I’ve been a women’s rights advocate for over 20 years, and we worked within an organization called the “Syrian Women League”. There isn’t any civil society in Syria, there isn’t any authorization for civil society in Syria, and therefore we were only working to decrease discrimination against women, and increasing their representation within the law. When the revolution began in 2011, we participated in the demonstrations, we demanded that we get our rights as women, in addition to living in a more democratic system.
Originally, prior to the revolution so about 3 years ago, I was prohibited from traveling outside Syria. In the beginning of 2011, the government lifted the ban, that didn’t last too long, as 6 months later they reinforced it, and I was prohibited from leaving Syria again. The many branches of security in Syria started to tail me, I tried to combat them, but eventually I was forced to run away and escape.
- Sabah Al Hallak, 55 years old, living in Lebanon
If we had something that [the Free Syrian Army] didn’t have, we would provide that, I also helped with the injured. Because they were defending the community, they were doing night shifts to watch over people, defend us and themselves.
In the span of two days, 5 people from the same family died. We decided that enough is enough, the Free Army came and helped us defend ourselves. We both feel the same way, we were living together that is.
- Zaina al-Braizi, 23 years old, living in Lebanon
I chose PKK is because it is a women’s organization, politically, militarily, and socially.
Kurdish women are not slaves to men. We were trained that we need to resist in order to defend ourselves and not only hide behind men’s shadows.
The right revolution is a revolution in which women can be important players in it, and our leader says, Abdullah Ocalan, that a revolution is successful when a women can take part of it and she can take a big role in that revolution, not just stand behind men, she must play an important role. This is what we saw in the PKK, this is what is different in the PKK.
- Pirouz, 25 years old, fighter with the Kurdistan Workers' Party ("PKK") living in Rojava
Ameena Abu al-Shoha
The bombs increased heavily, we weren’t able to sit down anymore. The bombs would strike our house and our areas [in Aleppo]. The bombs would be dropped around our house and walls would shake, the government was responsible for these bombings. We moved around Syria a lot before we came to Lebanon, we were homeless multiple times.
e came from the main road, from the borders. But we didn’t come easily [to Lebanon], it was very difficult. We came by car by the borders, they scrutinized us a lot. My husband was with the Free Army, but there wasn’t any money we couldn’t keep up, we didn’t even have money for diapers, we didn’t have enough income to sustain the household, you know how it is when a man is married he needs to provide for his family, he couldn’t keep up anymore, so it was very difficult for him to pass by the border and come to Lebanon. My husband’s brother was actually a martyr.
- Ameena Abu al-Shoha, 47 years old, living in Lebanon
As the eldest daughter in a long line of brothers, S was taught by her father to be a strong independent woman. She was taught to protect herself and her family. She learned to use guns, drive motorcycles and cars, and speak her mind. She has always been involved in family decision-making and is often the one others turn to for guidance.
At first, the government attacked one village at a time. S and her family fled, moving from one neighboring village to the next. The government eventually encircled the entire cluster of villages and S had two choices; run or fight. She chose to fight. S sent her husband away with her children to find safety in another city while she stayed behind to protect their home and cattle, alone.
As a part of the Free Syrian Army (FSA, major resistance militia founded by defected SAF officers and soldiers), S provided medical care, served as a messenger of information and a watchdog for her community, and single-handedly defended her home.
“If you feel like you’ve lost everything and everyone, you cannot just sit back.”
- S is a pseudonym choosen to protect the anonymity of this interviewee.