On a rainy Thursday a week before Thanksgiving, three women arrived at the NYU Law School campus in Manhattan. Wearing jeans and sweaters, black eyeliner and mascara, they sat around a conference table, tapping away on smartphones covered with bejeweled Syrian flag cases. They laughed and joked with one another as a photographer snapped their portraits.
At first glance, Zein, Rafia (a pseudonym) and Ahed look like any other twentysomething women. But each had already experienced far more than most people twice their age have: Zein and Ahed, while working as paramedics in a makeshift field hospital; Rafia, by being one of the few independent journalists still writing about both Bashar al-Assad and ISIS (and is the reason she is obscuring her identity for this story). Active in Syria's pro-democracy movement, the women had traveled to New York from their homes in Damascus and Aleppo to speak out about what conditions are really like in one of the most war-torn places on Earth
They are just some of the subjects of the documentary series Syria's Rebellious Women
, produced by journalist and filmmaker Zaina Erhaim. The films focus on women still living and working inside Syria. Because the women have not fled the country and continue their struggle against both the government and ISIS, Erhaim said the films were too sensitive to put online, except for this brief trailer
At one of three worldwide screenings, Zein, Ahed, and Rafia sat down with Refinery29 to share their stories before returning to Syria.
Caption: Zein, Rafia, and Ahed (from left), pro-democracy activists from Syria. Zein and Ahed have worked as paramedics in a rebel field hospital; Rafia (a pseudonym) chose not to reveal her identity because she still works as a journalist in government-controlled Damascus.
Refinery29 is committed to covering the human beings behind the headlines of the Syrian civil war and 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.