In a conservative Syrian town where women are discouraged from going out alone, young women are knocking on doors to recruit others to the resistance. They estimate a couple hundred women have joined a struggle that, nationwide, just claimed over 100 lives in 48 hours.
When the uprising erupted 10 months ago, Nour and three of her friends decided that women should be part of the resistance in this flashpoint town not far from the capital of Damascus.
«At the beginning of the uprising, we were only a few women,» says Nour, a 22-year-old university student. «Now we are hundreds.»
Nour’s real name and that of the author are being withheld to protect them from the crackdown by the government of President Bashar al-Assad.
The military is intensifying a campaign against deserters in the outskirts of Damascus and violence across the country has killed more than 100 Syrians in the past two days alone, according to a tally by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based watchdog. The United Nations last week admitted it is struggling to keep up with fatalities. But it calculates that since the start of the uprising in March, the crackdown has claimed more than 5,400 Syrian lives, the vast majority of them civilians.
Nour continues to recruit, going door-to-door and meeting women of different ages and occupations. Her focus is on other university students for their comparatively greater physical strength and awareness, and their potential to persuade others to join.
It’s not an easy assignment in a place as socially conservative as Al-Maadamiya.
Damascus may be less than five miles away, but for women here it’s far from the relative autonomy of the capital city where women, with or without headscarves, freely move around the streets, souks and cafes. Here, by contrast, women risk harassment for going out alone or without a headscarf.