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The Tale of Three Women in Syria: An Entrepreneur, an Activist, and a Scholar


Freelance journalist Zeina Shahla interviewed three women in Syria about how their lives have changed as a result of civil war that broke out in 2011, what they are doing to rebuild their communities now, and what their aspirations are for Syria's future.

Big dreams for Syria 

“What gives you hope and power?” I ask Om Feras, and without any hesitation, she replies: “My sons. Five months ago, my oldest son had to leave Syria for Egypt, and this was very hard for me. I miss him. I would do anything to secure a better future for the three of them and see them happy with their future families, and now I’m strong for their sake and for the sake of the women who work with me...We became like a circle of support for each other.” 

Om Feras also has big dreams. In the past year, she got her high school degree and went to college to study sociology. She dreams about starting her own business, a kindergarten, or a massage center for women. She would also like to plant trees in her neighborhood, as she recalls how it used to be so green. “Everything has completely changed; we need a new and clean environment,” she says with a big smile. 

Salma finds strength in the small space she created in the Nissan Cultural Forum. “This place gives me hope to meet people with shared dreams and visions and work with young women who grew and studied in war circumstances yet work and succeed in their lives. They will be the changemakers in the future.” 

Salma tells me that she has one personal dream: to meet her expat children. She also dreams of a Syria where everyone lives in peace, security, and democracy. “I hope Syria can be kind to its people, especially its women.” 

The views expressed in this piece are those of the author and do not reflect an official position of the Wilson Center.  

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About the Author


Zeina Shahla

Freelance Journalist
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Middle East Program

The Wilson Center’s Middle East Program serves as a crucial resource for the policymaking community and beyond, providing analyses and research that helps inform US foreign policymaking, stimulates public debate, and expands knowledge about issues in the wider Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.  Read more

Middle East Women's Initiative

The Middle East Women's Initiative (MEWI) promotes the empowerment of women in the region through an open and inclusive dialogue with women leaders from the Middle East and continuous research.  Read more