Many activists have chosen to stay and work in the liberated areas in Syria refusing to leave the country, despite the risk and harassment they face from some extremist battalions, especially in the countryside of Damascus.
The most recent and prominent incidence was the insult to Razan Zaitouneh, human rights lawyer and activist, where the rebels ordered her to leave al-Ghouta within 3 days, followed by fierce campaign against Zeitouneh accusing her of working to foreigners and to the Assad regime, what prompted civil organizations in East Ghouta to issue a statement to express solidarity with her.
Harassment of civil activists is not new, although many battalions try to help and protect them, especially who work in teaching and supporting women and children.
There has been a recent trend in harassing female activists who do not wear “Hijabs” in Syria, especially in liberated areas. Although less than a year ago “Hijabs” was not as mandatory.
These days, a woman is not able to walk in street without “Hijabs” or being accompanied by a well-known person to protect her from harassment if she does not put “Hijabs”.
“The discrepancy that female activists are requested to wear “Hijabs” only in public places and in streets, but no strict demand to do so when they deal with members of battalions or Free Syrian Army”, a female activist who spoke on condition of anonymity fears of retribution said. She considered that an indication to the flexibility of real Syrian people over “Hijabs”.
Another female activist confirms that she does not mind wearing “Hijabs” if that could help her to face the extremists and not leaving the area. She believes that “Hijabs” might help in breaking down barriers between communities, and help her to stay in liberated areas, she added: “we risk our lives to work in the liberated areas to complete the revolution’s goals, if wearing “Hijabs” is the price to stay, I do not mind to do so, as long as it would help in fighting extremism”
Moreover, in other strict and modest regions, even female activists who wear “Hijabs” have been subject to harassment of another kind. A media female activist spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution said: “I belong to this area, I was born and lived her and I wear “Hijabs”, however, when I started to present reports in my voice then started to appear on screen, many battalions stopped dealing with me”
She added that women are not allowed to attend many activities or venues, as her mother was not allowed to attend an event for honoring the martyrs because she is a “woman”.
“We are subject to exclusion, however we are doing our best to prove ourselves, and we frequently do many social activities like plays” the female activist ended.
Activists demanded changing in attitude toward female activists and called for more respect and appreciation of their sacrifices and risking themselves to help people, despite they were able to leave the country.