017.

Klara, a Kurdish commander and leader of the battle to rout ISIS from Raqqa, shows us around the site of a still-smoking ISIS car bomb. Image by Jon Gerberg/PBS NewsHour. Syria, 2017.

Meet Klara, one of the commanders of the campaign to defeat ISIS in Raqqa, and her fellow soldiers in the all-women Kurdish fighting unit of which she is a part. "We are writing our own history now," one of her soldiers tells us in this TV piece for PBS NewsHour. “The Kurdish revolution is a women’s revolution,” they say. We share more in our piece on Syrian Kurds: their politics, their path forward—and their critics.

Khalil Family

The Khalil family lost their home in Raqqa to air strikes and ISIS attacks.  Now they try to get by in a bombed-out building that is barely inhabitable. Still, they push forward. Image by Jon Gerberg/PBS NewsHour. Syria, 2017.

The Khalil family lost their home in Raqqa to air strikes and ISIS attacks.  Now they try to get by in a bombed-out building that is barely inhabitable. Still, they push forward. Image by Jon Gerberg/PBS NewsHour. Syria, 2017.

In the town of Tabqa, Syria, liberated from ISIS just three months ago, we met the Khalil family. They had fled their home town of Raqqa amid ISIS attacks and coalition air strikes, and now live in a bombed-out building barely inhabitable. “I wish I could go home to my family, my neighbors and relatives,” Samia Sheikh Khalil, the family’s matriarch, tells us. "We were living in peace. But there is no peace now, not even in our homes.” Come see our full PBS NewsHour piece from the front lines fight in Raqqa, with our hearty thanks to Pulitzer Center for their support for this work.

Batoul

Batoul led her toddler and her husband out of Raqqa while eight-months pregnant. Now, she is focused on her baby’s future while living at Ayn Issa camp for the displaced. Image by Jon Gerberg/PBS NewsHour. Syria, 2017.

Batoul led her toddler and her husband out of Raqqa while eight-months pregnant. Now, she is focused on her baby’s future while living at Ayn Issa camp for the displaced. Image by Jon Gerberg/PBS NewsHour. Syria, 2017.

At the largest refugee camp outside Raqqa, Syria, we met Batoul. While eight-months-pregnant, she led her toddler daughter and ailing husband out of Raqqa despite ISIS attacks and coalition air strikes aimed at routing ISIS. Her daughter is now 15 days old after Batoul delivered her at the camp. "I will tell her 'you were not born in your home. You were born here in the camp,'” she tells us of what she will tell her daughter. To us, she said, “the most important thing is for all of us to return and live together and for our kids to have a nice life, because this war is not their fault. And we hope for a better future for them, better than we had."