(2/9) In 2007, I moved to Damascus and I started working in the drama field. I wrote a second TV series and other films and a lot of things, and I always had serious problems but nothing like the first one.
The regime had the power to imprison or to kill me but there were many things which were preventing them. Firstly, I am from the Druze minority in Syria, which is very sensitive about harming a woman, and the government was worried there might be an uprising at that time. Secondly, as my name became even more famous, it became more difficult for them to harm me without anyone knowing. Thirdly, at that time the president was trying to make himself appear better than his father. He was trying to affect international opinion, and to improve his relationship with the US. Finally, whenever I was giving my opinion, I was careful to show that I was only speaking about community and law issues, not directly criticising the government. And this was tricky for them. They hated me, but they couldn’t put me in prison.
At that time, if anyone said anything bad about the president, they would come, put them in jail, torture them, and kill them. We lost a lot of people because of that. I was not as brave as those people, but I had children to think about. Around that time, my husband and I divorced, but we always kept a respectful relationship with each other, and he eventually remarried. My children stayed with me.
In 2011, the Arab Spring started. All of us had been waiting for this moment. It started in Tunisia, and the most important image for me was of an old man, a lawyer, standing on the street at night, turning around and shouting, ‘Bin Ali, run away! Bin Ali run away!’ This image made me dream of having this same moment in our country, standing on the street like him shouting.
I started secretly meeting with young people who I thought would start an uprising in Damascus. In Egypt, the same feeling was rising, so we held our first protest near the Egyptian embassy. It was not only to support the Egyptian people, but also to test the regime, to see their reaction to us being in the street, because at that time going to the street with a group of people to say anything was not allowed.
There were only about 30 people protesting, but within minutes, about 500 intelligence and security had surrounded us. After 30 minutes, we had to run away. They had just wanted to make us afraid, so nothing happened. That was the first time we protested on the street, and it was a strange feeling for me. The second time was by the Libyan embassy, with around 100 people. At that protest, it was the first time that the Syrian people said a sentence that later became famous. ‘It is a traitor who is killing his own people!’
This is the second of nine posts which will be published over the course of the next week telling the story of Syrian activist, Rima Flihan.
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