23 January 2019: It is not difficult to find heroes at the UN: individuals and communities who, in the face of enormous challenges, maintain a commitment to peace and nonviolence. Najlaa Sheekh, a Syrian refugee in Turkey, exemplifies the power of nonviolence in the midst of the ravages and soul-grinding consequences of war.

This article was originally written by Mary T. Yelenick and published on Pax Christi Peace Stories.

I first met Najlaa late last Fall, at a forum at the UN sponsored in part by Peace Direct, celebrating women from around the world who were making a difference in their communities. The following day, Najlaa joined our UN-NGO Syria Working Group for a discussion of her life and work.

Najlaa and her family once lived a comfortable life in cosmopolitan Damascus. With the breakout of war in Syria, that life ended. A brutal barrel-bomb attack killed members of her family and demolished parts of her neighborhood. In the aftermath, her younger son could not be found. Najlaa and others searched frantically through the rubble for him, eventually finding him – alive, but seriously injured. The only way for Najlaa and her family to secure the medical care her son needed was to flee to Turkey. Her son did survive. But Najlaa and her family remain refugees.

"Herself personally experiencing the deep loss and trauma of displacement, Najlaa recognized that the nightmarish existence confronting Syria refugee women could not be borne alone.”

Upon arrival in Turkey, Najlaa was haunted by the number of older Syrian women in the streets desperately begging for food for themselves and their families. She was also deeply saddened to learn that the only real way for young Syrian refugee women – many of whom had been raised in deeply conservative families – to survive was to join the local houses of prostitution.

Herself personally experiencing the deep loss and trauma of displacement, Najlaa recognized that the nightmarish existence now confronting Syrian refugee women could not be borne alone. So she approached and introduced herself to other women, inviting them to join with her, in her small rented home, to discuss what they could do collectively to adjust to their new realities.

These small gatherings gave birth, in 2013, to a new organization, Kareemat (meaning “women of dignity,” in Arabic). Over the years, Kareemat has functioned as a place of gathering and stability for Syrian women refugees and their families. Kareemat offers counseling and vocational training for women, teaching them sewing and other life skills. To Najlaa’s immense pride, young Syrian refugee women are no longer forced to work as prostitutes; instead, they have acquired , through Kareemat, work skills and community connections that enable them to live a less degrading and dangerous life. In addition to helping Syrian women lead better lives, these new avenues of employment for women afforded by Kareemat also help combat negative stereotypes of Syrian women in Turkey.

Kareemat also engages in a variety of peacebuilding activities: hosting workshops on the dangers of war; facilitating discussion groups regarding the impact of violence against women; and presenting film screenings to raise awareness of the important role of women leaders in effective conflict resolution.

Kareemat also engages in activities designed to dissuade young Syrian refugees, whose passions are sometimes stoked by their vengeful elders, from returning to Syria to pursue armed retaliation. When Najlaa’s own eldest son vowed repeatedly to return to Syria to seek vengeance, she responded that if he insisted on returning to Syria, she would also return, with him, to remain always by his side. Her threat of accompanying him – which her son recognized would place his mother in mortal danger – convinced him to relinquish his dream of retaliation and violence. Instead, both he and his brother have now renounced any plans of revenge, and are directing their energies instead to acquiring an education.

This accomplishment, Najlaa said – her turning her two sons away from perpetuating the cycle of violence – is her proudest personal achievement.

Najlaa’s vision, courage, and fortitude, alone, would have made her remarkable. But what will stay with me most is the message she had for those of us who might be inclined to simply romanticize her story, without connecting it to our ourselves.

"I felt the tyranny and imbalance of a world in which people given vast power over the lives of others – the global decision makers – do not speak even the same language as those who suffer the consequences of their decisions.”

Najlaa explained that she recognized that traveling to the United Nations was a once-in-a-lifetime gift and opportunity for her, and for the women of Kareemat. When she arrived in the United States, she realized that her first obstacle was the fact that few of the people she would meet spoke Arabic, and that she would thus not be able to convey, in her own tongue, the urgency, or nuances, of her personal story. Instead, she would have to rely on the sensitivity and goodwill of an interpreter. (Luckily, her interpreter, Lebanese journalist Sawssan Abou-Zahr, who had previously published an excellent article about Najlaa, https://www.peaceinsight.org/blog/2018/10/remarkable-story-kareemat-and-its-founder, was both an effective and empathetic translator.)

