Samiha Nader holds a degree in education and psychology, specializing in early childhood education and speech therapy for individuals with special needs. She joined the Communist Party in 1986 and currently resides in Germany.
Samiha talks about the city of Homs, a city she became attached to after her marriage, considering it her stable home. She describes it as a quiet city with kind-hearted people, emphasizing its religious and ethnic diversity, as well as the clear class distinctions between the city and its outskirts. These characteristics intrigued her in the past and provided a reason for her and her husband’s love for the city, aiming to challenge stereotypes about different religious and ethnic groups.
When the revolution started and the first demonstration took place in Daraa, Samiha was with her mother at the Umayyad Hospital in Damascus. She recalls the moment when television broadcasts suddenly stopped in the hospital, and the atmosphere inside grew tense with whispers and hushed conversations. She didn’t understand anything until she managed to get the news that warmed her heart – yes, it was the demonstrations in Daraa, the freedom they had been waiting for, the people who shouted in the face of the oppressive regime.
Regarding her participation in the revolution, Samiha says she returned to Homs immediately and took part in the demonstrations in Khalidiya. However, she later had to flee to the northern countryside of Homs out of fear of the regime’s thugs. In the countryside, she encouraged women to protest and participate, not to be afraid of asserting their rights to their country and themselves. She believes in the importance of women’s participation in all fields, especially in a revolution for freedom against all forms of oppression and tyranny.
“I provided first aid to the wounded, welcomed displaced people from other provinces, and worked in psychological support for children and women. I specialized in treating children with special needs until the Russian airstrikes targeted our village in the northern countryside of Homs, forcing us to flee to a village under the control of ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra.”
Samiha left Syria for Germany out of fear for her children, worrying they might be arrested or forced to bear arms. “On the last day of the high school exams, a regime checkpoint stopped my son with the intention of conscripting him into military service. But he escaped this situation with the help of someone, silencing the checkpoint with money to let him go.”
Speaking about displacement and its cruelty, Samiha says, “I will never forget the joy of some villages we sought refuge in and their mockery of the displaced, despite our village having hosted them in the past. It seems that freedom and dignity were not reasons for many people to participate in the revolution, which is what led the revolution to its current state.”
“I escaped from Syria, yes, I escaped from a reality around the dream of freedom to a nightmare that we may not wake up from for years. I escaped and passed for the first time in five years through a checkpoint belonging to the state security. The specter of arrest loomed over me. I instructed my son that if I were arrested, he should confirm that they are still minors and haven’t reached the age of adulthood. I didn’t reveal my true identity to them because if I did, even if we were revolutionaries, they would have killed us on the spot. I’ll never forget one time when I mentioned ‘ISIS,’ how a weapon was raised in my face, and one of them threatened me, saying: ‘Say the Islamic State.'”
Regarding the complexity of belonging and love for the homeland, Samiha says: “Before the revolution, there were many reasons for emigration, and emigration was available to me. However, my love for Syria prevented me at that time. Even after the start of the revolution, I wouldn’t have fled if there was a safe place for me and my children to live in Syria. But where is safety in a country where the law is the gun and there is no voice above the sound of the rifle? I fled hoping to find security in a country that resembles Syria, even if only a little. But Syria is unlike any other country, and no other country can occupy my heart the way Syria has. Despite that, I didn’t find it difficult to adapt. The difficulty lay in my children’s struggle to accept the new life. They lived in Syria, experienced its revolution, and felt in their hearts a love for Syria and a sense of belonging to it.”
Speaking about her affiliation with the Communist Labor Party, Samiha says: “I was 17 years old when I first learned about the Communist Labor Party through my husband. After getting married, I joined the party in 1986. Through the party, I found answers to many questions that were on my mind, such as why some families or two families in my village were wealthy while the rest of the residents were poor, why my father and older brother hated the regime, why political activists were arrested, and why Ba’athists rejected communists, among many other questions. I found their answers within the party. I learned a lot through my experience in the party; it was a wonderful and unique experience that shaped me and contributed to building my character.”
“The Ba’ath Party managed to turn Syria into a farm, which the Assad son inherited with the iron fist that emptied Syria of all forms of political activity. This fist grew even more ruthless after the Syrian revolution started. It turned political work into a secret activity, out of fear of arrest. This fist was characterized by political assassinations, and it utilized religious figures as mouthpieces to market what it wanted. This fist entrenched the rule of the Assad family and made all of Syria belong to President Bashar al-Assad, the son.”
“The incitement against women has escalated significantly. The term ‘feminism’ has become an accusation that women are punished for, and they face violence from their surrounding environment because of it.”
