If you ask Zaina Erhaim what’s missing from the reporting in Syria, she will tell you about the stories that women tell. Two years ago, the Syrian journalist established the Women’s Blog to give a voice to Syrian women, and has been training citizen journalists.
“The women are empowered to tell the story and start writing the Syrian history that is now forgotten after the news of the bombing and killing,” she says.
This week, Erhaim spoke via Skype from Syria to The 19 Million Project hackathon and journalism conference in Rome. The event, sponsored by Fusion and Univision, brings together nearly 150 journalists, designers, coders, and humanitarians from 27 countries to explore news ways to cover the story of the migrants and refugees pouring into Europe, and to keep world attention on the crisis.
The Women’s Blog is part of the Institute for War and Peace Reporting’s forum for independent Syrian journalists. Its contributors weave stories of sadness, hope, strength and fear. The posts are the first-person anecdotes from mothers, daughters, friends, wives and loved ones.
Narmin Abdulhamid did what everyone does on their birthday—she checked Facebook.
July 15 is my birthday, so the first thing I did when I woke up that day in 2012 was log on to my Facebook account. My timeline was full of birthday wishes from friends and family, as well as news updates on the Syrian revolution.
While I was browsing through these posts, I received a direct message from a friend, but it wasn’t a birthday greeting. He told me a battalion of government troops was heading towards my city, Idlib and was now only five kilometres away.
Then she fled.
Razan, a woman living in Idlib, Syria, tells the story of caring for her brother’s children after his death:
Maen was a member of the opposition forces, and he assembled his own battalion. He looked after his men as if they were his children, especially when they were wounded.
My mother would cook for his men during Ramadan. I remember her once asking him, “Why don’t you deliver the food to your men, then come back and break your fast with us today?’
“No, mother,’ he replied, “I want to eat with my men. They are my children. My four youngsters are now your children.”
Maen then said to me, “My children’s education is your responsibility. I’m counting on you.”
God willing, I will not fail him.
Erhaim's own family has been affected by the war. Some relatives have migrated; others have been killed.
“Surviving is the main threat,” Erhaim says about her home country, where life has been completely turned upside down. "Whatever risks they are taking to get to Europe are nothing compared to the daily horror they are facing."
"It's actual hell. You're living in constant threats and you've lost everything."
Rachel is the senior manager for interactives for Fusion. She is a University of Missouri graduate and originally from St. Louis.