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Syrian women face their country’s crisis with ‘peace and love’

10 Mar 2020

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Displaced women in north-west Syria. Credit: HFO Project

As the Syria conflict enters its tenth year this week, and with increasing disproportionate impact on women and girls, three women aid workers on International Women’s Day shared what it is like to live on the front lines of the unfolding humanitarian tragedy in north-west Syria.

“The most difficult challenge that I face every day is to find a secure place for my children while I am away at work in the camps (for the internally displaced) for the day,” said Aisha.

For the people living there, the situation in northwest Syria is deeply concerning. The most brutal manifestation of the Syria crisis right now is that there is no place that is really safe. Almost 960,000 people have been uprooted by violence since 1 December, the vast majority of whom are women and children. Settlements where displaced people gathered have been hit, resulting in deaths, injuries and further displacement.

All women in the conflict zones in Syria are confronted with the same fears, said Aisha, and this shared experience has helped them to uplift one another and work in solidarity.

One of these women is Mahasin. She works for an NGO and uses her experience and learning to help others.

Mahasin shared a story of a young woman who had been raped and become pregnant. Her family had rejected her. The woman was on the verge of killing herself when Mahasin met her and provided psychosocial support. Through this interaction, Mahasin helped her find a vocation that allowed her to become more independent, and thus, to find a future for herself.

Another woman, Sundus, a teacher before the ongoing Syrian war and a mother, said people would need to spend a dedicated time in north-west Syria to fully understand the trauma that families live through every day.

“My biggest fear is to be displaced again and my inability to provide my children with a stable life or a good future,” she said. “We have had our chance in life, but I always ask myself as a mother if my two daughters will have any chance in the future.”

Sundus wondered if her children would have the same opportunities– such as access to higher education –when she was growing up in Syria before the war.

Amid the yearning for a regular life, Aisha noted, “My children ask me about their toys and clothes left behind in their home. They ask me why we cannot go back. They ask about the sea, why they cannot go to the sea or to their home. I don’t really have an answer.” 

She says her 4-year-old daughter saw images of the sea on a mobile phone and asked her whether the images were real or only existed on the phone.

The women had a message for the outside world which Aisha voiced: “We want to stay in Syria – our homeland – and want to fight our difficult circumstances with peace and love.”

Aisha also thanked UN Secretary-General António Guterres for dedicating the century to women’s equality.