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When women open windows for sunlight


“As a secular woman, I met during the current uprising a number of precious women. They were educated, active and open-minded. These wonderful women were wearing hijab and they were religious; knowing those women made me proud. They enriched our lives. But if we tend to take away these women’s personal behaviors, social practices, religious beliefs and unique interaction with society then this tendency is our passport for our own enslavement.” Samar Yazbek spoke in defense of religious women who are accused of being close-minded by a group of liberals in Syria.
With words filled with hope, writer and documentary filmmaker, Samar Yazbek talked about her tormented country and the status of women there; though she was shut out from her homeland, her homeland was not able to shut down her voice. Samar left her desk in Damascus where she wrote her stories, novels, TV series and documentaries, and went to Paris, but this was not a trip, she escaped for her life, and till now she is still haunted with nostalgia for her country and what she saw before she left. Samar told me that in these hard times everyone has a responsibility to play a role. “Responsibility is freedom, and freedom is responsibility,” she said.
Samar always wrote about corruption in Syria, where she had the courage to go in places others did not dare to get near. Samar has a gigantic will to defend justice and Syrians’ right to be free, covered with a delicate face. She told the stories of people from all walks of life, their hidden desires, their aspirations and dreams, their secret affairs, greed, despair, power and hope. Samar is a phenomenal woman; it is rare to become emancipated from all kinds of restrictions designed by society and government for women in Syria, but she broke free and came under a watchful eye, under scourge and criticism. Before she left Syria, Samar was interrogated in one of the regime’s security centers; she was accused of supporting extremists. The regime’s enthusiasts even wrote infamous poems and promoted them as her work.
Women were always the pillars of her work, Samar was in the frontlines in major women’s rights issues in Syria, and fought to end honor crimes that take the lives of about 200 women every year.
Samar is independent and believes that what we say must be what we do. By breaking through, she wanted to support women despite her prior knowledge that she will be followed; a woman outside traditions and norms is always examined by society and government in the Levant. “I will always stand with justice and human rights no matter what; and by choosing to stand in the face of the Syrian regime I am fulfilling my moral duty as a human being. The ruling family is criminal and history will always remember it as criminal.”
The sky was cloudy; during our interview I sensed her grief and intelligence. Samar won a UN award for her movie “Low Sky”. But at times all her achievements and awards looked like they happened in a far, far past; everything shrunk in front of the tragic present reality. “We lived to see freedom carnivals in the Arab World, we must be grateful for that,” Samar said. Though she wrote about cracks in humanity’s soul and deep rotten corruption, she never expected to see a revolution ahead, maybe a movement of some kind but not this, “epic revolution,” as she described it. 
Before leaving Syria, Samar used to meet with activists, and she joined freedom marches in the streets. Standing beside the people made her faith in the average human beings larger than life; she was overwhelmed with their determination to gain freedom and their defiance of the brutality and pain. “Women were exceptional in this uprising,” she answered when I asked her about women’s engagement in the revolution. Samar saw women as a moving force and a main factor in the persistence of the revolutionary action on many levels: political, social, in journalism, literature and activism. She believes that Syrian women’s participation in the revolution was greater than the participation of women in other revolutions in the Arab world; but the regime intends to target women to provoke violence in men and turn their peaceful movement into armed conflict as a reaction to the targeting of women: “Of course the Syrian regime will target the collective conscious of women’s image in the psychological structure in our societies.” Samar is keen to document violations against women in Syria; she always calls activists and people to send her information about violations committed by the regime against women.
There was a brief moment of silence during our conversation, a heavy moment passed when I asked about the future. With brave words and willingness to cross a raging river, Samar accepts the fact that chaos will happen, but anything is better than being a slave governed by dictatorship. She said that if the world does not move soon Syrians will be forced to defend themselves with weapons. Syrians will pay a high tax but the future will be much better for our children.
For Samar, Syria looked very painful from France. Samar is in a continuous state of torment, anger, grief and great despair. Sometimes she loses her sense of time and place. She feels like she is still living in Damascus and never left. On her Facebook page Samar wrote, “Oh yes, the road of democracy is too long, and as women we have to fight for a new civil and democratic country, where we live under equality and citizenship. It is hard but not impossible; for the sake of those who died for us, they deserve it.”

On Sunday the 11th of Dec, Syrian activists announced a general strike in Syria, Samar announced a hunger strike to say that wherever she was, she will always be with her people.

This article is part of a writing assignment for Voices of Our Future a program of World Pulse that provides rigorous new media and citizen journalism training for grassroots women leaders. World Pulse lifts and unites the voices of women from some of the most unheard regions of the world.



Rachael Maddock-Hughes's picture


I am so impressed with your story and writing. This is a moving tale of a woman who may have physically left her country, but has never really left emotionally and mentally. I was particularly interested in the statement she made about the Syrian government targeting women to provoke violence in men. I wonder if this is a common theme throughout the Arab Spring revolution? I and my other American friends also shake our head in despair that the US and other European countries aren't doing more to support the Syrian people--it seems to us because there aren't large oil reserves there, there is much less interest in what happens! Thank goodness the other Arab nations are condemning what is going on there.

Great work, keep it up!


"In every human heart there are a few passions that last a lifetime. They're with us from the moment we're born, and nothing can dilute their intensity." Rob Brezny

Hummingbird's picture

Thank you Rachael

We now have faith in one thing, holding each others' hands. I never saw this before but there is a worldwide network of Syrians doing all they can for each others, raising funds, writing about it and sharing ideas and plans. All this is happening while death and punishment is going after everyone. Despite atrocities, there is a beautiful thing growing between us, love. I wanted to write a story that suits this wonderful woman and the struggle in my country, and it stirred my emotions to see my message was received.

