Women in Syrian Media: Challenges and Achievements

Hibr – Abdul Malik Qora Muhammad

Women’s employment is no longer a subject of debate between proponents and opponents. Women have now become a requirement for the success of any societal or institutional work, and medical or humanitarian organizations have to seek the participation of a sufficient number of women who can carry out tasks other than those assigned to men.

In Syrian media, however, women’s presence has been precariously limited, if not rendered rare if compared with that of men. It was only recently that a number of female media personalities rose to prominence on broadcast news media, leaving their distinct mark on local newspapers. Since then, women have been able to portray their communities, with both their pens and voices, asserting their worth in all media spheres, be them visual, audio, print or even electronic media.

The role of women in media activity has been constrained by the widespread belief, especially among conservative families, that women’s work in the media would expose them to criticism and compromising positions that do not suit them as women. However, the development of social media has allowed female journalists to work from home without having to commit to specific tasks. Most media organizations in the liberated areas are appreciative of the fact that women have housework, and therefore navigate the coordination of their work through remote communication, especially in the field of editing and journalistic writing.

“I’ve always loved writing, since my school days…” said Sanaa Sourani, who works in editing and reportage, in an interview with Hibr. “As a mother with children, I prefer working from home to having to go out. I have managed to learn the basics of video editing and visual reporting, which I added to my distinctive accomplishments throughout my media career. I am also committed to being productive and can handle parallel pressures such as domestic work and raising children.”

Perhaps what distinguishes women’s work in the media is their closeness and sensitivity to the issues Syrian women face, especially with their emphasis on humanitarian rather than military aspects of the conflict. Moreover, they can work on visual reports of women’s conditions, whereas men in conservative communities cannot. At the same time, female journalists encounter several problems in such communities, including the fact that people often give men’s opinion more weight vis-a-vis women’s insights. Even with the presence of more competent and professional female media activists, the social outlook plays an significant role in diminishing the value of their reporting.

Furthermore, under such conditions of prolonged conflict, with brutal and indiscriminate bombing by the Assad regime and Russia, women require more protection than men.

However, is it sensible for women to be confined to editorial tasks from within their homes? And, more importantly, how feasible is it for Syrian women, in such tragic circumstances, to work in the media as field reporters who relay the concerns of their communities, grant them a voice, echo the grievances of both men and women, and depict the reality of oppression and persecution in different Syrian areas?

Field reporter Karima Said has worked as a reporter and editor since her graduation from the Media Department at Damascus University in 2010, after which she began reporting for Orient TV. As she explained to Hibr, “I chose to specialize in media because I had long believed that the media is a real authority. I essentially focus on humanitarian issues and the most severely marginalized groups, such as children, persons with special needs, and women.”

Over the past three years, Karima has been an active reporter from within “the most dangerous city in the world,” Aleppo. She has conducted hundreds of field reports, in addition to dozens of TV reportages. “My commitment to professional standards despite the war, and my constant search for the will to life overcoming death are incomparable achievements,” she added.

Despite the many challenges that Syrian women encounter over the course of their media careers, none have compromised the quality of the content they produce or were discouraged from constantly developing their capabilities. Syrian women media activists continue to enroll in media training workshops and available online courses. In addition, they join other programs held in the liberated areas by media organizations, such as Hibr’s journalism courses, which have already been attended by many women interested in improving their reporting skills. Finally, the door to seeking formal media education has been reopened in the liberated areas through the universities of Aleppo and Idlib, which can enable women to further develop their vocational skills, to better contribute to depicting the reality and amplifying the voice of truth.
These materials are published within the World Press Freedom Day campaign, in cooperation with the   ASML/Syria.