The Canadian Model Fighting ISIS In Syria Tells Us What It's Like to Be On the Frontline

Hanna Bohman has been fighting ISIS in Syria on and off for most of 2015, and she hasn’t been impressed. She said that as fighters, the Islamic State militants have “mostly been a disappointment.”

“Their numbers don’t seem that big and they’re eager to run away,” she told INSIDER in an email. “I suspect most of the experienced fighters have been consolidated in Mosul and Raqqa, and that’s where the big fights will be.”

She said that ISIS has successfully made themselves seem bigger and scarier than they are in reality through social media. Although the group recently claimed responsibility for terrorist attacks that killed hundreds in Paris, Beirut, Baghdad, and Ankara and over the Sinai Peninsula, its promise of statehood is quickly diminishing, The New York Times reports.

“They’re not some giant, holy juggernaut of ultimate damnation for unbelievers,” she said. “They’re just a bunch of filthy, mouth-breathing, knuckle-dragging pigs who run away at the first sign of resistance. Really nothing more than a thorn in the side.”

A former Canadian model who’s also known as Tiger Sun, Bohman, 46, is one of dozens of Westerners who have joined up with Kurdish nationalist groups to fight the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. She was personally inspired to fight after watching an ISIS propaganda video featuring a Canadian who had gone to fight with the jihadists, she told the Daily Mail.

After recovering from a near-fatal motorcycle accident last year, Bohman, who had no prior combat experience, left Vancouver for Iraq in March. She joined up with the YPJ, the female fighting battalion of the People’s Protection Unit, a Kurdish nationalist fighting force.

Joining the YPJ was easy, she said, much easier than one would expect traveling from the West into the middle of war would be. Upon arriving in Iraq, she stayed in a safe house for a few days before taking a boat across the Tigris River into northeastern Syria.

She then received very brief training and was assigned to her first unit, though it didn’t see much action. Her role consisted mostly of watching over territory, and the only real threat was being the target of a suicide truck, according to Bohman. But once she transferred to a more experienced unit, she began to see fighting almost instantly.

“That’s where I was first shot at by a sniper while walking from the outhouse to our quarters,” she said. “We were a mobile [unit], so we moved around quite a bit and were part of a large offensive south of Til Temir.”

The most intense fighting she experienced was in the next unit she was a part of, albeit for a brief two days in June. Just one hour after joining the brigade, a German who was fighting with the group said they would be going to the front.

“It was a small group of six westerners and I was the only woman… but all of us, including the commander, were itching for a fight, so we went a bit rogue,” she said. “We became lost trying to find the front and thought we had accidentally pushed into Daesh country when we started seeing dead people lying on the roads. The drivers were frantically calling for help on their phones and radios, and the tension was the highest I’ve ever felt as we had no idea where Daesh was.”

The group made a “mad retreat” to get their bearings. The following morning, the six were ordered to take the city of Til Abyad, a northern Syrian city near the Turkish border that had been under ISIS’s control. Bohman, who posts videos of her endeavors with the YPJ on YouTube, uploaded a video prior to the start of the mission.

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