Thus, the first words spoken to us by Najlaa – this woman who has accomplished so much, in unfathomable circumstances – were an apology to us for not being able to speak English. At that moment, I felt the tyranny and imbalance of a world in which people given vast power over the lives of others – the global decision makers – do not speak even the same language as those who suffer the consequences of their decisions.

Najlaa then described to us, repeatedly, her burning desire and goal of returning to her homeland, to help rebuild her country. It is the Syrians themselves, she said, who must solve Syrian problems. It is not for other countries to do. The people being sent to resolve the Syrian crisis should not be special envoys from international organizations, jetting in and out. It should be Syrian women. For it is the women of Syria who best know Syria. It is the women of Syria who best know Syrian families. It is the women of Syria who best know Syrian needs.

Najlaa’s story was both heart-wrenching and memorable. Yet I sensed her holding back.

Finally, after about an hour of questions-and-answers, there seemed to be a shift in our group dynamics. Najlaa sat back, paused, looked at us closely, and asked if she could be frank with us. She seemed finally to trust her audience – despite the imbalance of power and access – to hear what she was really trying to say. We (with some discomfort), urged her to speak honestly.

I want you to listen to me, Najlaa said to us. I want you to remember my words. I want you to remember my story. I want you to think about the way that you, being privileged, are connected with this story. I want you to think not simply about what we Syrian refugees are experiencing, but about what you can and must do to change that story.

She then explained that, in preparation for this trip to the UN, she had made cards (no easy task, living as a refugee) to share with the people she met, listing the contact information for her and for Kareemat. Najlaa had made a significant effort the day before, she said, personally to hand a card to everyone in the room.

And yet at the end of the meeting, most of her cards remained on the table. People had accepted her card, but had not cared enough to take it with them.

Comments

AOl Customer Support on June 3, 2019, 8:31 a.m.

That was really a great post.

Norton Setup on June 3, 2019, 9:20 a.m.

Non-violence is a great gesture when the struggle is against the violent once, and acknowledging such people is a good thing.

QuickBooks Error Code H505 on June 5, 2019, 7:38 a.m.

Your Post is very nice....

QuickBooks Support on June 8, 2019, 12:46 p.m.

Thanks for your post. Here the same, I would like to suggest to You QuickBooks Support. It is the best smarter business tools which resolve any accounting issues in business software. If you are facing a lot of problems to handle the Quickbooks application, just click on my site your query has resolved as soon as possible. Our technical team is always ready for you.

Bamon jek on June 12, 2019, 8:20 p.m.

Read about the eight popular types of fabricate [url=https://stairsprom.ru]stairs[/url], from no-frills models to complex designs. Show your chosen favorites to your contractor to discuss which options matter most to the house

mcafee.com/activate on June 13, 2019, 5:04 a.m.

Nice article..

office.com/setup on June 13, 2019, 5:05 a.m.

office.com/setup- Follow steps to buy an Office setup product key, download & install Office, switch subscription, and more from www.office.com/setup.

norton.com/setup on June 13, 2019, 5:06 a.m.

Norton.com/setup - Looking for how to install, set up Norton antivirus software with setup product key? just follow simple steps for Norton setup via www.norton.com/setup. you can call our Norton support number. we are here 24*7 available for customer service.

Arlo Camera on June 20, 2019, 12:33 p.m.

if you have an arlo camera and you want to update your arlo camera features then visit this website to know more about arlo camera:- <a href="https://arlologin.org/"> Arlo Netgear </a>

Jackpot on July 4, 2019, 6:49 a.m.

This is really an amazing article. Your article is really good and your article has always good content

Affordable Writing Services on July 9, 2019, 5:52 a.m.

When a student custom college papers online, they must be confident that the author will meet their expectations and provide the best affordable writing services online.

Research Paper Services on July 11, 2019, 12:10 p.m.

With our write my term paper online services, students are guaranteed quality services that are offered by professional writers as we are the best research paper writers for hire company.

mcafee.com/activate on July 12, 2019, 6:58 a.m.

Well i am a regular reader of new blogs and i found this one is also such a nice one... keep it up

norton.com/setup on July 12, 2019, 6:59 a.m.

