“I want these voices to be heard”: One Syrian teen refuses to stop dreaming

By Mary Kate MacIsaac, Communications Coordinator, Regional Syria Response, CARE International

Growing up, Ayat had much in common with her father – strong opinions and a desire to share them. Having just completed her final year of high school, she hopes to attend university, but with a lack of financial resources, it remains only a dream.

“I want to be a journalist. I’d write about people’s suffering. I’d write about poverty and injustice everywhere, anywhere – even violence against women. There’s a lot of it, and it’s increasing. We hear about it, but most families don’t want to intervene.”

Ayat says it’s because of her own experience that she aspires to share these stories.

“It’s because of the injustices I have seen in Syria that I want these voices to be heard.”

Ayat witnessed these issues fisthand when she and her brother Mohammad volunteered for CARE, meeting with Syrian families, and discussing including gender-based violence, early marriage, family planning, and psychosocial health.

“It’s important to understand all sides,” Ayat says. “We speak with the husband, we ask him to work on being more patient, to try to avoid reaching a point where he will hurt his wife or the children.”

The drastic changes and the many challenges families face, from the death of family members to the loss of income and changing gender roles, play a large role in the increase of domestic violence – though it certainly isn’t new, Ayat admits.

“It existed in the culture even before the war, but not to the same extent. Because of the stress and anxiety now, we are seeing women and children treated in a way that is not just. Men come home, and because they are tense, they may react violently to the smallest things – a misbehaving child, for example.”

These issues are real for many families in the community. Ayat’s family is not immune to the stress – with her father immobilized by a stroke and her brother unable to find work.

“We’re living on borrowed money. Some days it feels like we’re ruined,” she says.

Nagham is Ayat’s younger sister. This fall she started grade nine. She sits quietly observing the conversation. When asked her opinion, she shrugs and throws her hands into the air.

“What should I do?”

Like her sister though, Nagham refuses to stop dreaming.

“I want to be a lawyer, maybe move to France if I can’t return to Syria.”

Ayat remembers her home in Syria.

“It’s the house I was born in and where I grew up. And we left it, just like that. We fled to Latakia. And that house was destroyed. Then we came to Turkey. My best memory from home – before we left – was our whole family gathering together every Friday, eating and being together. I just hope I can have this feeling again one day.”

CARE’s information volunteer program, funded by the European Union through its Humanitarian Aid department (ECHO) has trained over 100 volunteers since beginning in December 2014, and has included over 7,000 Syrians, educating families through protection activities in their respective communities in southern Turkey. Learn more about CARE's response to the crisis in Syria.