The third story
It was a house full at the Humanity House on September 25th. Students, employees of NGOs and journalists, together with four Syrian female activists, talked about the state of Syria and the future they envision. Nairouz Al Zoubi, Rania Ali, Judy Bolous and Zaina Erhaim: they are women with a mission. They train Syrian women in leadership, secretly report, make documentaries that have been viewed millions of times and train Syrian aspiring journalists for the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR).
Moderator Petra Stienen clearly states it clear in the opening that it will not be a evening full of sorrow. She states that in the media only two stories can be heard, those of “tyrant who murders his people” and “jihadists.” This evening was dedicated to the third story: “that of the mosaic of a multicolored Syria.”
Women play a role at every level
Despite the fact that the four women have different backgrounds and stories, they certainly agree that Syrian women should not be depicted as victims. “We are strong women, we have hope and dreams,” Rania says passionately.
The women themselves are the perfect example of this. Nairouz, for example, is working intensively with the organization Women Now to draw up an empowerment programme for Syrian women. “Women play a role in society at every level,” says Nairouz. “They first have to believe in their own potential.”
And that Syrian women have potential is shown by the short documentary of the NGO Liberated-T that we see. From teachers to doctors: we see determined women who prove that in Syria is more possible than misery and oppression.
I am the alternative to Assad! I want to be president
Alternative to Assad
The third story is about hope and dreams. The women therefore think it is “nonsense” that Western governments think that the Assad regime has almost certainly won the war. “There are 20 million Syrians!” Rania says firmly. “Of course there are alternatives to Assad.”
Or as journalist Judy, who reports in Damascus under the pseudonym ‘Sham’, firmly states: “I am the alternative to Assad! I want to be president. ”
As long as Assad is not in front of the International Criminal Cour, there is, in the words of the women, no question of building a new Syria.
Relisten the conversation below.
What's the plan?
‘But how do we achieve that ?,’ is a frequently heard question from the audience. Fact is that the women can only operate from the sidelines. Judy is the only one who, with danger for her own life, goes back to Syria.
According to the women, the civil society organizations (cso’s) they work with should play an important role in the new Syria. The CSs can play virtually no role in government areas. Activists have no possibility to communicate. Anyone suspected of activism is detained. Returning to Syria is not a possibility. They are therefore annoyed that something otherwise is said in Europe.
The women admit that the situation in Syria is hopeless. “As long as there is no political solution, we can not do anything,” says Zaina.
Treat us as people, not as terrorists
Smile of joy and sadness
The women have their hope on Europe. “Europe can put pressure on Putin,” says Zaina. But for now the women find it especially important that their stories are told. “Show that you hear us,” says Rania. “Treat us as people, not as terrorists!”
Petra closes the conversation with a reference to the kidnapping of the Syrian activist Razan Zaitouneh in 2013. “What would you do if the war was at your door,” Petra asks the audience. “Most people would keep quiet. But these women are making their voices heard. ”
Judy smiles at the loud applause. It is a smile of sadness – but also of joy.