I regularly visit your site and find a lot of interesting information.

mcafee.com/activate on July 12, 2019, 6:59 a.m.

You can not imagine simply how much time I had spent for this information! Thanks!

office.com/setup on July 12, 2019, 9:58 a.m.

By coincidence, I landed on your site and realize that I really liked the design and the information.

mcafee.com/setup on July 12, 2019, 9:58 a.m.

So many article reading but this one is short and easy to understand for all

norton.com/setup on July 12, 2019, 10 a.m.

I found this one pretty fascinating and it should go into my collection. I am Impressed. Thank You!

AOl Support on July 13, 2019, 12:33 p.m.

AOL is a very useful service that offers web-based email service, news, and other useful product.

AOL Tech Support on July 13, 2019, 12:35 p.m.

are you unable to login your AOL account? so, you should contact the AOL tech support team for instant solutions.

vex on July 19, 2019, 8 a.m.

The article gives me lots of useful information. Leave me a lot of deep experience. Hope you have many good articles in the future.

http://www.gebaeudereinigung-kiel.com/ on July 20, 2019, 5:36 a.m.

I am crazy about this blog. I have visit so many time to this blog. I was found this blog from Google.

Bridging loans & Development Finance on July 23, 2019, 4:42 a.m.

I think this is an instructive post and it is extremely helpful and learned. thusly, I might want to thank you for the endeavors you have made

College Paper Writing Service on July 26, 2019, 12:03 p.m.

Our literature research paper services come to your rescue so that you can enjoy school life to the fullest without having to worry about your assignments.We try our best to provide all our clients with what they deserve in their literature research paper work.

Pixel87 on July 28, 2019, 4:58 p.m.

<a href="https://скачатьвидеосютуба.рф/watch/0sU4O8b_6Vg">Build Finger Strength w Magnus Midtbo Method - YouTube</a><br />>Sub to Magnus!>https://youtube.com/magmidt88 >We Made Grip Stuff Click Here> http://gripgenie.co > The OK Podcast with Magnus>https://youtube.com/watch?v...<br /><a href="https://скачатьвидеосютуба.рф/watch/7CijofWM3fU">40 GYM FAILS That Will Leave You Speechless - YouTube</a><br />Follow us on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ig.gymfail/ Follow us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/OfficialOEFitness Video's are used under fair u...<br /><a href="https://скачатьвидеосютуба.рф/watch/AeMDN50Zm0k/">[???] ????? ??? ???????? ???? ??? - YouTube</a><br />??? ???????? ???? ??? ??? ?????? ??? ??? ?? ?????. ????? ??? ???????? ???? ??? - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - Wh...<br /><a href="https://скачатьвидеосютуба.рф/watch/t_78_WFFjfo">450LB MAN BENDS CAST IRON PAN (Frying Pan Fold?) - YouTube</a><br />>We Made Grip Stuff Click Here> http://gripgenie.co >SUBSCRIBE>http://bit.ly/getjuji >CHECK OUT MY STUFF > http://jujimufu.com >Come hang at the OK Fitness/G...<br /><a href="https://скачатьвидеосютуба.рф/watch/tGAxuxSA8Gk/">The Rise of JOHN BRZENK (ARMWRESTLING HIGHLIGHTS) - YouTube</a><br />COOL ARMWRESTLING MERCHANDISE Merchandise: https://teespring.com/en-GB/stores/voice-of-armwrestling The Rise of JOHN BRZENK (ArmWrestling Highlights 1984-201...<br /><a href="https://скачатьвидеосютуба.рф/watch/2gkBhN4A9Dw">The most dangerous punch | Okinawa Karate | Masaaki Ikemiyagi | ??????? | ??????? | ???? - YouTube</a><br />People says that the punch of Okinawa traditional Karate destroies enemy's bones. OK,let's test it. Meibukan Okinawa Dojo 3-22-10,Minami-toubaru,Okinawa-city...<br /><a href="https://скачатьвидеосютуба.рф/watch/HSF38rofn_o">Devon Larratt comes to Oregon - YouTube</a><br />Random footage of Devon Larratt's Oregon seminar in September 2017. I had to edit the clips heavily because of the noisy kids in the background but still goo...<br /><a href="https://скачатьвидеосютуба.рф/watch/hYuMN206Jzo">Monty Halls' Dive Mysteries: The Curse of The Blue Hole | History Documentary | Reel Truth History - YouTube</a><br />Marine biologist Monty Halls is on a mystery to solve some of the greatest mysteries in the world of diving. In this episode, Monty visits the most dangerous...<br /><a href="https://скачатьвидеосютуба.рф/watch/iOzAFSWcxk4">[???] ??? 3? 500 VS ??? ?? - YouTube</a><br />??? ??? ?????? ???? ?? ???? :D #??? #????? #???<br /><a href="https://скачатьвидеосютуба.рф/watch/AZC2JBeaXrw">Magnus Midtbo | OK Podcast #2 - YouTube</a><br />WANT AUDIO? Subscribe to: Spotify, Itunes, and Soundcloud below: Watch live on Twitch every Friday http://twitch.tv/oktom Sub to Mag

