Investigations

The Gathering of Daraya’s Free Women

If the Syrian revolution was the revolution of the impossible, then the Syrian woman’s revolution is a compound impossibility..

And if a Syrian revolutionist should surpass several obstacles and constraints to be part of the revolutionary work, then the revolutionist Syrian woman must surpass those obstacles and constraints in double, in order for her to reserve her place in the revolution of dignity while the Syrian human being restores his presence and consciousness and perform his miracle with his own hands.

(The Gathering of Daraya’s Free Women) is the name chosen by Daraya’s female activists for the group through which they do revolutionary and social activities inside and outside of their city Daraya.

Rama Al Dierani, one of the activists in The Gathering of Daraya’s Free Women graciously answered our questions.

For starters, why did the city’s female activists decided to form (The Gathering of Daraya’s Free Women) aloof from the pre-existing (Daraya’s Coordination)?

The young men who supported our women movement were a relative minority in the beginning of our revolutionary activism, our presence was even rejected in their meetings, and that is why we decided as a group of women activists to establish a separate entity by forming the gathering in coordination with Daraya’s coordination (those who support us from them), where we founded a joint work group in which we inform them of our activity prior to implementation in order for them to help us in logistical and financial support or in securing the location and other supplies.

And because we aspire with our gathering in the future – after the fall of the regime – to an independent foundation that specializes in supporting, educating, and training women to be active members in society.

You have mentioned that there is collaboration with your fellow male activists, how do you deal with the social obstacles known in our environment to accomplish this and in your activism in general?

Yes, we used to meet in direct meetings with those of them who support the revolutionary women’s movement and until now, even with the military campaign on Daraya, we still collaborate via the internet.. thanks to the internet, there are no more physical barriers.

As for the social problems, we have in fact been subjected more than once to several harassments and rebukes during sit-ins we participated in from some of the residents of the city (the elderly) and even from some women, because we, in the eyes of some, have breached social habits by going out and chanting in the street.

There is an opinion stating that women’s movement presents itself in terms of men’s movement. What do you say about this?

There is no separation in life between us, and we as men and women integrate in life.

Then how do you explain the repetition of activities like (free women of Daraya cook for the heroes of the Free Army) or the sit-ins you did to claim the detainees from (the men)?

We as free women acknowledge the revolutionary movement and the activity of young men, the detained men are our sons, husbands, and brothers and it is our duty to demand their release, and this does not mean that we are subordinate. In return, men had already been in a demonstration titled (a demonstration to claim female detainees), so does this mean that they are subordinate to women too? A woman and a man are partners in society, revolution, and in duties and rights. And it is impossible for a man to build a society on his own without the participation of women.

In comparing the percentage of female detainees to male detainees or the percentage of female martyrs to male martyrs, is it true that the regime have dealt with women movements in a generally “less repressive” way? How do you explain that?

The regime dealt negligently with the women movement due to his preoccupation with men’s movement on the one hand, and his fear of provoking the silent against him in our conservative society on the other hand. In addition to it being an underdeveloped regime with a macho way of thinking and that is why it is cautious in the matter of arresting women.

In spite of this, many free women have been arrested in the wake of a word or for participating in demonstrations since the beginning of the revolution, where a lot of women were arrested in the Ministry of Interior sit-in protest where they demanded the release of political prisoners on the 16th of March, 2011. Some of them were beaten and a lot of girls were arrested, four of which were free women from Daraya who participated in Arnous square sit-in protest, they were treated brutally and beaten before the eyes of people in the street, wives and families of activists we taken as hostages for the activists to surrender.

There is a note on the absence of women’s representation in the recently formed local council in Daraya in spite the presence of women’s movement in Daraya’s scene. What do you say about this? And what is your look as a gathering to the local councils and the representation of women in them?

It is true, there are no women in the current formation of the local council in Daraya, this is because – in addition to the social obstacles (conservative environment) – of the special circumstances of forming the council (after the massacre of August, 2012) and also the extension of military work. These reasons led to our absence from the council. We are currently thinking and discussing what should the nature of our relationship be with the local council.

With the extension of military work in Syrian cities and villages, where do you find your role? And how do you maintain it in the light of the difficult conditions of war?

We maintain our work as free women within the gathering by completing the work we have started since the beginning of the revolution (relief, media, awareness, psychological support for children and women, monitoring and documenting violations)

What is your stand from women joining the Free Syrian Army? On the other hand, forming a women’s military task force that engages in the work of the regimes army or what is known as Lionesses of National Defense?

We consider those who have participated in military work and carrying a weapon to be a special case, and does not comply with the nature of the Syrian woman.

And the presence of women military task forces is but a media bubble and an evidence of the regimes ruin and poor morale of its soldiers. They send their women to death instead of them!

What are the Free Women Gathering’s recent activities?

Our current conditions of internal displacement did not stand in the way of our revolutionary work. Since we left our city, we have worked in relieving residents of Daraya in their areas of displacement, and in supporting the children; we are also currently participating in a program on radio Baladna Al Thawriya under the title “a little bit of talking and freedom”. Most of the gathering members are participating in writing and editing “Enab Baladi” newspaper, and expatriate free women are also visiting wounded Syrians, in addition to various projects that we will disclose upon finishing.

Osama Nassar
Activist, journalist, Assistant Editor-in-Chief of Freedomraise and Director of its main office in Douma / Eastern Ghouta, holding a degree in Arts, English Language Department, Damascus University. He is also director of the office of the Syrian Non-violence Movement in Damascus Suburbs.
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