While Rumi beautifully quotes, “Why are you so enchanted with this world when the mine of gold lies within you?” Noura Al Jizawi personifies this. Nowhere different from Malala, Jizawi the tortured Human Rights Activist is heading back to her normal student life after enduring a decade long of torture and extreme negativity.
Noura’s Initial Experiences
A resident of Homs in Syria, Noura was a 29 year old a student activist. She was a leader in Syria’s opposition and was sent to imprisonment and exile for a notable time period.
Noura’s first awareness of human rights and to stand against the authority there came when she was a kid, I was enraged at the authorities because they were denied to choose their own books. “We could have only one type of notebook – one with a photo of Assad’s father on it,” says Noura.
Now eight months pregnant, she has gone back to her being a normal student and studies, beginning a master’s degree at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs.
Her Struggle for Liberation
Her struggle for liberation of Human Rights involved a long journey. A journey that somewhere affected everyone including her.
The Missing Condition
Soon she discovered the heinous scenario of her country. The situation was no less to be pitied upon. There were missing people all around Syria. Her friends complained of their fathers going missing. There were mothers of missing people lending an emotional support to each other. It was then when she discovered “the missing condition.”
The missing people were the detainees arrested by Assad’s father. Some of them are still until this moment missing. There were no bodies ,or evidence but just silence of missing individuals being broken by the wails of the aggrieved families.
Noura’s Step Against the Regime
As an undergraduate at the University of Homs, Noura came up against the regime. Noura protested by openly bringing her viewpoints to the masses. She worked as a blogger, published fiction and became a speaker of thoughts. This led to her immediate arrest twice. Not paying any heed, she continued to become the change she wanted to be. She undertook dangerous and rebellious tasks of accessing forbidden websites distributed anti-regime articles, called for democracy and non-violence. All steps against the present authority.
Fortunately, the Arab Spring began in Tunisia in December 2010, and spread, arriving in Syria with a demonstration in Damascus. This paved way for a revolution
Noura became an organizer of demonstrations and an advocate for the rapidly rising numbers of detainees and missing people.
“We never believed there would be a real revolution in our lifetimes,” she said.
The Odious Outcome
The result of such a revolution was horrific. However, people were not surprised as the step was huge and was against the authority. Many of Noura’s mates and friends were killed and many were found missing, others crippled.
The fact that shocked them the most was the lack of any effective response from the international community. Even though with the presence of social media no effective help was sent or measures taken.
In a statement she said, “But we thought, now we have the social media channels, hopefully this would protect us. But it did not protect us.”
Noura moved to every possible place to protect the fire of change she lit; organizing, motivating, dodging the authorities – until in May 2012, she was ordered off a bus in Damascus by armed men and was taken elsewhere into a car.
“It was not an arrest, it was abduction, a kidnapping,” she said later.
Noura’s Arrest and Obnoxious Torture
Noura was abducted for a long period of torturous seven months where she was kept in some of the most dreaded prisons and was given terrible punishments of electric shocks and such others. However, these for Noura were not that painful, but the voices of her fellow prisoners, their suffering, agony and torment shuddered her to the core. The captors knew this psychological torture would be more effective in her case – but still she remained silent and endured them.
The only source of strength for Noura at that time was the ongoing thought of revolution, the change and people outside who were still struggling to fulfill that motive.
Noura said while talking about her struggle that, “We were still a non-violent movement on the ground, and I kept thinking about them. I wanted to make sure that in the questioning I would not speak about any one of those activists. I would pray to my body not to break down.”
However, her revolution turned to be a blessing in her favour and helped in her releasing from the prison. She was set free in 2012 and it was all the result of the struggle of the young revolutionists who kept the fire lit even after Noura was abducted.
But Noura has to flee from Syria, the result being her sister Alaa who was also imprisoned but had to go through a higher level of torture than Noura. The family shifted to Turkey for a better medical attention as both of them were in a crippled state.
She did not leave her motive behind even though she had to leave Syria. In Turkey, she joined the coalition of Syrian opposition forces, and became its Vice-President in 2014. She joined because she thought that there was a need of a strong female voice supplemented with ideas of a young mind. She worked hard to get an agreement to break the two-year siege of Homs because many of its surviving citizens were dying of starvation and absence of basic amenities.
What lies ahead for her?
Noura met her husband in Turkey, another Syrian activist in exile, who was one of a network of cyber-security experts working for the Munk School’s Citizen Lab. After such massive and radical steps, she resigned from the coalition in 2016, she however, continues to work for the NGO, START POINT-that provides relief to aggrieved and sexually harassed women Later Noura was selected to come to “Scholars at Risk” program in Canada as one of 24 international students with scholarships. Noura as mentioned earlier is eight months pregnant and with the arrival of a new change called motherhood, she is very well aware of how this might change her activism. But she’s determined not to give up the fight.
Pursuing her master’s degree adds as another step to help her continue her work to bring democracy to Syria. She is determined to bring a change and firmly states “I feel also that being a mother makes me closer to the future… this baby is the future, and maybe he/she will not have to live as our generation lived.”
Thus, Noura Al Jizawi with her efforts and determination proved that every great dream begins with a dreamer. One has within himself the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.