Razan Zaitouneh’s “Women in The Syrian Revolution” (2013)

The following article is from “Razan W Zaitouneh“, a website set up as a tribute to Syrian human rights lawyer and activist Razan Zeitouneh and which features her work. It was written on March 3, 2013, nine months before the activists now known as the ‘Douma Four’ – Razan Zaitouneh, Samira al-Khalil, Wael Hamada, and Nazem Hammadi – were kidnapped by masked armed men. It seems very likely that the rebel group ‘Jaysh Al Islam’ is behind the kidnapping. You can read this article by Yassin Haj Saleh, Samira’s husband, arguing why.

As besieged Douma’s near future is very grim, we must not forget the Douma 4 or the tens of thousands of Syrian civilians still forcibly disappeared.

You can read other articles by Razan here.

Ayat the little girl has become a wife and mother while now narrating her own experience with courage and pride. This is how Ayat looked in a documentary broadcast on “BBC Arabic” entitled “Syrian Women”; adapted and directed by the wonderful Syrian journalist Lina Sinjab.

Ayat was a child when she was arrested under the accusation of “radicalism” because she was attending religious courses at the mosque. Inside detention, her grudge matured all the way through prolonged torture that she had to endure with her skinny and pale body inside security branches. After her release, Ayat suffered from continued threats by security members on the one hand and family pressures on the other. Her father was strongly with the Assad regime and at that point, her news was severed in the first two months of the revolution. I thought she might have surrendered to her family’s will or she may have actually become a radical after everything she’s been through. And here she is today showing us that the revolution changed her life and that she participated in its creation. A beautiful and confident young lady who expresses herself clearly and freely, even refusing to obscure her face in the documentary while speaking loudly and vibrantly as I have always known her.

Ayat is one of the many Syrian women whose lives were changed by the movement as much as they have participated in it. The documentary showed numerous examples of Syrian women in this revolution of all ages, levels of experience, social and ideological backgrounds.

From the courageous activist Khawla Dunia to become a paramedic in a field hospital where she has no experience in medicine before. From a journalist who documents the revolution via pictures everyday with its atrocities as well as the few moments of love and joy like that lady who crosses checkpoints and heads to the eastern suburbs to attend a demonstration and chant for freedom.

In the majority of the demonstrations that took place in the conservative eastern suburbs of Damascus, the women and young ladies were covering their faces with veils. Some of them abiding by religious or social traditions whereas the others covered their faces for security purposes. Behind those veils, their voices were chanting for freedom and young children were jumping on their mothers shoulders. More often, there were pictures of martyred sons, brothers or husbands and each of those voices has a story of courage and hope that deserves to be told.

Moreover, some young women were not reluctant to perform missions that seemed sort of “suicidal”. Ayat talked about hiding pieces of weaponry in her own house for the members of the Free Syrian Army and aiding in smuggling a weapon once under her clothes across a checkpoint despite being pregnant with her first child!

Many other young women followed her lead but were not as lucky as Ayat; they got arrested at the checkpoints and have been missing in the darkness of the security dungeons ever since. Other women became active with the FSA as journalists and paramedics and I wasn’t surprised that it what was announced at the end of the documentary that Ayat herself joined  the FSA! That tremendous energy she had when she was nine transformed into relentless rage after those nine months she had spent in detention.

I hate weapons… and I do not wish they become part of the lives of thousands Syrian men and youth but at the same time we cannot deny their bravery as both the amazing and scary thing that it is.

The rest of the women and young ladies maintained that thin line between the peaceful movement and the armed one. That young journalist who told us about a member of FSA who offered his rifle in exchange for her camera. That trade was never meant to take place but it expressed his willingness to live normally a few moments before his death.

After watching that documentary several times, I wondered if that journalist in SANA news channel, who described her self on papers as a “pro-Assad fanatic”, had the chance to watch Ayat, Khawla, Mariah and Maya.. I wonder how she felt and what she thought about?

Personally, I felt mostly hopeful and how desperately we need it at the present time! Aren’t Syrian women the most beautiful in the world?

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