Lionesses of the National Defence

  • Syria's female tank drivers: Battalion of 800 women commandos in fierce clashes with rebels on the front-line in Damascus 
  • The women nicknamed 'Lionesses for National Defence' fight in Damascus
  • Part of elite Republican Guard, set up to defend the city and the president
  • After being set up a year ago, 800 now patrol the frontlines of the suburbs 


Four years ago, it would have been unheard of for a woman to be part of the Syrian Army, let alone driving one of the tanks and shooting rockets.

But the women pictured here are now part of the Syrian regime's most elite force, the Republican Guard, tasked with defending Damascus' suburbs from rebel attacks.

Women were first recruited to the elite group of soldiers - the only battalion allowed within the boundaries of Damascus - nearly a year ago.

Today, 800 are on the streets of the city, filling in for the soldiers who have been sent out to battle the opposition fighters across the country.

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Bew: Female Syrian soldiers from the Republican Guard commando battalion sit on a tank during clashes

War: The women are fighting against rebels, who have been demanding democracy since 2011

Unthinkable: Women were only allowed to join the army in 2013, and this group are now part of an elite unit

Nicknamed the Lionesses of Defence, the women patrol the suburbs of the city, monitoring and securing the frontlines with snipers, rockets and machine guns.

The group were pictured this week as they clashed with rebels in the restive Jobar area, in eastern Damascus - just another small battle in a four year war which has left more than 220,000 dead.

But while they look at ease in their new roles, it is a far cry from the Republican Guard envisioned when it was created in 1976.

The battalion - also known as the Presidential Guard - was created specifically to defend the country's capital, and its leaders, from attack.

It is considered the most prestigious of all the battalions with in the armed forced, and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is said to have trained with the Republican Guard.

According to the Middle East Intelligence Bulletin, only the most loyal are recruited.

Responsible: They patrol the suburbs of Damscus, monitoring and securing the frontlines

Battle: They use snipers, rockets and machine guns in their fight against the rebels, who want democracy


Hardened: A female Syrian soldier fires a machine gun during clashes with rebels in the restive Jobar area

When the war first broke out in 2011, the guard was kept within the city at the start of the war.

But by 2012 it had been sent to fight against the various threats facing Assad's regime: the rebels demanding democracy, and later ISIS.

Damascus now describes both groups as 'terrorists' as it desperately tries to keep a grip on power.

In an attempt to bolster the numbers of his armed forces, Assad decided to allow women to join the army in 2013.

Initially, about 500 women were recruited to guard checkpoints and carry out security checks in an attempt to plug the holes left by defections and casualties in his dwindling army.

'Lionesses for National Defence' guard check point in Syria

Shooting: A female Syrian sniper fights alongside her fellow soldiers during Wednesday's clash

Read more:
"Syria's Praetorian Guards: A Primer" (August 2000)