In a nation torn by war and violence, award-winning journalist, Zaina Erhaim, is shining a spotlight on an often forgotten element of the Syrian conflict: the women.
In her documentary series “Syria’s Rebellious Women,” Erhaim brings Syrian women to the forefront, focalizing attention to their daily struggles and contributions while living and working within a violently divided country.
In refreshing contrast to the conflict-driven stories saturating the media, Erhaim’s film documents the revolutionary women who remain in the war-ravaged city of Aleppo as journalists, paramedics, activists, and relief workers — despite the constant threat of danger they face.
The documentary was filmed over an 18-month period and tells the stories of four courageous women living in Syria’s largest city, where Assad forces, along with their Russian allies, vie with Daesh and rebel groups for control.
The women — Ghalia, Waed, Zein and Ahed — remain, braving the violent complexities and intense fighting, serving at the frontlines in the war for their city.
Erhaim said, in an interview with the Observer:
“It’s not just men fighting the war in Syria; it is women too — and they feel forgotten. The women activists are working harder against more problems but are forgotten as the west obsesses on Islamic State. It is just Assad against ISIS, but we are still here in this ruined place and now we are facing two enemies: ISIS and Assad.”
The courageous women face a myriad of challenges, from the daily air raids by Russian and Assad forces, to threats of violence from Daesh militants, to looming food and medical shortages.
In addition, the women actively resist misogynistic tropes from their enemies and male counterparts alike, defying a narrow-minded and stereotypical perspective that sees them as docile and passive victims; as opposed to active players in the city’s struggle for survival.
Physicians for Humans Rights (PHR) have reported that 95 percent of Aleppo’s doctors have fled the city, creating a massive chasm in an already desperate situation.
One of the women documented in the film, Waed, left her home in a government-controlled town to work as a paramedic and citizen journalist in the war-ravaged city.
Zein, who had been imprisoned in Damascus for 14 months by the Syrian regime, also works as a paramedic in the same field-hospital. They, and many other women, are helping to preserve the city’s health services — which are hindering on the edge of disaster — from completely collapsing.
Ahed, who was beaten by the government and by Daesh after being at the forefront of demonstrations against both forces, now works as an aid worker.
Ghalia, a community activist who offers vocational training to women, has received numerous attacks on her life.
These women, who are fighting against both the Assad regime and Daesh forces are challenging conservative and often misogynistic perceptions of women — and are determined to help, despite the horror they have endured and continue to experience.
These women, including Erhaim, who moved back to Aleppo from London to document the lives of the Syrians who remained in the country and to train them as citizen journalists, are challenging a narrative that seeks to define them as either victims or sympathizers. These women literally risk it all to ensure that their voices are heard, to provide health services and to make the lives of others who remain better. And their stories deserve to be heard.
Written by Sara Hussein