Wednesday, 20 January 2016



 'Women in the city of Deir Ezzor have supported the Syrian revolution in various ways since its beginning. During the early stages of the revolution, women held active roles, including those that were viewed as exclusively male-dominated, such as carrying weapons in the armed opposition.

 In March 2011, the first demonstrations calling for the Syrian regime’s ouster took place in Deir Ezzor. Women started to join the protests alongside men early on. By the summer, women had a significant presence in the protests.

 “When the armed revolution started in Deir Ezzor and the opposition brigades took over the city’s central neighborhoods, the regime tried to retake the city but failed,” she said. “Without warning, it started brutally bombarding those neighborhoods. The attacks forced the residents to leave their homes and migrate to other cities.
 “Work then became limited to carrying weapons to fight the regime or working in field hospitals,” she continued. “Because of that, women’s presence was limited. However, some women carried weapons briefly during the Republican Guards’ campaign to stop the protests. One well-known woman was a nurse known as Um al-Thuwar [Mother of the Protesters], because the youth of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) considered her their mother.’’
 In January 2013, after the regime siege had lasted several months, the armed opposition freed the al-Huweqa neighborhood’s eastern entrance and used it to transfer supplies in and out of the city. This marked the end of the siege and the beginning of what the city’s residents call the “period of freedom.”
 During this period, women had the freedom to work in other fields as well. For example, the rights organization al-Mar’a wa al-Tifl Hayat was established in June 2013 in Deir Ezzor’s al-Ummal neighborhood.
 In an interview in Urfa, Turkey, Baida’a al-Hassan, the organization’s director, explained, “Our activities focused on raising awareness of women’s rights. We held seminars in our center and visited women in their homes. The organization also started two training centers. At the first we taught sewing and at the second, called Ahla Talla, we taught hairstyling.
 “The purpose behind these centers was to teach uneducated women professions so that they would be able to support themselves,” al-Hassan continued. “Additionally, the organization established the Shaady Rabbah School in al-Hamediya area and the al-Amal Kindergarten in al-Ummal. Through these two schools, we managed to secure jobs for many unmarried women.”
 “On July 14, 2014, ISIS seized a neighborhood in Deir Ezzor city and shut down all the civil society organizations, including ours, and confiscated our organization’s equipment. We stopped operating for two months,” Heba said.
 “However, the extremist group and its horrible treatment of civilians would not stop us from working,” she continued. “We decided to go back to our activities, but with a new approach. We used to hold public seminars, but today we hold them secretly inside homes with a limited number of attendees. We cannot assemble large groups of women because the whole operation might get discovered.”
 Heba emphasized that one of most important issues discussed during these seminars is how women can change their behavior to protect themselves from ISIS. Another topic is how to turn away an ISIS “suitor” if he proposes to a woman. That matter has been, and still is, a danger to women of Deir Ezzor.'

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