“Wassim Hassan: A Glimpse of Light at the End of the Tunnel


Wassim Hassan, a consulting civil engineer born in 1964 in the Rukn al-Din neighborhood of Damascus, worked as a partner and executive director of the East Engineering Consulting Company in Damascus. He joined the civil political movement ‘Mwatana’ since its establishment in 2011, volunteering in the fields of media and culture as the director of the Mwatana Forum and the secretary for the editorial board of Rawaaq Maysalun magazine, published by Maysalun for Culture, Translation, and Publishing. Wassim moved with his family to live in the Netherlands in 2015 and currently works in the field of consulting, project management, and quality control.

Wassim spent most of his life in Barzeh neighbourhood in Damascus, then moved to Jobar neighborhood and later to the town of Saqba in the Western Ghouta until the beginning of the Syrian revolution, in which he participated from its early days. He states: “I participated in demonstrations in the Damascus countryside (Daraya, Assali, Al-Qadam, Harasta, Douma, Jdeidat Artouz) while protests were rare in the town of Saqba due to the presence of the National Defense militia, widespread brutality, and the scattered loyalties and affiliations of the town’s residents.”

Wassim focused his activities during the Syrian revolution in the city of Sweida, stating: “Since the Azadi Friday on May 20, 2011, I transferred my participation in the movement to Sweida’s square and joined the Peaceful Demonstration Organization group. I participated with activists in preparations, from organizing and writing banners, building slogans, drawing paintings, to developing the demonstration plan and mechanisms for its protection and continuity. As the popular movement evolved into the rise of the ‘Men of Dignity’ phenomenon, I became a political advisor to Sheikh Al-Karama, Waheed Al-Balous, in his anti-Assad regime march until his assassination, along with his companions, in a bombing targeting his convoy in Sweida on September 4, 2015. I survived because I was traveling outside Sweida most of the time, accompanying Sheikh Al-Karama. However, I lost my cousin, the martyr ‘Talal Hassan,’ who was part of the Sheikh’s protection team, in the explosion.”

On another note, Wassim speaks about his motivations for participating in the popular movement against the Assad regime. He states, “I witnessed the corruption of power and suffered from discrimination in the workplace for a long time, especially since I worked as a civil engineer in the Ministry of Defense, where my struggles with the corruption of the military institution were clearer and more severe. I witnessed stories of looting, plunder, and the squandering of public funds. I observed the infiltration of security apparatuses into every aspect of the state, its institutions, and facilities. I was struck by the scale of deterioration and regression of Syria, a country that was once a leader in science and production among developing nations, to fall under the control of the nationalistic and Assadist tyranny. Through persecutions, arrests of free thinkers, it became a breeding ground for suppression and sectarianism veiled under the slogans of Ba’athist nationalism.”

Regarding his experience of migration and its harshness, Wassim says, “I never imagined that one day I would undergo a harsh experience like sea migration. However, it became a sudden decision coinciding with my participation in a media training course in Turkey. Therefore, I couldn’t inform any of my relatives, not even my mother and siblings. The smugglers arranged three boats for us in Izmir, Turkey, aiming to reach the nearby Greek islands. Five hours at sea felt like five years, with women and children dreaming of a secure future free from hunger, violence, and fear of Assad’s oppression. After five hours, one out of the three boats successfully reached the Greek shores, while the Turkish coast guard intercepted one boat, and the third boat sank. The third boat, carrying the child Alan Kurdi, dominated social media and news headlines.”

As for living in the Netherlands, Wassim says, “It’s not easy to uproot yourself and leave your homeland after living through important stages of your life. However, despite that, I didn’t find difficulty in integrating into Dutch society, learning from the culture of this free country, practicing democracy, the right to vote, belonging, and expression. Since my arrival, I volunteered in civil society organizations, felt a sense of security and freedom, and exercised rights that were denied to me in my homeland. I did not hesitate to support the Syrian cause despite the geographical distance through my participation in many protests and events shedding light on the magnitude of the Syrian tragedy and the importance of the freedom issue.”

When asked about the beginnings of his political awareness, Wassim answers, “I grew up in an activist family that struggled and lived the suffering of ordinary families. I often asked myself how these families remain toiling and poor in a rich country like Syria, with its historical civilization. In junior high and high school, I learned from activists in the Communist Labor Party, then joined the Arab Revolutionary Workers Party in 1982. I remained active in it for a decade, until the First Gulf War, which led to the political failure due to the significant failure shown by political forces, party gatherings, and the democratic national coalition at that time in dealing with that war.”

Regarding the challenges facing political work in Syria, Wassim says, “Undoubtedly, the political desolation in Syria is a result of levels of security repression, the decline of popular interest in public affairs, the dominance of one party in power, and many other reasons. Today, the challenges lie in the practices of power and the forces of the status quo, contributing to reinforcing security fears due to the violence against activists and opposition figures. These include forced disappearances, abductions, arrests, and perhaps assassination and death under torture.”

