Championing the Syrian women who dare to dream

Just days after International Women’s Day, it is crucial to cherish the capabilities of Syrian women

Dr. Halla Diyab
Dr. Halla Diyab
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With the Syrian conflict entering its fourth year, the death toll has risen to 210,060, of which 10,664 are children and 6,783 are women. The Syrian conflict has regressed Syria’s women from change-inspirers into victims suffering loss, grief and displacement. The conflict has also subjected them to ISIS and its atrocities.

The pretext which made hundreds of women take to the streets in March 2011 was a demand that equality based on capability not political loyalty be realized. They wanted to be able to express their thoughts freely without political fear. Four years later, the question is not what the ultimate dream is but rather is there anyone left who dares to dream?

Just days after International Women’s Day, it is crucial to cherish the capabilities of Syrian women

Dr. Halla Diyab

The conflict has forced women into a very dark corner where dreaming has become a far distant luxury. In today’s Syria, women have been subjected to brutality. They have been subjected to unlawful detentions and forced to marry ISIS militants regardless of age.

Women are kidnapped and traded because they happen to belong to a certain religion or sect. Women are enslaved like commodities and are victims of rape which has been used as a war weapon in Syria.

Because of the gloomy experiences Syrian women are going through on a daily basis, they are hardening themselves with a new-found sense of Syrian female courage.

The change Syrian women advocate for highlights new universal themes of yearning, resistance and learning how to live with minimal hopes. These themes resonate with us all; women in the West and women in the East. Syrian women of this century have challenged the landscape and the prospects of what women are capable to do in a war-torn country.

Just days after International Women’s Day, it is crucial to cherish the capabilities of Syrian women, instead of only focusing on the negative impact on women as victims of war. It is essential to reminisce the stories of women’s success, something which the Syrian war and the misogynistic ISIS want them to forget; the mammoth ability of Syrian women throughout history to rise despite the challenges. It is vital to remember the inspiring examples of Syrian women; Zenobia, the 3rd-century Queen of the Palmyrene Empire who led a famous rebellion against the Roman Empire, Hind Nawfal , the Syrian Christian woman who launched the first Arab women magazine in 1892, Al-Fatat (Young Girl), which was published in Egypt and advocated women’s involvement in public life. There was also the Syrian best-seller novelist Ulfat Idilbi who wrote in the 1980s and whose books were translated into many international languages; Nazira Zain al-Din, the Druze Syrian who advocated equality in the Arab world in 1928 and the Syrian athlete Ghada Shouaa who won Syria’s first and only Olympic gold medal in the 1996 Summer Olympics. Such women serve as enduring examples to many others to be inspired.

Amidst the deep cynicism in which Syria is drowned today, by highlighting the success of Syrian women throughout history and recalling inspiring female achievements, hope emerges with the possibility that Syrian women may restore their status one day. Let us all remember the plight of Syrian women and present our deepest respect and admiration for their courage, strength, resistance and history.


Dr. Halla Diyab is an award winning screen-writer, producer, broadcaster, a published author and an activist. She has a Ph.D. in English and American Studies from the University of Leicester. She carried out research in New Orleans, USA while working on her thesis “The Examination of Marginality and Minorities in the Drama and Film of Tennessee Wil-liams”. She holds an MA in Gender and Women Studies from the University of Warwick. She has written a number of scripts for TV dramas countering religious extremism and international terrorism resulting in her being awarded Best Syrian Drama Script Award 2010 and the Artists Achievement Award 2011. She is a regular commentator in the Brit-ish and international media and has recently appeared on Channel 4 News, BBC Newsnight, BBC This Week, CNN, Sky News, Channel 5 News, ITV Central, Al Jazeera English, and BBC Radio 4, to name a few. She is a public speaker who spoke at the House of Commons, the Spectator Debate, Uniting for Peace and London’s Frontline Club. She has worked in Libya, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Syria and is an expert on the Middle East and Islamic culture. As a highly successful drama writer, she has been dubbed ‘one of the most influential women in Syria’ in 2011. She also produces documentary films for UK and international channels. She is also the Founder & Director of Liberty Media Productions which focuses on cross-cultural issues between Britain and the Middle East. She can be found on Twitter: @drhalladiyab

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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