Women during an English language session at MySpace in June 2016.
(Photo: IWPR)

Hoe kun je mensen in Syrië nog bereiken en helpen? Laat staan ze iets bijbrengen wat hun bestaan kan verlichten of een klein beetje hoop voor de toekomst biedt? Deze week is IWPR's nieuwsbrief helemaal gewijd aan ons programma in dit zwaar beproefde land. Een overzicht van de projecten die dankzij de steun van het Nederlandse Ministerie van Buitenlandse Zaken nog steeds doorgang vinden, ongeacht alle strijd.

My Space Idlib, a centre providing women with the opportunity to access the internet and earn computer skills, has had nearly 300 visitors in the last quarter.

Like My Space Aleppo, another centre funded through IWPR’s other projects, the project provides a safe environment for women to mingle while boosting digital literacy and their ability to communicate with the outside world. This is particularly important given that many Syrian women are unable to use public internet cafés because men and women are not allowed to mix in such places.

Three female staff members also provide advice, technical assistance and training on a daily basis.

Success Stories in My Space Centers in Syria

Operating on a first-come, first-served basis, visitors can learn how to use email and social media safely - users have so far created 30 email accounts and 64 Facebook accounts – as well as how to work with documents and spreadsheets. The centre now has one room for first aid training, one for internet, computer, Microsoft Office and CV writing instruction and one for English language courses. My Space began offering English language and nursing training in April 2016 after many requests from centre’s users.

Despite the siege on the city, the IWPR Aleppo centre has kept working, and 54 women have visited it in the last month alone.

IWPR Digital Security Training

Participants from IWPR’s network of stakeholders and project staff learnt key skills to protect themselves online during two digital security trainings held between March 29 and April 8, 2016. The workshops involved lessons on how to prevent computers being compromised by malware and hackers as well as how to secure and safely delete sensitive files. Other skills included how to keep internet communication private, as well as how to both remain anonymous and bypass censorship on the internet. The training also covered staying safe on social networking sites and minimising risks when using smartphones.

Eighty-five per cent of the war in Syria is a digital war rather than purely being a war of arms, especially in terms of the different parties of the conflict collecting information,” said a project manager from one of the participating CSOs. “I will pass this knowledge from the training on to my staff.

Outcomes of IWPR's Digital Security Trainings

Most of the trainees said that they had not been aware of the various ways hackers could attack and infiltrate computer systems. Upon completion of the training, they were able to use their new tools to draft a comprehensive digital security work plan, and left determined to pass these skills to staff and friends to make their organisations and networks safer. The trainer also set up mailing lists to share the latest digital security news to enable trainees to stay up as to date and as safe as possible.

Digital Security training is vital to Syrian activists as we are continuously falling victim to cyber-attacks
— A participant at the training

Training Citizen Journalists and Activists

Award winning journalist Zaina Erhaim led an introductory-level media training for 12 citizen journalists and civil society activists between May 30 and June 3, 2016.

Ten trainees from nine different civil society organisations and two freelance citizen journalists working in the Syria context covered topics including how to write news and features, conduct interviews and plan investigative reports. They also examined the relationship between civil society and the media as well as the best ways to carry out campaigns on social media.

Every part of the training was accompanied with a practical exercise that meant trainees began writing their first articles immediately. 

Within just one month, four of the participants had submitted features to IWPR's Damascus Bureau website. One piece, by Mohammad Qarah Ali, assessed the difficulty in updating the civil registry in Homs while another by Hamza Khodr was about refugee children dropping out of school in Turkey, specifically Gaziantep. Two more are currently being edited.

When I was released from Assad’s jails I needed to write about my experience and describe the bad humanitarian situation in the prisons, but I could not because of my lack of expertise in journalism, IWPR’s training has provided me with the skills to report on the grave situation.
— A member of the al-Khadraa NGO
I attended this training because I was studying media but stopped because of the war. I could not find a replacement other than attending media courses to cover the gaps I have to achieve my wish in working in journalism
— A participant at the training

Damascus Bureau Highlights

The number of page views of the Damascus Bureau was 12,928 this quarter, an increase of 5,385 views from the previous quarter. The Damascus Bureau Facebook page received 55 new followers.

The most viewed Civil Society Monitor story this quarter was about the Syrian Humanitarian Institute for National Empowerment (Shine), which helps young people find job so they have a reason to stay in Syria.

“Enrolling at the institute gave me a chance to stay in Syria,” said Fuad al-Basha, a 23-year-old who was on the verge of leaving Maarat al-Numan to seek a new life in Europe. He began studying IT with Shine and is now determined to stay in Syria.

“I’m learning a profession that I love, and when I master it I will be armed with a skill that will help me face the harsh reality we live in,” he said.

A version of this article also appeared in the Syrian Observer on June 23, 2016.

Women's Blogs on the Radio

A new radio show based on the Damascus Bureau’s women blogs has began airing on Radio SouriaLi.

Jadael – Braids – airs biweekly on the station, which caters mainly for a Syrian audience. SouriaLi has also published 11 women’s blog stories on its site, including She Gave Me Strength by Sima al-Khalidi.

This moving story described the author’s work as a nurse in Homs. Even when a massacre took place in al-Khalidya in which 100 people were killed and 200 injured, al-Khalidi kept up her work. She continues to cross through regime checkpoints to reach her patients despite being arrested on more than one occasion.