Syrian Journalist Yasmin Merei
The first event ICWIN hosted was on “The impact of Syrian War on Women and Children” with Yasmin Merei, Syrian journalist as keynote speaker. The event was on Nov 29, 2015 from 4:30-7:00pm at Unitarian Universalist Church of Long Beach. The event was cosponsored by Unitarian Universalist Church of Long Beach, UN Women Southern California, Long Beach, Pacific Shore Chapter of National Organization of Women, DV35 Chapter of TCSPP. Admission to this event was free.
Yasmin is a journalist, and the managing editor of a magazine focuses on Syrian Arabic women issues, concerning their social, legal, economic and political situations, depending on journalists and writers from Syria and other six Arabic countries with seven offices in Syria, Turkey and Egypt. She said in an interview “The magazine, Sayyidat Suria, “talks about Syrian women’s issues. Before the revolution, there were no magazines for women. So we started in September 2013, and we published our first issue in January 2014.” Yes, our main office is in Turkey. We focus on first the stories of women inside Syria and also in camps and in countries around Syria. We also try to listen to the women who support the regime. As the political opposition, we are against the regime, but if you want to think in a human way, you cannot forget the women who are losing their husbands, their sons, their lovers — even if they are supporting the regime. They are losing as much as women anywhere in the world.
We are also trying to focus on the successful political experience of women all over the world. We write about them. We also have translated articles from French or English or American newspapers. “
She was in Southern California, Los Angles as she was the 2015 recipient of the prestigious Villa Aurora Grant . Villa Aurora awards up to 12 fellowships, of three months each, to artists working in film, literature, composition, visual arts and performance art.
While taking two workshops with Reporters Without Boarders in Gaziantep, Turkey after she left Syria, they submitted her name for a residency at Villa Aurora without her knowing. She never heard of the fellowship but she was very surprised and happy that she received it.
Two of her brothers live in Lebanon, her mother and two sisters, her brother and his family all live in As-Suwayda in the South of Syria near Jordanian Border. Her father and two of her brothers arrested in Suwayda on 31 October 2012. Her brother in law and her nephew also kidnapped.
At the event, ICWN welcome the participants, Annahita Mahdavi talked about the impact of war on women and girls globally. Yasmin then presented a PowerPoint sharing her story growing up in Syria under authoritarian regime of Assad.
Elahe Amani then engaged in a Question and Answer with Yasmin. Here are the questions:
- Tell us about the work you do as a woman journalist in a country that made you and your family suffer a great deal. In a recent interviewwith IPS you said “started taking part in the 2011 protests due to the unjustness of Syrian law, especially as concerns women. As examples, you noted a longstanding law against Syrian women giving citizenship to their children and widespread, unpunished honor killings. Like many Syrian women – you become responsible for providing for your immediate family, sending money to your mother and your brothers, both of whom were jailed for protesting and released only after large bribes Your elderly father died shortly after he, too, had been imprisoned and the family forced to flee their home. What motivates you? What inspires you? What are your hopes for women in your country?
- As today in November 29thand right in November 25-December 10, 2015: 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence Campaignwith the theme of “From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World: Make Education Safe for All!” Is Education safe for all women and girls in Syria? What are the prominent aspects of violence women experience at home and in society? As you know, in July 2014, The Committee on the Elimination of all Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) reviewed the second periodic review report. Despite challenges and restrictions on women civil society participation, a delegation from the Syrian organizations participated in the review and dialogued with members of the CEDAW committee ( I should mention that Iran and US has not ratified CEDAW yet) . The report highlighted grave violations on women’s rights. The failure of the Syrian Government to amend discriminative laws, as well as the authorities’ ongoing tolerance for discriminative attitudes and practices has contributed to the deterioration of the status of women. In what ways the current conflict exasperated and intensified violence against women in Syria?
- Finally yet importantly, what are the narratives that you hear as a feminist journalist that we, living in US are not hearing about it? Who are the unsung heroines of Syrian conflict? What we as citizens of US can do to help with the situation of Syrian Refugees? How we can support the voice of forward looking Syrian women?
Los Angeles Review of Books
Writer in Exile: An Interview with Yasmin Merei