Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Syria's Rebellious Women

Documentaries follow individuals who are determined to make a difference in the face of impossible odds.
By IWPR
  • Still from Syria's Rebellious Women films directed by Zaina Erhaim.
    Still from Syria's Rebellious Women films directed by Zaina Erhaim.
  • Still from Syria's Rebellious Women films directed by Zaina Erhaim.
    Still from Syria's Rebellious Women films directed by Zaina Erhaim.
  • Still from Syria's Rebellious Women films directed by Zaina Erhaim.
    Still from Syria's Rebellious Women films directed by Zaina Erhaim.
  • Still from Syria's Rebellious Women films directed by Zaina Erhaim.
    Still from Syria's Rebellious Women films directed by Zaina Erhaim.
  • Still from Syria's Rebellious Women films directed by Zaina Erhaim.
    Still from Syria's Rebellious Women films directed by Zaina Erhaim.
  • Still from Syria's Rebellious Women films directed by Zaina Erhaim.
    Still from Syria's Rebellious Women films directed by Zaina Erhaim.
  • Still from Syria's Rebellious Women films directed by Zaina Erhaim.
    Still from Syria's Rebellious Women films directed by Zaina Erhaim.
  • Still from Syria's Rebellious Women, directed by Zaina Erhaim.
    Still from Syria's Rebellious Women, directed by Zaina Erhaim.

A series of IWPR film screenings this month is giving audiences in London, Washington and New York a rare insight into a side of Syria that is often absent from the news.

The short documentaries made by IWPR’s Syria coordinator and award-winning journalist Zaina Erhaim highlight the challenges facing women living and working in rebel-held parts of Syria.

Made over a period of 18 months in northern Syria, the films tell the individual stories of a diverse group of strong, resilient women. As well as facing the constant threat of bombing by the Assad government’s air force, they women must battle the conservative traditions of a male-dominated society, aggravated by a militarised environment as so many civilians have fled.

Facing restrictions on their movements, dress and behaviour, and often disapproval from their families, the women featured in these films continue undeterred along the paths they have chosen – documenting war, delivering supplies to civilians, and providing medical services.

Although the women featured in the films come from different backgrounds, they share the common goal of helping others.

Waed left her family in a government-controlled area to move to a rebel-held part of Aleppo where she works as a paramedic in field hospitals and on the front lines. She also pursues her work as the only female citizen journalist in northern Syria.

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 the Assad government and Islamic State. Despite the 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. Unbowed, she has founded a series of centres that provide vocational training to local women, and remains committed to trying to improve their lives.

The London screenings took place at the Council for Arab-British Understanding on November 11, the Bertha Dochouse on November 12, and the London Middle East Institute at the School of African and Oriental Studies  on November 13.

In Washington, there are screenings at the United States Institute of Peace on November 16 and at the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies at Georgetown University on November 17.

The final showing will be In New York on Thursday, November 19. It takes place at the Tishman Auditorium of NYU School of Law (RSVP to cat@iwpr.net).


Please note that three of the five films have now been made available for public viewing. See IWPR Spotlight: Syria's Rebellious Women.