“I never imagined when I entered jail that I would wish I could go back inside, and that I would suffer more torment by returning to society, which proved to be no less cruel than these torturers. Such is the fate of hundreds of Syrian women who have paid a very dear price.”
27-year-old Doha tells her story, which began at the University of Tishreen in Latakia during the early days of the Syrian revolution, after she had an altercation with a classmate who was loyal to the regime, leading to her arrest by the regime’s intelligence services.
“I endured violent and severe beatings and insults on a daily basis for three months. They did not bring any charges against me but told me they wanted to discipline me. I was then released after I was brought before the judge,” Doha recalls.
Doha attempts to describe in a weak voice her agony after returning to her hometown Jisr al-Shughur, “I saw the shame and disappointment in my parents’ eyes as they greeted me in a cold and distant manner. My older brother did not speak to me. My mother was the only one trying to comfort me, but I saw everyone else’s looks.”
“I did not find anyone to console me. My fiancé left me after a two-year relationship. My colleagues, family, and neighbors looked at me as if I were a prostitute who bore shame, sin and immorality, as if I had chosen to spend some time in the most frightening and filthy place in the world.”
Thus Doha and her family became the target of gossip until a foreign fighter asked her to marry him. He already had five children and a wife. “I was forced to accept under my family’s pressure. All I wanted was to get rid of those glances that followed me everywhere. Unfortunately, my marriage did not last more than a year. I woke up one day to find my husband and his family gone. I heard that he traveled to Raqqa and left me alone with our child.”
Doha did not go back to live in her parents’ house after that, as she decided to start a new life. At first, she volunteered to work at a women’s association in Jisr al-Shughur before finding a job that allowed her to support herself and her daughter.
Many Syrian women survivors, especially those who were raped, suffer from social exclusion and the negative attitude of their relatives and loved ones. According to social expert Sarah Haj Ali, this widespread problem “is due to the customs and traditions that consider women as minors who bear the responsibility of any attack against them.”
While the people of the region celebrate the release and return of male detainees, some families hide the news of their daughter's arrest or disavow her to avoid gossip.
To address this phenomenon, Haj Ali said in her exclusive interview with Sada Al-Sham, “Women who are released from prison should undergo intensive social and psychological trainings that restore their confidence. At the same time, the awareness of society should be raised about the suffering of these women.”
According to a study conducted by Start Point on female detainees published by the MENA Media Monitor last August, 62 percent of them lost their husband after their release, 18 percent lost their friends, 12 percent lost their fiancé, 6 percent lost their parents, and one of them lost a co-worker.