She picked Lutfia as pseudonym, which means kindness and mercy in Arabic. Born in 1971, married with four children, she was raised in a Sunni Muslim family from Dara’a. She describes her parents in the most compassionate and kind words, her father in particular. Not because the mother displayed fewer signs of love, but because it was unusual for men as fathers to show much affection toward their daughters in a patriarchal and conservative society. Lutfia remembers an uneventful childhood with her five siblings -three sisters, two younger brothers- in a paradise-like Syria. […] “About my father's uniqueness: One day, I got into a fight with my siblings and beat them all up, which made my mother very mad and upset. She called my father and asked him to punish me. My father was a good and kind person and he never beat us. But this time my mother was so insistent that he should beat me so finally, he said “Okay, I will do it” and took me to his room. He opened the wardrobe and gave me a watch and embarrassed me with his kindness and by being so good to me.”

Lutfia had long hair, smooth fair skin, and large brown eyes. She received proposals from boys through mutual girlfriends, and she enjoyed this constant attention. Lutfia's mother, who cared a lot about reputation of her four daughters never let them to hang out with friends after school. The girls were only allowed visiting their cousins. "I really wished then that she allowed us to go to a birthday party, just for once, but no, we never experienced it but she wanted to protect us, her daughters. I do the same to my daughters today, I teach them what is right and wrong, ‘this role or behavior for a girl is right or wrong’, ‘this has to do with religious consideration and this doesn’t etc.’ so that they won’t do anything wrong or repeat their wrongdoings, right? (…) I wish I could celebrate my children’s birthdays, but my husband says ‘it’s haram/sinful, we don’t have such celebrations in our religion’. A while ago, my four-year-old daughter asked me to have a birthday party, and my husband said no. From the day that I married him he said it’s haram so I wouldn’t do it. He celebrates Mother’s Day, honoring my mother-in-law and sister-in-law, who are both living with us. My little daughter kept asking questions which in return I replied: 'This day is not for me, it’s for your grandma'. She later rephrased the question: 'Mommy, why is celebrating grandma’s Mother’s Day is okay, but not my birthday?' There are some other traditions; for example, I ask my teenage daughter to dress modestly, that means long skirts and shirts, even though I used to wear whatever I liked at her age, but now I know the religion better, thank God."

Lifelines: Syrian Womanhoods in Transition | Ozlem Ezer | Berkeley CMES