Rola al-Rukabi was born in Hama and lived in Damascus. A graduate of French literature form Damascus University, and she has a Master’s degree in history from France. She has been involved in politics and feminist activity from before the revolution. She is a founding member of the Syrian Women’s Network, the Syrian Feminist Lobby and the Syrian Women’s Political Movement. She left Syria in 2016, and she is currently living in Lebanon.
Roula al-Roukbi grew up in a family that was interested in politics and public affairs from before the revolution. She was one of the first girls to go out in the first protest in Hama in rejection of annexing Gaza and the West Bank to Israel. Then when the revolution started in 2011, she immediately participated in the protests that were staged in Damascus and Hama against the repressive and dictatorial regime. She was also one of those who tried to create a political movement out of the popular movement, and that continued until the end of 2012.
For 25 years, Roula has worked as the manager of al-Fardous Tower in Damascus. She says that it served as a platform for many political and cultural activities which she organized with Syrian and Arab intellectuals to discuss serious topics in Syria and the Arab world. Then she opened al-Fardous Café which turned into a meeting place for the revolution activists, but the regime forced her to close it by the end of 2012. The regime continued pursuing and harassing her, imposing a travel ban on her several times, until she left Syria in late 2016 to Lebanon, where she is working now as the director of Women Now organization, in addition to her participation with other organizations and activities regarding Syrian refugees in Lebanon.
“I joined SWPM and took part in founding it out of my recognition of the need for a political movement to make change, and the movement came as a realization for my old dream to see a feminist political movement.”
Roula says that the challenge facing political work in Syria is the repressive regime, which only accepts the single party policy that dominates everything, and therefore it wasn’t possible to have a public political work built on the genuine grassroots. As for the challenges in this field facing women in specific, Roula thinks that it can be summarized in the masculine mentality, social heritage and the discriminatory laws. For example, women are usually afraid of detention because that puts them under accusations related to “honor”. Even if women managed to engage in politics, their presence remains cosmetic and they are not allowed to reach decision-making positions because of the masculine mentality dominating groups and political parties.
Roula joined SWPM and took part in founding it out of her recognition of the need for a political movement to make change, and the movement came as a realization for her old dream to see a feminist political movement. She hopes SWPM will become a political party in the future.
Roula says that SWPM focuses on two aspects; the first is improving the performance and capabilities of women inside Syria, and the second is communicating the voice of Syrian women to international platforms. Roula expects SWPM to accomplish a lot, thanks to the efforts of its members, to be present in international platforms and introduce its viewpoint about the Syrian issue. Roula highlights that the only solution to continue and achieve the goals and principles of the revolution is through a real political transition that ensures a safe return for the refugees and their settlement so they can contribute to reconstructing their country.
“Get rid of your fear from the society, social constraints and traditions. Be yourselves and hold on to your dreams and goals.”
Roula dreams of a pluralistic and democratic Syria whose citizens enjoy all their rights, where women and men are equal before the law and by the law, and all forms of corruption and discrimination between citizens are eliminated.
Roula says; “Syrian women are strong and able to shoulder responsibility and support their families on their own. Syrian women are well educated and they proved themselves and their abilities in all fields. They deserve to be in decision-making positions.” Roula adds: “Get rid of your fear from the society, social constraints and traditions. Be yourselves and hold on to your dreams and goals”.