Shaza AL Farhan

“When your life-cards are scattered, and you’re trying to collect them again. When you cross the zero point, climbing up to approach the top and then drop to zero again, when your hand touches the sky, and suddenly you drop to the ground and have to start again, what would you do?” This is how Shaza describes her life in her own words.

Shaza graduated from the University of Aleppo, Faculty of Arts, Department of Arabic Literature, and began her work as a teacher in high schools in the city of Deir Ezzor’s. She had a wonderful time teaching classes, she says. And between the lectures, and with her students and colleagues, she was weaving the most beautiful dreams. However, with the escalation of the events during the beginning of the Syrian revolution in 2011, the dreamy and stable phase ended. Shaza found herself in a completely different point in her life. She began to question and search for a positive role in all this.

Her first relocation was to her own city of Hasakah in the north east of Syria. She felt she could continue her role as a teacher among the displaced, far away, from the areas where conflict was raging. But when ISIS entered her city, everything changed. Shaza and people in the city started hearing the sounds of bombs and shelling. It was to be the beginning of a new journey of displacement, loss and migration. She says, she carried a small bag with her important papers, with questions filling the eyes of her children.

“I do not know,” Shaza ponders, “how to think of all this.” “I have seen stories of joy, of loss, stories of dreams and stories of despair, all together.” But fate and the turn of events brought Shaza to Turkey, and here she entered a new cycle of survival, nostalgia and the hope of starting over again. Shaza resolved to collect the scattered fragments of herself and stop the wheels of lamentation. She decided to go back to her educational work and civil society, especially given her expertise in the field of education. She carried her diplomas, did the paperwork and applied to the Turkish Education Directorate to follow up and contribute to the education of Syrian students in temporary educational schools. She began her work again, “but this time with a generation looking for safety in the vast seas of loss,” Shaza says. She was chosen, along with some Syrian teachers, to receive a 250-hour training in the Turkish Ministry of Education, doing qualifying courses. This enabled her to train hundreds of Syrian teachers on what she had received in her own training.

Shaza participated in working with a team of nine teachers selected by the Turkish Ministry of Education, and Concern Organization, to be appointed as an educational consultant to oversee the training of Syrian teachers on teaching methods in conditions of war. The program relied on increasing learning by playing and exploring. Later, she was chosen with a team of Arabic language teachers to teach Arabic to non-native speakers, with the aim of teaching Arabic to the Turks. As for her activities with civil society, she worked to form a professional team to monitor and treat the needs of Syrians. She also worked with a group of women and students of all stages and participated in the formation of a women’s groups to monitor women’s problems, and search for solutions to these problems through psychological and professional support.

Shaza contributed to the formation of the Free Teachers Association and worked in monitoring the problems of Syrian teachers and students. She has been working with local platforms to prepare reports and recommendations for international organizations to explain the reality of Syria refugees.

One particular day stands out for Shaza. “It was a pivotal point in my life,” she says. It was the day she joined a training with Tastakel, and “entered into this wonderful family,” as she refers to Tastakel. Since the beginning of her enrollment in these trainings, exercises and practical projects she felt so at home with the beginning of the training. Shaza received training in communication skills, leadership, negotiations and conflict resolution, and others in governance and elections, and liked the way the program integrated exercises with trainings in transitional justice and human rights. Shaza’s background and education came into sharper focus with these trainings and she started to think differently. She felt intellectual independence. But she also realized, with her increased self-confidence, that it was easier to accept others and not to fear facing challenges anymore.

With Tastakel, Shaza says “it wasn’t only training I got but also a family that will always support you, and you’d be keen to stay with them …between them and my notebook I feel I have space to think, and a space that is full of everything and it will always be with me.”