Regarding the challenges facing political work in Syria, Samiha says: “Challenges exist for both women and men. Political work was difficult under the rule of the oppressive individual and his comprehensive system, and it remains challenging whether in areas controlled by the regime or in opposition-controlled areas. Perhaps political work has been even more difficult for women. Women have suffered and continue to suffer from the oppression of the ruling authority and the male-dominated society. Even after the start of the revolution, where women tried to obtain their rights and exercise freedom of expression and political and media opinions, society remained an obstacle, trying to confine them to the home using various methods that contribute to keeping them imprisoned within four walls. This includes defamation, harassment, and sometimes even bullying. They are accused of promiscuity, betrayal, and being agents, all in an attempt to intimidate them and prevent them from exercising their rights, fearing that they might gain independence and autonomy. Thus, killing them under the pretext of “honor crimes” is considered justifiable and even commendable by those who commit it.”
Samiha continues to talk about the obstacles faced by women in Syria, saying: “The incitement against women has escalated significantly. The term ‘feminism’ has become an accusation that women are punished for, and they face violence from their surrounding environment because of it. This leads to the absence of many women from participating in any work they have the right to be involved in. It also prevents anyone from assisting women in the interior and contributing to empowering them and enhancing their participation in a way that makes them active and influential in their communities. On one hand, there are the restrictions of customs and traditions, and on the other hand, there are religious figures and their religious institutions. These restrictions continue to haunt them even in exile. They claim that women do not understand politics, accusing women of something they themselves prevent them from.”
“I dream of achieving social justice and full legal and political equality between men and women.”
Regarding her joining the Syrian Women’s political movement, Samiha says: “Because I still believe that women have a political role that they must exercise and share with men in the building of the nation and humanity. They should participate in writing a constitution that protects them, preserves their rights, and recognizes their humanity. Despite everything that has happened, women still exert effort in their political work, support just causes, and support their fellow women to become decision-makers, challenging all difficulties and breaking free from the outdated constraints that have bound them for years. Today, they participate on international platforms, standing on the podiums of human rights, political, and literary awards, speaking with a strong and independent voice, a voice that in itself is a revolution.”
“The absence of political life in Syria has led to a lack of political experience for the vast majority of individuals and actors in public affairs. Violence still prevails in all Syrian regions. Everything that has happened during the years of the revolution confirms to us that there is no place for political work in the near future, and that the political solution is very distant. However, it must remain our primary and central strategic option for our salvation and the salvation of our country. We must continue to work tirelessly and build political alliances, hoping that the appropriate environment will become available to formulate a cohesive and strong national political project through which we can orient ourselves. Perhaps the peaceful movement in the city of Suwayda is the one that will steer the compass and restore the revolution to its original course for all Syrian women and men, with all their various backgrounds and components, in the hope that we can live together in peace and love.”
Speaking about the future Syria she hopes for, Samiha says: “I dream of seeing Syria as a decentralized democratic state, where the parliamentary political majority prevails, citizenship is its principle, and the rule of law prevails. It should be an independent state with its sovereignty, carrying the banner of peace and rejecting wars. I dream of achieving social justice and full legal and political equality between men and women. I dream of proudly carrying a Syrian national identity.”
Samiha addresses Syrian women who have endured a lot and put in great effort while facing challenges, saying: “I have not seen anything more beautiful than you in my eight years of displacement, O Syrian woman. You deserve to live in safety, you deserve to obtain your rights. There is not a place in your heart that doesn’t hold a piece of you, with every detainee or martyr made of your flesh and blood. You, who have borne the burden of your heart and the burden of life, raised your voice against tyranny, and proved stronger than the war and all that it entailed of killing, displacement, and exile. Do not lean back now, and do not surrender. Continue to defend your life and your rights, for you deserve to live, indeed, you are life.”
Samiha shares a poignant memory: “It was four o’clock in the afternoon when I left the physiotherapy center where I used to work, heading home. I had only covered a short distance when a mortar shell fell on an elementary school near the physiotherapy center. I hurried back to check on the children of the school and on two young men whom I had left in the center to arrange some things. The young men had sustained minor injuries, but the tragedy was in a child who held a Zaatar sandwich in his hand, taking one bite before the shell tore his small body apart. It was a difficult moment for me, and it has been etched into my memory.”
“It is the right of the Zaatar child for the criminal to be held accountable, and it is the right of all the children, women, and every Syrian citizen to hold the criminal accountable for what he did to Syria, its sons, and daughters. I hope that this will be achieved and that we will reach justice and live it. I hope to see the Syrian woman having achieved her aspirations and realized her hopes, for she truly deserves it.”