According to UN military adviser Major General Patrick Cammaert, “it is now more dangerous to be a woman than to be a soldier in modern conflict”. Against these odds, the Syrian women who have become refugees in what is now the fourth largest refugee population in the world continue their largely invisible daily struggle to protect themselves and their families from physical and spiritual harm. In her new documentary “Not Who We Are”, Lebanese director Carol Mansour makes it personal, giving voice to five female Syrian refugees in Lebanon and showing how each in her own way is resiliently facing her destiny.
The indignities confronting them–living in tents, sharing poor housing with other families with only curtains separating them, and giving infants tea instead of milk top the long list—lead them to say that this is “not who we are”. Yet each woman works hard to build a new life from poor conditions.
Single young Afraa, for example, sings Fairuz and prepares for a promised concert. Oum Raed and Oum Omar try to offer their children a “normal” life, while Siham, a widowed Syrian-Palestinian who is a life-long refugee, finds her way into social work. And all long for home. “We say to the moon,” one says laughing, “if you go to Syria, give her our regards.”
Like hundreds of thousands of other Syrian women surviving daily brutalities, faith in a better future gives them strength. Mansour’s film pays homage to their ability to say “thanks be to God” with a broad smile still bearing up under a lot of pain.
For more information – “Not Who We Are” website