Photo Randy Vanderveen
Family3 Maziad Mohammed
My name is Sahar. I am the program coordinator and case manager of a project that supports and empowers women at my church here in Syria. As a project that advocates against gender-based violence, our main goal is to raise awareness among women concerning their rights and the several types of gender-based violence, as well as reintegrating the women suffering from gender-based violence into the social tapestry by providing psychological support. We also provide the ladies with legal consultations because they don’t know the law and how it can protect them.
We are receiving women with very tough stories, that you have never seen on television or heard of in your life, stories beyond imagination. We had reached a point where we were calling for equality but, after the war, we are back to demanding basic rights and dignity for women. You leave the session thinking it is impossible that such a violent father or an abused woman exist.
We received a woman once who wished to just leave her daughter behind.“How are you going to leave your daughter?”“My husband is abusing her. I don’t want to stay with him, and I don’t want him to abuse her”.We informed her that we do not offer the service of safe refuge and we cannot keep the girl. She did not provide us with a telephone number or anything else. She just left. She did not even allow us to tell her what services we provide; her daughter could have come here whenever the woman felt that her husband is bothered by the girl’s presence. She could have come to the center and spent hours playing. Sadly, we were shocked to see on the news that the girl was killed due to the violence.At this point, you wonder what we could have done, but we truly could do nothing. She did not even leave a phone number. She was coming only to give us her daughter and leave.
Our source of hope is the success stories that we witness. I look out the window and I can hear the girl next door laugh. When she first visited our center, she was depressed and hopeless. Her father had married her off by force. He took her to the area of Idlib and Idlib was under the rule of ISIS. She was 13 years at the time and his alibi was that he was taking her to Turkey to study. He forbade her an education and wedded her to a relative under threat of violence. She was able to run away.As soon as the mother heard of our center, she told us her daughter’s story and informed us that her daughter was reclusive and introverted – we may say, she was depressed. This girl came to us and we began working with her. Thank God, she now works with our next-door neighbor, a smile always drawn on her face. She passes by to show us her hairstyle every day. So, our constant source of encouragement is the success stories, those in whom we can restore some hope.
When it comes to faith, we always hear, “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” We may not be doing much, but hopefully, it is something through which we show the hand of God.