This story is part of a Refinery29 series that explores the women behind the headlines of the Syrian refugee crisis. Read the full multimedia feature, Behind the Headlines: Daughters of Paradise, here. More coverage on the human faces of the world's refugee crisis can be found here.
There were some days in prison that 25-year-old Noor never looked away from the wall, never spoke a word. Sharing a 10-foot-by-11-foot cell with as many as 30 other women, she thought of killing herself to avoid the interrogations she faced every day from Syrian soldiers.
"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 said. Although she has since fled Syria, she asked that neither her last name nor her face be used in order to protect her identity.
A civil engineer from a prosperous family, Noor never thought she would end up in a Syrian prison. When Noor was growing up, both of her parents were doctors, and she and her five siblings always had enough to eat. Her grandparents had come from Palestine shortly after the creation of Israel in 1948, and Noor was the second generation to be born in Syria. She was working on her master's degree at a university in Aleppo when protests consisting largely of students like her started sweeping through the Middle East.
“We were all hopeful. The Arab Spring was good news,” she said. “Not just [for] Arabs — but everyone. Even though some Arabic countries aren't called kingdoms, they are still ruled by leaders who inherit their leadership by blood. For that fact alone, people should rise up."
Syria was no different. President Bashar al-Assad had assumed power after the death of his father, Hafez al-Assad, in 2000. Together, one family had ruled Syria for more than 40 years. Initially, the younger Assad had promised reform when he took office. In a period that became known as the Damascus Spring, people began openly debating Syria's future.