'This is where I want to be': Canadian woman on fighting ISIS in Syria
A B.C. fashion model-turned-freedom fighter is speaking out about her decision to rejoin the fight against ISIS in Syria.
Hanna Bohman, 48, has travelled to Syria twice. She returned to Vancouver in June, 2016 after rejoining other foreigners in a faction of Kurdish fighters.
"I needed to do something with my life. I was bored. I didn't feel like I had done anything that I felt was really important," she told CTV Vancouver.
She shrugged off the thought that it seems an odd decision for a Canadian citizen, with no connection to Syria, to pick up a gun and join a conflict in the Middle East.
Bohman said she joined the YPJ – the female brigade of the Kurdish People's Protection Units– after getting smuggled into the country.
"They were fighting for women's rights in the Middle East and they're an actual fighting army," she said about her desire to join the YPJ. "I never joined the Canadian army because the women don't really get to fight. They mainly get to do logistical things."
Bohman is planning to head back to the area soon.
"I'm going to the region again, whether I can go back to Syria again, I'm not sure," she said.
She emphasized that she made her decision to join Kurdish fighters after first deciding against participating in the Crimea conflict, and that she was able to do so because she had both the time and money needed for the travel.
Bohman said she spent the first part of her time in Syria in 2015 in a defensive unit, one that kept an eye over open terrain, on the lookout for suicide bombers.
Her second unit was on the frontlines of the conflict, and she said the first night gave her a taste of what would come.
"My first night with that mobile unit, a firefight breaks out outside," she said. "So I was just like, 'This is where I want to be.'"
She said her final unit included five men from Western countries and they went to help liberate a Syrian city near the border with Turkey.
After her unit helped gain control of a bridge near the city, Bohman said she peeked above the dirt berm near it only to spot a sniper.
"I'm looking at the city, which is probably another 500 metres away, and I see two guys in a building. One's kind of peeking behind a corner, and the other one is in the prone position as a sniper. So I see him, and I guess he saw me at the same time and that's when I felt [a bullet] go right over top," she said, tracing the bullet's path above her head.
Bohman said her decision to fight ISIS did come with a personal cost. She said at least 20 of her friends have been killed in firefights.
Still, Bohman said she has only been scared a handful of times and, by and large, hasn't felt fear.
"The fighting with ISIS will end. There really is not much left of them," she said.
With a report from CTV Vancouver's Michele Brunoro