Profiles of featured women
50, Yazidi, Kurdish (from Afrin), teacher, married with three children, BA degree in English Literature, lives in a shanty town in Istanbul. After several failed attempts of crossing to Europe, she decided to stay in Turkey with her younger son, who is preparing for the university entrance exams. Her elder son with serious health problems is in Germany so are her daughter and son-in-law.
46, from Dara, married with four children, lives in Istanbul with her husband and her in-laws; a homemaker, has a degree in a vocational school in Aleppo. Practicing Sunni-Muslim, hijab taken after marriage. She wants to focus on Syrian children’s education in Turkey. Her only son is in Jordan.
25, from Aleppo, single, raised as Muslim, human rights activist, both parents live in Saudi Arabia. She has two brothers, each in a different country. BA degree in French linguistics; came to Istanbul for a conference, and stayed; had an NGO position when we met in June 2016. She received a grant from Nobel Women’s Initiative in Canada. Her asylum hearing in January 2017 was successful. She began her MA in Peace Studies at Sherbrooke University in Quebec in Fall 2017.
27, from Homs, single, raised by a Muslim single mother family with four older brothers; survivor of sexual assault, resilient as she traveled by herself through Dubai, Jordan, Lebanon, Yemen, before she made her way to Canada. High-school dropout, learned English from TV and movies, a rebellious character in general. In Fall 2014, World University Service of Canada offered her a university placement and scholarship. She likes dancing, observing beauty, and having interesting conversations with people from different backgrounds.
28, from Damascus, practicing Muslim, studied translation, likes reading, dancing & knitting. After Lebanon and Turkey, she arrived in Germany with her parents and a younger sister in 2015. She can’t swim but crossed the Aegean on the boat. She enrolled in knitting classes offered by a church in Germany. She is learning German very fast. She has a sweet tooth! Through family connections, she got engaged in April 2017 to an electrical engineer, "a good man from Damascus" in her words.
38, from Aleppo, single mother with two daughters. Studied Economics. Very open-minded, cares a lot about her daughters’ becoming independent, educated women. She sought asylum in the U.S. in 2012, traveled to many states for 9 months. Her longing for her children and not knowing when the asylum would be granted caused her return. She dreams of a family union dinner in 2018. Currently, she lives & works in Gaziantep, very close to the Syrian border, leading an NGO called ‘Space of Hope’. She was a tomboy; preferred playing basketball with boys to dating them.
25, from Deir Ez-Zor; the family moved to Damascus in 2008. She was studying environmental engineering in Aleppo when the war broke out. Her parents were too concerned about her safety after losing their friends' daughter on her commute to university so Leila stopped eating to protest. Hunger strike versus air strike, she had to complete her degree! Her transfer application to Istanbul University was successful so now she's studying in her once-dream-city. She loves practicing Balfolk in Istanbul, a dance which originated in Europe five hundred years ago!
26, from Latakia, the eldest of the four siblings, born into a conservative Alawite family. She studied pharmacy at university, left Syria in December 2015. Her father’s lineage as a sheik made him a respectable religious figure in the local community but also a very strict person, leaving no room for personal space or freedom for Sara: “I don’t remember much from my childhood, except that there was abuse and boredom,” she says with a shrug. “I owe Greece my freedom as a woman, Turkey, well, not so much! I no longer need to hide anything or lie so I have become even a worse liar!
33, from Aleppo, a lawyer. She grew up in a close-knit family where the mother is the “big boss” as Bidaa jokes about. After three weeks in Mytilene, Bidaa is an asylee now in Athens, and hope to reunite with her family in Germany in near future. She loves Athens but is very aware of the difficulties that the country is going through. As a devout Muslim, Bidaa feels the need to make an extra effort to dismantle the stereotypes about Islam and Muslim women for the first time in her life. She is a good cook and a lover of languages and cultures, of Japanese society in particular.