Brave New Words

The continuing struggle to reveal the truth about the Syrian conflict

01 December 2018
Kholoud Waleed, the recipient of the 2015 Anna Politkovskaya Award, leads a collective on a mission to smuggle out the truth about the conflict in Syria to the world.

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.

Camilla Caraccio is an independent journalist from Italy. She has covered social entrepreneurship in Jordan, human-interest stories in India and environmental issues in Lesotho. She is currently based in southern Italy.

Keywords: Kholoud Waleed Syria syrian civil war Darayya SOAS Damascus Free Women of Darayya Enab Baladi Tamkeen Syria Society Nabil Sharbaji Francesca Gnetti Internazionale Gabriel Huland