For 33-year-old Kholoud Waleed, August is the cruellest month. It was a punishingly hot day in August 2012 on which Syrian government forces stormed her birthplace of Darayya. The Damascus suburb had been active in protests during the Arab Spring and was a stronghold of the Free Syrian Army. There was no option for her family but to flee. When they returned a week later, the civil war that had already raged for a year seemed much closer.
“All I could see were mortar shells, pieces of windows thrown onto the powdery ground,” Waleed told me when we met in London this June, her voice breaking and her sea-green eyes filled with angst. The four years that followed the retaking of Darayya by rebel forces in November 2012 saw an unprecedented escalation of violence and a devastating siege, until a brutal campaign by the Bashar al-Assad regime forced civilians out of the area in August 2016.
Today, Waleed leads a collective whose mission is to smuggle out the truth about the conflict to the world. As part of the Syrian diaspora in London, she has found herself translating a widespread impetus for change into an ever-growing form of resistance.