Soad Nofal. Memorize the name of this Syrian woman very well. Keep an eye on her activities. Her bravery makes her an exceptional woman. But she’s the only one who is this bold and only few media outlets will report on her. She is the woman who, for more than two months, has been writing banners and protesting alone in front of the headquarters of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) in ar-Raqqah in order to condemn the group’s acts of murder, detention and torture against Syrians and to condemn the arbitrary laws practiced against citizens, particularly against women.
Soad is a teacher who previously protested against the Syrian regime. She currently makes sure that she takes to the street everyday carrying a new banner to raise in front of the ISIS headquarters and accuses the group of being an obscurantist one that serves the regime and humiliates the Syrians just like Bashar al-Assad does.
The extremist group responded by preventing the media from talking to Soad or shooting footage of her. It threatened to kill her if she continues to protest. Therefore, no one dared support this woman or stand with her.
In an interview, she said: “My pants annoy them. Okay, but I didn’t ask them why they are dressed [like] Afghanis!”Diana Moukalled
In an interview, she said: “My pants annoy them. Okay, but I didn’t ask them why they are dressed [like] Afghanis!”
The video footage shows her narrating the difficulties she faces. The most significant of these difficulties is fear. Fear which has pushed many to surrender to ISIS extremism.
Soad bitterly narrates how one of her students politely condemned the “mistake” of protesting in front of the ISIS headquarters. As for Soad’s parents, they worry every time she carries one of her banners and goes to protest because they’re afraid her acts may bring trouble to the family doorstep, particularly against its male members.
Almost three years after the revolution, and after so many people were killed and displaced and so much was destroyed, one wonders where Soad obtains this momentum from. She’s on her own, and she’s a woman. Her life will mean nothing to a group that masters in the brutal art of murder and considers it a commendable deed. One of its rallying songs says: “Oh how many throats we’ve slit!”
People in Syria feel that everyone has given up on them. There’s no deterrence against the regime’s violence. There’s no power to confront the ISIS in the areas it controls. Civil activity in Syria has become semi-absent after many activists have fled. Activists who remained behind are subject to death threats either by the regime or by extremist groups, particularly by the ISIS. Soad’s revolution is not only a revolution against murder. It’s also a feminine revolution. Tyranny in Syria has many faces, and that rooted stance on women’s rights lies at its core.
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant is annoyed by Soad’s rebellion against its authority, arms and masculinity. The ISIS is annoyed by this woman’s pants. But Soad insists on wearing them and taking to the street to protest. Despite everything, Soad Nofal restores the spirit which ignited the Daraa youths’ activity three years ago. We really miss this spirit today. And we really fear for you Soad and stand in solidarity with you!
This article was first published in al-Sharq al-Awsat on Nov. 4, 2013
Diana Moukalled is the Web Editor at the Lebanon-based Future Television and was the Production & Programming Manager with at the channel. Previously, she worked there as Editor in Chief, Producer and Presenter of “Bilayan al Mujaradah,” a documentary that covers hot zones in the Arab world and elsewhere, News and war correspondent and Local news correspondent. She currently writes a regular column in AlSharq AlAwsat. She also wrote for Al-Hayat Newspaper and Al-Wasat Magazine, besides producing news bulletins and documentaries for Reuters TV. She can be found on Twitter: @dianamoukalled.