As for the challenges facing Syrian women in particular in political work, Wassim says, “Despite the Arab Spring, it did not prevent the continuation of voices opposing women’s rights, which unfortunately remain high and influential. However, Syrian women during the Syrian people’s uprising managed to prove their competence and presence. The emergence of many active female politicians on the Syrian scene played a significant role and clear indication of the reality of women’s presence and their important role despite all the challenges they face, both internally and in the diaspora, with a relative advantage for the conditions of survivors in Western countries.”


“Despite all that has happened and is happening, Syria is alive. The recent movement in Suwayda is a good example, especially with the significant participation of women and the rational slogans raised, which brings back the momentum for the demand of democracy.”


Wassim joined the Syrian Women’s Political Movement in its second year of establishment, believing in its crucial role in building the future Syria. He states, “The Syrian Women’s Political Movement has a significant role in building Syrian alliances and confronting the male dominance that contaminates most currents and parties, posing an obstacle that prevents collaboration and hinders collective work in achieving common goals. The importance of Syrian women from various political currents within the Syrian Women’s Political Movement is crucial. Their serious contribution in overcoming challenges and, consequently, assuming leadership and management positions to support the progress of work and political alliances, whether democratic or national, is necessary to confront the challenges of the current and transitional phase in Syria.”

Regarding the challenges and obstacles facing the Syrian Women’s Political Movement, Wassim addresses them on two levels, saying, “On a personal level, political work or public affairs involvement is voluntary. The contribution of members and their time to building the movement is required and is the first challenge. The involvement of male feminists and their participation in women’s struggles in the movement adds an advanced human dimension and sets an example to follow in democratic collective work without exclusion or marginalization. Therefore, it is necessary to always preserve this noble characteristic in our feminist political movement. On an objective level, the spread of male-oriented ideologies and their carriers from forces and factions, some of which are subservient to external support, will be a harsh factor in combating women’s participation and a significant challenge to reduce discrimination. Thus, the importance of patience and diligent work in the cultural, civil, and social fields becomes crucial.”

The Syrian political scene is currently witnessing numerous crises. When asked where Syria stands today in terms of its fundamental revolution principles and how the compass of Syrian women and men in revolutionary work can be redirected, Wassim responds: “Despite all that has happened and is happening, Syria is alive. The recent movement in Suwayda is a good example, especially with the significant participation of women and the rational slogans raised, which brings back the momentum for the demand of democracy and acceptance of Syrian diversity in a generous homeland that protects the rights of its citizens, regardless of their differences. Finally, we must learn from experiences, lessons, and disappointments.”


“Our journey together to prevent discrimination and achieve freedom is long and complex, but the road has begun, and the glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel is glimpsed by discerning eyes.”


A decade and a half during which the Syrian people tasted various forms of deprivation, fear, pain, and harsh experiences, and these years were not devoid of positive experiences as well. Wassim shares with us one of his positive experiences that he lived through during these years, saying: “It was difficult in a country living under the conditions of war for my second daughter, ‘Razan,’ to pursue her passion in the field of media and filmmaking, especially after her suffering in the artistic community in Damascus. I couldn’t resist her determination that led me to decisively migrate across the sea to the lands of the old continent. After a year of suffering in refugee camps, ‘Razan’ managed to gain acceptance to the ‘Dutch Film Academy,’ despite the difficulty of acceptance for students there. She carved out a place for her name through two films in which she excelled and won awards at festivals. She graduated from the academy with honors, and thus life progresses from negative experiences to positive ones.”

Wassim also refers to one of the harsh experiences he went through, saying: “The worst thing I experienced was my abduction from my office at the end of 2012 by Jabhat al-Nusra just because I am from the Druze sect. I managed to escape with the help of someone who was able to get me out of the ‘Sharia Court’ headquarters where I was abducted to safety. However, my greatest shock was when I realized that our confrontation was not only with a tyrannical criminal authority, but with minds saturated with the ideology of exclusion and annihilation, whose bearers do not hesitate to commit crime and terrorism to humiliate their victims who differ from them only in opinion and religion. At that moment, I realized that our journey is very long.”

Wassim describes the Syria he dreams of as “a secular democracy that celebrates its diversity, protects plurality and differences, and honors its women and men in establishing an equal citizenship based on a constitution and laws that respect human rights, ensure the neutrality of the state, and the independence of the judiciary, legislative, and executive authorities. Syria, which guarantees freedom of belief, expression, media, accountability, and fair trials for all criminals.”

He addresses the women of Syria with a message, saying: “To my wife, daughters, and sisters, all the women of my country, trust in yourselves, do not compromise your freedom and independence, and do not accept subordination to anyone, no matter how difficult the circumstances and hardships may be. The tree of your struggle must bear fruit.”

“Our journey together to prevent discrimination and achieve freedom is long and complex, but the road has begun, and the glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel is glimpsed by discerning eyes. The just demands of Syrian women and men will not be forgotten with time, and they will only be realized through our diligent work, peaceful struggle, engagement in the political field, and the adoption of the values of justice, democracy, and human rights. Together, we build a secular democratic, pluralistic society and state for all Syrian women and men.”