Women and children who fled the Islamic State (IS) group's last embattled holdout of Baghouz wait to be searched by US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters ( Image Credit: AFP

Syria - "My son will grow up to become a jihadist," a woman cried proudly as she stepped off a bus ferrying people out of Daesh last sliver of territory in eastern Syria.

Defiant and angry, she is one of 2,000 people evacuated Friday from the jihadists' final scrap of territory in the village of Baghouz near the Iraqi border.

At a screening point run by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces close to the village, women clad in black sat on the barren desert floor waiting to be searched by the Kurdish-led fighters.

When asked where they came from, a group of three veiled women sitting on the rocky terrain said they were "followers" of Daesh so-called "caliphate".

One of them, who refused to give her name but said she was Syrian and originally from the area, burst with anger when asked about the desperate conditions among the holdout jihadists.

"Who says we were hungry?" she asked, while gently nursing a newborn baby.

"In a house that has dates, the resident don't go hungry," she added.

Like many of those with her, she refused to acknowledge the steadily approaching end of so-called "caliphate".

Declared across swathes of Syria and Iraq in 2014, the proto-state once the size of the United Kingdom has been rolled back to just a few blocks of homes in the desert hamlet.

She insisted the jihadists had only "stumbled", adding she never wanted to leave their final patch of territory.

"Had the caliph not ordered it, we would not have left," she said, referring to Daesh supremo Al Baghdadi who remains at large.

"I hope the Islamic caliphate will return and spread across all corners of the globe."

'Proud he's our caliph'

US-backed forces have evacuated nearly 5,000 men, women and children from the jihadist holdout since Wednesday, bringing the SDF closer to retaking the less than half a square kilometre still under Daesh control.

The SDF is trying to pull out the remaining civilians before pressing on with a final push to crush the jihadists, unless they surrender first.

Women and children who fled Daesh last embattled holdout of Baghouz wait to be searched by US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters (not pictured) in Syria's northern Deir Ezzor province Image Credit: AFP

Amid the wails of hungry infants at the screening point, another Syrian woman was similarly bold and unapologetic.

"We were scared of air strikes and nothing else," said Umm Abdul Rahman, from the southern province of Daraa, referring to life inside Daesh held Baghouz.

"We feel very bad right now, but the Islamic caliphate, God willing, will not be defeated," said the 25-year-old.

She said she quit the redoubt with her husband, a wounded jihadist who she claimed has not fought in battle for years.

"We were comfortable" in Baghouz, she said.

When asked about Daesh leader Baghdadi, she said she was "proud he's our caliph".

"We used to only listen to his speeches," she said, suggesting she had not seen him in person.

After all, "he is the caliph and of course he is being monitored by everyone", she added.

"Is it possible for him to just appear in person?" she asked rhetorically.

Pronounced dead on several occasions, Baghdadi has not been seen in public since he declared the "caliphate" in 2014.

An Iraqi intelligence official said in May that Baghdadi was still alive, and likely to be in Syrian territory along the Iraqi border.

SDF officials have said he is not believed to be among the jihadists holed up in Baghouz.

'We are weak'

At the SDF search point, the US-backed fighters separated the women from the men, who stood in a queue waiting to be searched.

Female SDF fighters nearby patted down the female evacuees, most of whom were fully veiled, as their children played on the rocky ochre terrain.

"(The SDF) wants to launch a (military) campaign and we are weak," said one woman, when asked why so many were pouring out of the village.

"We women are weak," she added.

Other women said the exodus was because life inside Daesh redoubt was unbearable.

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"You can't live inside and you can't even get out", said Sabah Mohammad Chehab, a Syrian in her twenties.

Originally from the northern city of Aleppo, she said smugglers are charging up to $2,000 to get people out shrinking patch.

US-backed fighters trucked out civilians from the last speck of the dying "caliphate" in Syria, eager to press on with the battle to crush the jihadists. More than four years after IS overran large parts of Syria and neighbouring Iraq, and declared a "caliphate", they have lost all of it but a tiny patch in the village of Baghouz near the Iraqi border Image Credit: AFP

"We are happy to have made it out," she said.

No regrets

Ghalia Ali shows no regret about abandoning her life as a student in Tunisia to join the militants in 2014.

The young Tunisian-French woman was among truckloads of civilians leaving the militants’ last enclave in eastern Syria.

Like Ali, many were relatives of Daesh fighters who have followed the group during years of retreat until it fell back to the village of Baghouz, now besieged by the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

“God’s world is big. The most important thing is that I do not return to France or Tunisia,” she told Reuters, saying life had been “impossible” for her in both places because of her decision to wear the full Islamic face veil, or niqab.

Accompanied only by her two young children at a checkpoint on the edge of Baghouz on Friday, Ali said she did not know what had happened to her Syrian husband from Latakia, a Daesh fighter who traveled with her to the village near the Iraqi border.

“He is somewhere ... currently I truly don’t know where,” said Ali, laughing faintly beneath her veil.

Ali and her children, a girl aged nearly three and an 18-month-old boy, were headed to Al Hol camp in SDF-controlled northeast Syria.

The SDF has said it wants all civilians evacuated from Baghouz before it launches a final assault to defeat or force surrender on the remaining fighters. The U.S.-led coalition has described those left inside as the “most hardened” of Daesh militants.

The SDF has not ruled out the possibility that some militants have crept out, hidden among the civilians. Warplanes flew overhead on Friday as the evacuation continued, but there was no sound of bombing or clashes.

She spoke fondly of the last spell living in adversity in the final Daesh enclave. “In Baghouz, especially in the last period, I learnt perhaps all the principles of life,” she said.

It was the end point in a journey that started in Tunisia after the 2011 revolution that heralded the Arab uprisings, sweeping out the leaders of Libya, Egypt and Yemen, and presaging Syria’s own eight-year war.

Under the ousted Tunisia’s President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali there was a “very harsh constraint on Muslims”, she said. She herself had not been particularly pious at that point, but something changed when she saw veiled Libyan women who had come to Tunis after their own uprising.

“I saw a woman wearing niqab, I was afraid as it was something strange in Tunis,” Ali said. Adopting the dress herself, she then faced difficulties continuing her studies at the French institute in Tunis and, for several months, in Toulouse in France, where full face veils are banned.

Along with her mother, who went with her to Syria, Ali joined Daesh after being won over by one of its propaganda videos. She said she had been disowned by her brother who serves in the French army, which belongs to the coalition backing the SDF.

The gradual defeat of the militant group’s “caliphate” has rescued millions of people from draconian laws, harsh punishments and, for minorities, slaughter or sexual slavery.

Ali said she would meet at the camp with her mother, who had already quit Baghouz. “God will fix things for me,” she said.