I recently read an article on NPR.org about a Syrian woman named Marcell Shehwaro who is the executive director of Kesh Malek, an organization which has opened schools for children in opposition-held areas of Aleppo. There are seven schools, serving 3,000 students, which are located in basements throughout the city in order to assure safety from attacks in the area. Shehwaro has also recently served on a delegation of Syrian civil society workers at the UN in an attempt to convince world leaders to work to end the attacks on Aleppo after the ceasefire collapsed just last week. She says that times are so desperate in Aleppo that they often have to close down schools in order to save fuel for the hospitals to treat the non-stop civilian casualties.
Shehwaro started out in 2011 as a pro-democracy blogger, which resulted in weekly interrogations by officials of Assad’s regime due to the fact that she was pushing the country’s boundaries of free speech. By 2012, she began to take part in peaceful protests, with half of Syria controlled by the rebel forces at the time. She recalls her surprise the moment these protests began to be met with force, arrest, torture, and even death. Her mother was killed in 2014 at a military checkpoint and she proceeded to accuse the regime of murder publicly on her Facebook page. She was even arrested in 2014 for refusing to wear a veil in an neighborhood that was under ISIS control.
Despite the danger she has faced– so much so that she had to move from Syria to Turkey just last year– she still continues to hope for the day Syria will become a democracy. She continues to write and says of the situation, “I can’t quit. I speak English. I have two degrees and I’m privileged. Quitting means that I lost” (Amos, NPR). As someone who has been directly affected by the crises in Aleppo, it would be very easy for her to feel like a victim– something I wouldn’t blame her for at all– but she continues to understand her privilege.
The concept of privilege can be hard for us as American college students to grasp and we’re not faced with even a quarter of the hardship those in Aleppo are experiencing. How crazy is that? How CRAZY are we for not seeing that our problems are miniscule in comparison to what people are faced with in so many other countries, even some parts of our own? This article definitely served as a well-needed reality check as to why I am here in college, why I am studying what I’m studying, and the amount of power and influence just the act of going to college alone gives me. Even right now in this moment, I have the opportunity to make an impact– an opportunity that millions in the world don’t have, and I’m determined not to waste that. I’m thankful for people like Marcell Shehwaro for demonstrating time and time again that one person IS enough.
Articles by Marcell Shehwaro: