The prominent Syrian activist Ahlam al-Rasheed is an inspiring example for Syrian women. A defender of their rights and in an influential position. As a result of her pioneering and diverse activities, she was selected, two years ago, as one of the world’s 100 most inspirational and influential women by the BBC.
Rasheed, originally from the town of Maarat al-Nu’man, is a graduate of Arabic literature with a diploma in education and training. She taught Arabic for all levels between 1990 and 2013 before being displaced like hundreds of thousands of Syrians to areas far from bombardment and destruction. During this exodus, she volunteered to organize preparatory and secondary education courses for young students, and for more than a year organized voluntary health, social and psychological awareness sessions.
She has organized literacy sessions and memorization of the Quran for women, along with English language sessions for beginners. She has also worked with several humanitarian organizations such as MEDCAL and the International Rescue Committee (IRC) as director of women’s protection and empowerment centers.
Rasheed supervised more than 16 centers for the organization, trained youth in protection and worked with an international organization to raise awareness of violence against women after receiving training on gender-based violence (GBV).
She opened training and education centers in the town of Atma on the Syrian-Turkish border, where dozens of students and teachers graduated in a number of fields, including humanitarian and educational fields. The organization was responsible for training about 4,800 people in the liberated areas of Syria and more than 1,000 of them found jobs after receiving the training.
Rasheed stood with women during the displacements from Aleppo, Hama countryside, Idleb countryside and Ghouta, inspecting their situation and their basic needs, including psychological support, and helping them develop their abilities in several occupations such as sewing, embroidery and weaving to secure a decent living without being exploited by anyone.
Rasheed distributed clothes to the displaced, in addition to regularly inspecting their conditions in border areas, visiting the homeless families in Atma refugee camp on the Turkish border, and assisting amputees, men and women, in installing prosthetics and tending to the needs of the disabled.
Rasheed recounted that her supervisor in the women’s protection program in MEDICAL in northern Syria was impressed by her activism and humanitarian work and told a journalist friend working at the BBC about her. The journalist was looking for someone who worked in the field of education and the protection of families and girls. In 2017, she was selected to participate in the ‘Change Makers’ competition in the Arab world, and after more than two months of nominations, she won the Gold Medal of Change Makers of 2018.
Rasheed explained that most of the challenges facing women in northern Syria relate to traditions and customs, which reduces the role of women in the name of religion, and imposes religious domination to marginalize them and excludes them from the circles of action and influence. However, the Islamic religion is innocent of this, because women – she says – were created to work like men, carrying, giving birth and raising generations, and it is their right to be educated and employed, and to choose their own partners and reject violence against them.
She expressed her determination that the educational situation will improve, otherwise it will only lead to the loss of generations. Rasheed is hoping that the war will soon end and people will return to their homes putting an end to the pain of years of torment, displacement and oppression.
This article was edited by The Syrian Observer. The Syrian Observer has not verified the content of this story. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.