Thank you Rachael for your encouraging words, and I also believe that no one is moving because we don't have huge oil reserves. To tell the truth, other Arab nations are not doing anything either, they just talk about it without doing anything.

Take care dear

A drop of rain can revive the earth, be the drop.


olutosin's picture


You wrote beautifully well!!!!

So moving, I cleaned a tear drop.....

Hmmnn, may we speak out.Amen.

Welldone dear sister.

Olutosin Oladosu Adebowale
Founder/Project Coordinator
Star of Hope Transformation Centre
512 Road
F Close
Festac Town


Hummingbird's picture

Beautiful sister

It was emotional for me to write it. When I read your comment I cleaned a tear drop too.

Take care sister

A drop of rain can revive the earth, be the drop.


Paulina Lawsin's picture

Wow. what a powerful article

Wow. what a powerful article about a woman full of inner power and home about a free Syria. Such longing for the country is reminiscent of the writings of our national hero when he lived in Europe while the Philippines was under colonial rule.

How do we get access of Samar's films? Btw, Samar is also the name of one of the big islands in the Philippines.

Well done, Nisan!


ikirimat's picture

so touching

I love the way you wrote the profile. so touching , moving and shocking. Keep writing there is a lot to learn from each other and parts of the world

Grace Ikirimat

"It takes the hammer of persistence to drive the nail of success."

Dear Nisan,

Well, I intended to start my comment with, "WOW!", but everyone else has said it for me, and rightfully so!

Your writing is powerful and beautiful and is already making a positive difference.

Samar, depicted so beautifully in the photo, has my great admiration, my strong wishes for health and safety and my respect. I know that she embraced your request for this interview, too, which makes me appreciate her all the more. May she be embraced and protected by forces greater than those we can see and hear.

From beneath your innate sweetness, compassion, grace, intelligence and humble expressions of gratitude -- in every email! -- your power shines through.

I applaud you.

With Love,


Sarah Whitten-Grigsby

Liz4peace's picture

Freedom is responsibility

Thank you, Nisan, for this wonderful profile. I have a Syrian friend here in San Diego, and I know she grieves for her country from afar. Here, the news from Syria - and the rest of the Middle East - is no longer on the front page as we focus on our over-long election process and all the silliness that arises from it. I am so sorry. I know the people of Syria are suffering. I wish women of the world could descend upon Damascus in an enormous peaceful mob and pluck Bashar from his throne. Can we view Samar's film on the internet?

I look forward to reading more about your country!


mirette's picture

Painful but beautiful

Nisan, your words touched my soul dear. I'm from Egypt and I would assume that we are going through the same hell, the same oppression and the same nightmare that doesn't want to end. Samar sounds like a Syrian fighter that oppression made her only stronger. I believe that as long as women like Samar live in our world, there will always be hope. I can sense from your words a heavy feeling and I understand, but hang on there dear, and have faith in Syria that no one can steal from its people. I'm praying for you!

Okeny-Lucia's picture

The World we live in!

Dear Nisan,
It is a strong story to tell.Syria has remained a vintage point in the history of the Arab world.I look at the suffering of the citizens of that country and I wonder,for what purpose is this kind of humiliation?
Samar is undergoing the pains of remaining altrusitic to her cause,freedom is the most expensive commodity to loose for a citizen,her pain carries a familiarity in my own situation.The yearning to be back home and see ,laugh with your neighbours and help your country grow.This is one thing nobody should take for granted.
Nisan,Syria will be freed from this barbaric acts of humanity.Freedom is coming tomorrow.Congratulations!

Lucia Buyanza
Reproductive Health

MaDube's picture

Dear Nisan

Your story is beautifully written. Thank you for bringing Samar to life. I can feel her pain at being banished from her homeland when all she really wants is to be there. I hope someday she will be able to go back and continue to positively influence the women around her. I hope that psssibility comes soon.

emilybrews's picture

Enjoying this all over again!

Nisan, I just read your piece again, and I am still so inspired by it and think it's so beautifully written. I can feel the connection between you and Samar, and I know how powerfully rooted that is in a sense of deep injustice for Syrian people - and most importantly, in a determination to see change in your country. I do believe that every positive action, large or small, will help this change come about, and with this article you are the "drop of rain", or maybe even the shower!

I enjoyed working with you on this very much, and I can't wait to read your next work in progress.


mrbeckbeck's picture

Well done Nisan!

What an amazing profile piece. I feel the connection you have with Samar, and the connection both of you have with the struggle for freedom in Syria. It is such a moving piece, because I can feel how frustrated and tormented she must feel during this time.... being with her sisters in the struggle, but not being there physically.

Thank you for introducing this amazing activist to me, to all of us. I hope that we can raise more awareness about Syria, and accelerate much needed changes. Great work!

Scott Beck
World Pulse Online Community Volunteer

Ofalla's picture

Very nicely done!

I was very touched by your writing about Samar Yazbek. What a brave and articulate woman she is. Your descriptions of her helped me see her courage and the absolute loyalty and respect she has for the women of Syria. She carries her head high and does not give up her beliefs and her voice because of the threats made against her. That takes tremendous courage and devotion.
I am very glad to have read your work and have a little window into the conditions of women in Syria.I, too, remain optimistic about the future and hope that women everywhere will support the women of Syria and help open the doors to equal opportunity for them.
Thank you for your writing!

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