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Osama Aghi

Osama Aghi comes from the city of Deir Ezzor. He studied at the Faculty of Agricultural Engineering in Aleppo University. Currently living in Turkey, he is active in the field of media and is a member of the Syrian Women’s Political Movement.

Originally from the city of Deir Ezzor, Osama Aghi studied at the Faculty of Agricultural Engineering in Aleppo University. He now works in the field of media, having served as an editor for several Syrian and Arab papers and periodicals. His publications include: three short story collections entitled al-Majnuna (The Crazy Woman), Dhuhool (Amazement) and Mawt Barid (Cold Death), two non-fiction books; Dimashq al-‘Araqah wal Mou‘asarah (Damascus between history and modernity), co-authored with Waleed Mi‘mari, and Qurunful Ahmar Zaman Al-Sahwk (Red Carnation in the Time of Thorns), as well as three forthcoming literary monographs, dozens of studies and hundreds of articles.

Osama moved to Turkey in 2016 after the so-called ‘Islamic State’ took over his city of Deir Ezzor. Recently, he established a newspaper named Ninar Press. Describing his political background, he says, “I was arrested in 1983 because I was a member of the Communist Labour Party. I spent eight years and one month in prison. I was moved between three prisons: Tadmur, Saidnaya and Aleppo Central Prison, before I was released in 1991.” One of his two non-fiction books was written during his incarceration. His political stance, he says, can be summarized thus: “I am a child of the secular national political intellectual movement.”

When the Syrian Revolution broke out in 2011, Osama supported the demands of the protestors. However, very early on he adopted the “Three No’s” motto which meant: no to violence, no to sectarianism, and no to foreign interference. He believes that the revolution would not have deviated from its initial course if the protesters had more tools and greater powers to oppose militarization and interference from religious currents. “The revolution was likely to adhere to a peaceful and democratic course which would have forced the whole world to support its demands. This was the case in the early days of revolution when over 132 countries expressed their sympathy with the Syrian Revolution,” he says. “Regrettably, the regime was able to lead the revolution astray and present it in the garb of a sectarianism and terrorism. Thus, the Revolution’s original goals were lost.” In his opinion, in order for Syrians to revive the original spirit of the Revolution, they need to base their political activity on the principles of democracy and social justice while being gender-conscious at all times.

Osama lived under the rule of IS in Deir Ezzor for a short period during which he was summoned by the organization’s Hisba force (Morality Police). After a few investigation sessions, he decided to leave for Turkey.

“Feminist ideas must be introduced into all political bodies, and work must continue collaboratively. Women’s abilities are going to waste due to the imbalance inherent in a male-dominated society.”

His interest in political activity started early in life, says Osama. “My uncle was a philosophy teacher, a writer and an avid reader. I used to listen to him talking about politics, feeling curious to know more. Then, with help from my uncle’s books, I started to read widely about political work and the history of politics,” he explains. “I made my mind up and joined the Communist Party even though I was living in a relatively religious society. During my imprisonment, I read over 800 books on different topics in politics, economy, psychology, and so on.”

On the challenges facing political action in Syria, Osama says, “The existing political parties are no longer fit for the needs of Syrians. Change can come after a political transition, regime change, and the enactment of a new party law under a new constitution. Only then can a new life cycle begin in Syrian politics.” Osama believes that the need for new political parties stems from the need for developing the paradigms of these parties, in a manner than respects human rights and women’s rights, ditches gender divisions, and promotes equality.

About the difficulties facing women in politics, Osama says: “All political activity in Syria was practiced within certain limits created by the oppressive regime. This applied to both men and women. Nowadays, there is a great opportunity for women. Not only should they work on setting up independent political bodies for women, but they should endeavour to introduce feminist ideas into all political bodies and work from within.” He noted that women’s abilities are going to waste due to the imbalance inherent in a male-dominated society.

Asked about his views on the prospective achievements of the SWPM, Osama says, “In order to make predictions about this issue, we need to study the activity of the SWPM on several levels such as its reach inside Syria and specifically among Syrian women. They are the main actors in supporting each other and in reclaiming their role.” Whether members of the SWPM or not, he added, women are capable of developing tools to strengthen their movement, especially in terms of media activity aiming to draw support from all sections of society.

“What drives me to continue working in Syrian politics is my yearning for freedom and dignity; the dream of living in a developed society that supports social institutions and is open to change, a society that believes in women’s potential and uses it.”

Osama talks about some memorable moments from the revolution, especially the sight of large crowds of people, men and women, protesting peacefully and chanting patriotic songs demanding freedom, all in one voice. For him, this scene was a dream come true.

There are negative points, however, that he remembers from the past few years. Most painful was the moment the revolution started to lean towards militarization and violence. “I feel sad for the enormous sacrifices made by the Syrian people., all civilians and mostly women and children. All of these sacrifices were wasted by foreign agendas that shared nothing with the ideals of the Syrian Revolution. Yet, I honestly believe that Syrian men and women still have great potential that awaits to be utilized,” he adds.

“What drives me to continue working in Syrian politics,” Osama says, “is my yearning for freedom and dignity; the dream of living in a developed society that supports social institutions and is open to change, a society that believes in women’s potential and uses it.”

Osama describes his dream Syria as an institution-based country which respects all citizens, a country ruled only by law.

Addressing Syrian women, Osama says, “Develop a legal understanding of your rights as guaranteed by the Human Rights Convention, not as dictated by your local society or by traditions.”