'An incomplete revolution is a graveyard.'
'I'm a drama playwright and producer and I teach youth how to create TV reports and other journalistic and press standards. This is our work ongoing until this day inside Syria. At a certain stage, after they released material multiple times, those activists became wanted by security forces and had to leave the country. I am one of those people.'
Same as several other Syrians, Mohammad Mallak had to reluctantly flee his beloved country of birth where he lived most of his life, Syria, to Gaziantep, Turkey. Yet he never ceased to work towards women's rights for Syrian women's voices to be heard.
Mohammad is the Editor-in-Chief of the Saiedet Souria magazine. He was a scriptwriter and playwright and founder of several media projects.Having lived and worked under the threats of the regime and extremists, Mohammad strongly believes in the strength of the Syrian people.
'Despite all pressures - the regime on one side and extremist groups on another – Syrians, I believe, still have the will to live', says Mohammad.
Yasmine Merei, born in Homs, is a Syrian journalist and human rights defender focusing on women issues. She left Syria in 2012, shortly to Lebanon, then to Turkey, where she started working as the managing editor of the women's magazine 'Saiedet Souria'. In her work, she focuses on important and sensitive topics in Syrian and Arab women's life, like: early marriage and sexual harassment. She also works on social advocacy and mobilization for women rights, the importance of women's participation in building democracy and development in Syria, and how the Syrian regime introduced women through media since 2000. She is a cofounder of The Forum of Knowledge and Freedom of Expression. Through this forum, she focused on discussing the political situation in Syria, with a group of speakers from different political, journalistic and academic backgrounds, in the first Syrian dialogue experience in exile. She trained women on advocacy skills and democracy building through media and storytelling. She is continuously publishing articles and currently a fellow at 'The White Sea' Residency Program for Artists at Risk by Allianz Kulturstiftung.
'I wish that everyone in the West, no matter where they are, be it in Germany, France, Italy, UK, America or any other place would try to imagine if there is 90% chance that a missile could land and tear your house down with your children in it would you stay there or leave?'
'The war left no chances for survival. Syrians tried to endure, to stay, to find peaceful solutions and kept dreaming of a better life. However, evil forces at work didn't let them and the world didn't help them or accommodate their dream.'
Caption: Two Syrian refugee women walk in the Oncupõnar Container-City at the end of the day. Tens of thousands of Syrians remained stranded on the Turkish border on February 7, 2016 after fleeing a major Russian-backed regime offensive near Aleppo where a new humanitarian disaster appeared to be unfolding.
Saiedet Souria printed and distributed nearly 150 thousands copies of their magazine, written by and for Syrian women living mainly inside Syria, aimed at a group of women who are very isolated and subject to propaganda from either the government‘s or the fundamentalists' side. Saiedet Souria continues to work inside Syria, reaching out to women through their magazine as well as activities organised in one of their offices in Syria.
Trainings and offices
When Saiedat Souria became a partner of Women on the Frontline, they opened five local offices in different cities in Syria where they print and distribute the magazine. From these offices, they invite local women to contribute stories. They build trust within these communities through the magazine, enabling them to start discussions amongst women about their daily lives, their ideas about Syria's future, and how they can play a role towards these goals in their own communities
'The effort made by the women of Saiedat Souria in Syria where there is no TV, no internet, no electricity where the simplest services are not available, they try and they travel great distances to go to a place where they can find internet to go to our offices so can they can facilitate trainings or participate.'
Saiedet Souria published a book of stories written by women living inside Syria. The winners of a storytelling competition held sessions to encourage Syrian women to share their stories to create more understanding within Syria's divided communities.
On the day I was born, women from our neighbourhood gathered in our home. Everybody was excited and awaited my birth. They felt sorry for my mother when I turned out to be a girl; I was the seventh girl in a row. They did not even have enough inspiration to come up with a good name for me. In the end they called me ‘Falak', which means ‘space'.
I have always hated my name. I thought it was a strange name, and it made me feel different from all the others. ‘No, you and your name are a wonderful form of being different,' said a handsome young man to me when we met during the first demonstrations in 2011. While singing and shouting protest songs, we walked through the streets of our village. It was as if two people wanted to destroy and bury everything that this era had done to them. But they were cries of hope too. Hope for different and better days.
From that day onwards, I longed for the next demonstration. One day he bumped into me again and he whispered in my ear: ‘You are my revolution. I will reach to the sky to pick a bunch of stars and I will scatter them on these people. The next demonstration will come soon and then I will scatter the stars on you.' And he added: ‘You will always be my astronaut.'Falak, Idlib
“There is no distance between bullets, just like there is no distance between me and the person who is aiming them at me. The only thing that distinguishes us from each other is that he possesses that one bullet.
He is standing there and checking the area around him: certain of himself and full of confidence. Every day I pass this checkpoint on my way to work. I keep a close eye on him, like he keeps a close eye on me. I try to recognize the contours of his face.
He is exhausted. He is sweating and he can't concentrate. I feel sorry for him and his family. We have not even reached the checkpoint and the sound of bullets wakes me from my daydreams.
The bullet that I hear doesn't kill me. But my heart does stop beating. The colour red is everywhere. I open my window. Death is staring at me, changing the colour of my face and his face too: the twenty-something who was pierced by this bullet.
Time stands still for a while. Then my telephone breaks the silence. I answer it. It's a colleague. We are working together in the mobile hospital. He asks me where I am and tells me to hurry.
I get out of my car and run to the hospital. I quickly go inside. There is blood everywhere. I hear two young men who are trying to suppress their pain. And the voice of the doctor giving instructions to the assistants.
I soon return to my everyday reality. However, the image of the twenty-something does not go away. When the doctors have left the room, I start to cry and pray to God that I will survive this. Suddenly the door opens. Yet another wounded man needs to be taken to the operating theatre, urgently. We hurry to get to him.
I don't have any time now to think about what happened.'
Amal, 40, Damascus
'We have lost a lot of staff members over the last four years because they were killed and arrested. Today we work in difficult areas; areas under siege, surrounded by ISIS and other radical factions. However, we have made an agreement with the women working there, as well as the youth in the team that we must work on the ground.'
'We have many incredible Syrian women working with us who are making a legendary effort and heroic acts every day. All under shelling, oppression, suffering, extremism, injustice and under all the violations they suffer from. Every day we discover this incredible determinations that they have from which we draw strength for us to keep working.'