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WhatsApp in Wartime: Bridging Syrian Women in Spite of Distances

The instant messaging app has become an alternative for the ritual meetings where news, gossip and solidarity is shared between women, Souriatna writes
WhatsApp in Wartime: Bridging Syrian Women in Spite of Distances

Syrian women have grown accustomed to a social life full of near-daily meetings in the houses of relatives and neighbors, where they gather over cups of morning coffee or around breakfast tables, exchanging various talk, in full detail, on everything related to their lives and the news, in an atmosphere where the degree of intimacy and warmth between them is clear.

But the years of war and the displacement of families have prevented meetings in one place, and a cup of coffee is no longer present in the real sense, so most of them have resorted to holding meetings in the digital realm at any place and time, removing the need to travelling long geographical distances.

With the spread of mobile messaging apps like WhatsApp, personal phones have become a safe haven for communication between Syrian women — and even for social events such as condolences and congratulations in video and audio.

A family newspaper

“Our [WhatsApp] group is full of love and our feelings are reflected there," says Amina, adding: "We give news of our family there and we feel concern for one another. For instance, if one of us is sad, we all become that way. It’s like a daily newspaper, but only concerned with family news and what happens in the daily life of its members.”

Meanwhile, Beyan, who lives in the city of Lattakia says: “The group has given us spirit. I feel like I’m in our big house and our laughter fills the place.” She adds: “Suddenly I remember my father asking me to be quiet as usual, and my mother smiling. I pick up the mobile every morning as soon as I wake up, and I check in on my siblings through the group.”

Amina says she had another relative who remained blockaded in the city of Raqqa and was forced to flee to the city of Mayadeen where she now lives without internet, so the women's group lost her. Now the conversation must start every morning with a prayer to meet her, even if only digitally in the “Super Family” group on WhatsApp.

At the table of “Grandfather’s house”

“Grandfather’s house” is a group set up by Umm Momen, who has lived in Kuwait for more than 20 years and believes she is the one of her siblings most in need of such connection because of the long years of alienation.

“I started to feel like the family was gathering and felt the compassion of my siblings," she said. "We would rejoice and grieve and yearn for one another’s company, and we would remember the days of childhood. We would exchange old pictures – all of this over our group."

"After we lost our parents, God rest their souls, the group still held something of their spirit and we felt that we remained together. When we meet together at the table of ‘Grandfather’s house’ to drink morning coffee, I feel deep happiness and hope that the digital can become real again soon.”

Umm Shahla thinks that “Grandfather’s House” is the only outlet for her and her siblings to talk together and listen to one another’s voices as a group. She says that “the group has become a safe haven, the one place where we meet far from the pressures of life and circumstances.”

This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.

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