3 Syrian Refugee Women Tell Their Stories

by Olivia Harrison

This week, Refinery29 launched “Behind The Headlines: Daughters of Paradise,” a beyond-stunning multimedia feature, which explores the lives of three Syrian women who have been displaced to Turkey due to the civil war. The feature presents a unique perspective on what the United Nations’ Refugee Agency has called “the worst humanitarian crisis of our generation.” 

Here are the stories of three women refugees, “daughters of a vanished Syrian paradise,” who someday hope return. All three of these women are working to impact change in both their communities in Turkey and back home in Syria through teaching, volunteering, and advocating.


Reem is 29-years-old. She once worked as a teacher in Jableh, but when Assad’s army came to enlist her husband, the couple was forced to flee to Turkey. The physical and emotional stress of the journey caused Reem to have a miscarriage. She is now expecting another child and volunteers at a school for Syrian refugee children. Her mission is to help shape the next generation so that when the war ends, they too can succeed. 

“…Reem’s students have not had the childhoods that many of their peers around the world have enjoyed. ‘Even when they’re drawing to express their feelings, it’s mostly about the war,’ Reem says of her pupils. ‘Even if it’s colorful, it’s full of blood, killing, explosion, and destruction.’”


Noor is 27-years-old. After the military learned she was volunteering with children at a school supported by pro-democracy activists, she was arrested. During her 50 days in jail, she was psychologically tortured and interrogated. When Noor was finally released, she fled to Turkey. She now works with an international aid organization that helps people still inside Syria.

“So many times I wished I were dead, only so I don’t have to be there. The only thing that kept me alive is the wish that my mom could see me again,” Noor says.


Najlaa is a mother of two who was among the first women to protest in Daraya. She was forced to flee her homeland after her husband was arrested and tortured by the Assad regime. Now in Turkey, she created and runs the Honorable Women’s Center, which helps refugees learn job skills and support their families.

“Najlaa’s husband, Hasan, was arrested in front of their children, and Najlaa believed she would be next. ‘My house was on the fifth floor, so I hid in the elevator shaft on the sixth floor, on the roof, with my kids. I stayed until the next day. I was covering [my kids’] mouths so the security won’t find out that I’m there,’ she remembers.”

Check out the full interactive experience at Refinery29.

Images courtesy of Refinery29

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