Tastakel

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Nour al-Am

Nour was happy when she was accepted at the university of Aleppo to study English Literature. This was her dream. She was so determined to enroll in this program, that she even sat in her high school final exams for two consecutive years to be to apply to this program. She wanted to do a master’s program in translation so that she could enter the field of public relations or political science.

With the start of the revolution in 2011, Nour was in her third year, and ended up facing tremendous difficulties. In order to complete her studies, after her university closed that year, she moved to Aleppo, where she was able to pass to her fourth year. But when lectures were suspended also in Aleppo, she returned to Idlib to continue the rest of the courses at the University of Idlib, but while being accredited at the University of Aleppo. Sadly though, graduation was pending, as she had one last course. She was finally able to finish after 6 months, receiving her degree. It felt like a miracle for Nour.

Nour had the gumption to pursue her dream and receive her degree in Aleppo, despite the risk of entering the city. At this time, half of its neighborhoods were considered liberated while the other part of the city remained in the grip of regime forces. The only one crossing was from Bustan al-Qasr. Surprisingly enough, Nour took the risk and headed into Aleppo under the bombing and clashes, in order to obtain her degree and receive the actual document. Nour says, “I was in total panic, but I chose to consider my situation like having an adventure. It was a difficult moment, and when I remember it I cry. I also laugh sometimes, how we risked our lives by crossing that dangerous passage, the sniper around and targeting the area.”

After graduation, Nour did not have room to pursue her studies in translation, so she accepted a job opportunity in Idlib in teaching, even though she was dreaming about other things. Nour and her colleagues persisted in attending schools and teaching children despite the difficult circumstances in Aleppo.

Nour felt a deep sense of responsibility during moments of bombing. She tried to restrain herself in front of her students, to maintain class discipline and calm her students despite her feelings of fear and panic. She says, “My fear for myself was not comparable to my fear and sense of responsibility for her students.” Nour continued teaching for a whole year in a public school, after which she started teaching at a private institute. In the same year, Idlib was liberated from Assad’s forces and militias. However, the bombardment of the city increased in a brutal manner, and became frightening, with dozens of air strikes and hundreds of missiles and rockets falling on the city in the span of one day, and particularly targeting schools and medical infrastructure.   

After the liberation of the city, things changed. Some lost their work, and others lost their homes, and things started getting out of control. “During this period, all things changed in our lives,” says Nour. During this time, Nour met with an English language teacher at the institute, and they began planning to apply for a scholarship to complete the dream of pursuing their studies. They submitted requests to university admissions.

“One day I found a job opportunity with an international organization inside Syria. The work was in monitoring and evaluation, and it was new and different,” says Nour. She appreciated the experience despite the risks she was exposed to as she spent 6 months moving daily from one place to another, visiting most of the liberated areas. This impacted her deeply and gave her heartache. Nour says, “when we saw the scale of the tragedy that our people were subjected to and the great disasters that displaced women and children faced I felt pain. I was also really afraid as we were exposed to many dangerous situations. We experienced great danger, especially in moments of bombing. I sometime thought my heart stopped beating.” Also, at the end of 2015, Nour was traumatized with the loss of her 14-year old brother to cancer. She still grieves this loss.

However, sometime later, Nour got engaged, and her fiancé, who was working in Turkey, sent her the necessary papers to move to Turkey, and enter the crossing at the borders in an orderly manner, unlike many Syrians who were fleeing. “I entered with mixed feelings of sadness, quarreling with myself for having left my family, while also feeling happy to be going to my new life,” Nour explains. At the borders she saw the gate that separated two realities, two countries, and two worlds. It was a turning-point in her life, leaving her family and a country at war and moving towards safety and a new life with her husband.

After entering Turkey within a period of 3 months, she started looking for a job. The idea of her staying without work was not an option, especially since she was in a strange country and far from her family and did not have friends. She got a job after 6 months, while also expecting her first child. She kept working and after the baby she was able to take leave, but resumed work afterwards.

The work was tiring with the demands of being also a mother of a small child. She was able to arrange for her daughter to stay with the neighbors, who helped Nour with babysitting, as there was no family near her. In the end Nour decided to leave work, even though it was painful and sad for her, at the time, to leave her job, but she believed in her decision. After nearly a year at home, Nour heard about the training of Tastakel. She was happy to enroll and attended the training with Tastakel for a whole year, and sometimes brought her daughter to the center, who was just content to be with her mother. Nour participated also in new trainings with Tastakel, and by then her two daughters sometimes accompanied her.

Nour viewed Tastakel  training as important task for her, because she saw that it was giving her a new opportunity in her career-path and a way for her to expand her vision and to come back to her old dreams. Although she had become a mother she knew that she’d want to have job opportunities to realizes herself when she would go back to the job market.

When started the program at Tastakel, she was excited. Nour had been searching for this type of training and she finally found it at Tastakel. Through Tastakel trainings, she learned about topics that she had been interested in such as human rights, gender issue, quotas, governance, elections, negotiations, conflict resolution and women’s leadership. According to Nour, every Syrian woman should seek to have such training. “They will wonderful and important information, good knowledge of mlany important topics related to women, and also start thinking that perhaps one day they would a prominent role in building a new Syria.”