Tastakel

English     |     العربية

RAZAN AL-SHAMI

Razan began her enrollment at the University of Aleppo in 1997. After graduation she worked at the university, specifically in the College of Agriculture in the city of Idlib, and continued her work for several years. She remained committed to her work despite being routin and somewhat unstimulating for her. Like most government jobs, there wasn’t much room for professional development, given the traditional structures that limited a person’s ambitions. After the start of the revolution in 2011, events escalated making things difficult. She felt helpless and the situation on the ground exceeded her capabilities. Razan says that aerial bombardment and the strikes targeting everywhere over the city of Idlib and its countryside became unbearable. “The bombing made my family psychologically unstable and increased their sense of fear. We were shivering at the slightest sound we heard, and we were afraid to leave the house except for necessity. Then, we started moving from one place to another, moving between many homes in search of a safe place to hide, especially in the countryside.”

“When the situation calmed down, we thought we would return home again, but more than a year had passed, and we were in this state without stability. These were really painful and scary days. Our life did not know a moment of stability. We were always on the move, and our lives turned into hell during bombings. Life had generally become very difficult, as electricity was cut off, and water rarely came. Airstrikes hit the street near our house. And it was then that we made a decision not to stay in Idlib,” Razan explains.

The family contacted their son, who was in Turkey at the time, and they managed to cross the border. They left their house, their things, and their whole country. They started a new life from scratch. “It was not easy at all,” Razan says. They realized they were going to the unknown, towards a new country they didn’t know anything about, carrying feelings of loss and pain. Razan saw that the situation was getting worse in Syria “as death was hanging over every street, and in every alley, as we became accustomed to seeing destroyed homes around us.”

“One day I felt I heard a weak sound, as if suddenly I felt that the stones were crying. People were walking in the streets in shock, with fear. We were waiting for the sound of the warplanes. We imagined terrible scenes walking in the streets. When you hear the warning sounds of the sirens, you have a strange feeling, as if life has stopped. In such moments, you feel death is near, and panic fills the streets. It was as though we were in a terrible horror movie. We wished it was a nightmare to wake up from. We started losing hope for survival as we were looking for a place to hide. Our nerves were collapsing and our little eyes were protruding to the sky.”

Razan and her family packed their bags and gathered all their belongings. On the way, regime warplanes were bombing from miles away, and the flames of fire were reaching up to the sky. And the ground was erupting around them like a volcano. Devastated people came out from everywhere. People lived unspeakable moments of terror and fear.

Finally, they arrived in Turkey. At first, they were overwhelmed by feelings of alienation. They didn’t speak the language and couldn’t easily adjust to safety, having lived in a traumatic situation. They also had to face the unknown having just escaped from pain and terror. They experienced many emotions. Their feelings of homesickness intensified, and the increasing uncertainty about going back home made them even more confused.

In the end they were able to overcome the difficulties, and gradually started adapting to the new situation. They slowly settled with the passage of time. Razan then found courses she could take offered by Tastakel. She found the training somewhat different from all previous courses she’d taken. Even the level of the trainers was different in terms of ability and efficiency, she says. She found that they had a certain mastery over their materials and that they really taught well. “We were dealing with topics that we did not hear about. Back in Syria, political life was absent from the world and lives of Syrian citizens in general, and even more so for women, as we were ignorant of our rights, and only duties were only imposed on us.”

Attending Tastakel trainings gave Razan a new turn in her life. The topics raised in the classes had a role in developing her personality, especially in a political way. She was happy to learn about human rights and international laws, and women’s rights and to become familiar with the issue in transitional justice. This was something new for her.

Moreover, learning negotiation and conflict resolution skills created a shift in Razan’s thinking. She felt that in addition to acquiring skills herself, she was becoming more aware of what’s happening behind the scenes, between countries at the political and military levels, especially in regard to Syria. Her level of analysis and understanding of political issues completely changed. She also learned about governance, and it was also one of the things she had no knowledge of prior to doing Tastakel’s program.

“Among the things I had learned, in addition to communication skills, confronting or dealing with others, I got additional training in the field of psychological support for the families of the missing, but it stopped due to the spread of the Corona virus (Covid 19) and the project was not completed.” As a result, she was able to participate in a different training course at the University of Diaa, Morocco. Razan, currently, is a member of the Women’s Protection Network and is involved in volunteer work in the humanitarian field, in addition to supervising educational and vocational courses at the Syrian Women’s Association Center in Antakya.