Global Voices - Syria's Rebellious Women Films | Institute for War and Peace Reporting


Syria's Rebellious Women

Stories give a rare insight into a side of Syria often absent from the news.

Female activists who remain in rebel-held parts of Syria face numerous complex challenges. As well as facing the constant danger of bombing by the Assad government’s air force, these women have to battle the conservative traditions of a male-dominated society, aggravated by a militarised environment from which many civilians have fled. Facing restrictions on their movements, dress and behaviour, and often disapproval from their families, they nonetheless continue to work both to document the war and to help people who suffer injury, displacement and poverty.In a series of short documentaries made over 18 months in northern Syria, filmmaker Zaina Erhaim introduces five women from different backgrounds but with the common goal of helping their fellow-citizens.


Waed and Manar both left their families in government-controlled areas to move to rebel-held areas of Aleppo, working as paramedics in field hospitals and on the front lines.


Zein was released from 14 months in a government prison to find her home completely destroyed and her family displaced. She too became a paramedic, working in the Dar Shifaa field hospital alongside her friend Ahed. Known as “the troublemaker” by her friends, Ahed was at the vanguard of demonstrations in Aleppo, against both Assad’s government and Islamic State. Despite beatings and humiliation meted out by both forces, she continues to do relief work.


Community activist Ghalia has faced repeated attack in her home town in Idlib province. Undeterred, she has founded a series of centres that provide vocational training to local women, and remains committed to trying to improve their lives.


Note that three of the five films have now been made available for public viewing and can be seen above.

“I only wanted the Free Syrian Army, and I got FSA, Nusra Front and ISIS. We said Syria is for all. Now we got them all here... Everyone joined!”


Supported by the Institute for War & Peace Reporting (IWPR)

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IWPR has worked in Syria since 2007, supporting journalists, civil society groups, and youth and female activists. Its Syria Stories platform is a space for news, comment and reportage written by Syrians. Since February 2015, the Women’s Blog has carried pieces by new writers with no background in professional journalism, talking about the hardship of daily life and the horrors of war. 

Produced by Tarmak Media

Tarmak media is a family-run international film and digital media agency based in London with a unique know-how and expertise on the Middle East and Africa. 

Zaina Erhaim, the director of this series of documentaries, is a Syrian journalist and project coordinator for the Institute for War & Peace Reporting. Over the last two years, she has trained about 100 citizen reporters from inside Syria, approximately a third of them women, in print and TV journalism, and has helped establish many of the new emerging independent newspapers and magazines in the war torn country. This year, Zaina won the Peter Mackler Award for Courageous and Ethical Journalism. 

Zaina Erhaim. (Photo: Hayyan Alyousouf)

“What I’ve been trying to do, myself, in the last four years is to speak more about life, because what we're only getting [from media reporting] is just ISIS, regime bombing, and now lots of air forces interfering in our sky.
What is missing from the news is the actual life.”

Zaina Erhaim

Syrian Journalist and IWPR Project Coordinator
Syria Rebellious Women - stills

Stills form Syria's Rebellious Women documentaries by Zaina Erhaim.

“Want to know about my time in detention?
I can summarise it in a few words: I would say it is a cemetery for the living.”