www.McAfee.com/Activate Total Protection Product K on Oct. 8, 2019, 9:16 a.m.

whatever you have written in you blog is knowledgeable and any one can easily understand but if you don’t mind I would like to tell everyone if anyone Having problems to use www McAfee com/Activate Total Protection Product Key then don’t be panic we are here to support you and solve all your issues of mcafee Antivirus. for more information visit our website.

mcafee activate product key on Oct. 9, 2019, 11:31 a.m.

i have just read your complete blog so i can say this is literally a informative content for me and also many peoples.so please keep posting this kind of content because its helps beginers and experienced also. we are also providing services for mcafee.com/activate if you have any problem regarding mcafee antivirus then you can visit our website.

aol email security settings on Oct. 12, 2019, 9:01 a.m.

Content is amazing and informative i hope so you will write more content like this but if you are facing problem in your aol email security settings then contact us or visit our website.

Canon Printer Technical Support on Oct. 15, 2019, 7:25 a.m.

I read your blog and I found it very useful and informative. I also write blog and in that I provide information related to Canon printer and not only Knowledge sharing we also provide service for any type of incovinience or any help related to Canon Printers you can use CANON PRINTER TECHNICAL SUPPORT or you can contact to the experts.

McAfee.com/myaccount on Oct. 15, 2019, 9:12 a.m.

This kind of article is very informative and expressive throughout all the content. But apart from this if you are facing problems like McAfee.com/myaccount then feel free to just contact us or visit our website.

www.mcafee.com activate download on Oct. 15, 2019, 12:09 p.m.

Hello I am so delighted I located your Page, I really located you by mistake, while I was watching on google for something else, Anyways I am here now and if you any trouble www.mcafee.com activate download you can cantact us. could just like to say thank for a tremendous post and a all round entertaining website. Please do keep up the great work.

www.McAfee.com/Activate Total Protection Product on Oct. 16, 2019, 1:35 p.m.

i have just read your complete blog so i can say this is literally a informative content for me and also many peoples.so please keep posting this kind of content because its helps beginers and experienced also. we are also providing services for www.McAfee.com/Activate Total Protection Product Key if you www.McAfee.com/Activate Total Protection Product Key then you can visit our website.

www mcafee com login on Oct. 16, 2019, 1:47 p.m.

this is very informative blog and i am loving it please keep posting this type of content. we are also provide services for www mcafee com login if you have an issue to login your McAfee you can visit our website for more information.reach out us we are happy to help you

Best Digital Marketing Service Providers in Noida on Oct. 17, 2019, 12:45 p.m.

Your Content is impressive and attractive and our company the integrity webs are the Best Digital Marketing Service Providers in Noida . We do SEO, SMO, and many more things to grow your business on the digital platform so visit our website or contact us.

Gorgeous Female Escorts in Delhi on Oct. 21, 2019, 6:56 a.m.

The mind-boggling article it was noteworthy, I like to examine such kind of articles, there I kept running over piles of information and it was very helpful and educational for me eventually this site ideal for my knowledge I need.

Delhi Escorts Service on Oct. 21, 2019, 6:56 a.m.

I am cheery to be here and this splendid article. I've found here a lot of interesting information for the knowledge I need. all that you provide for us, it was very valuable and supportive, you shake for sharing this astonishing post.

Delhi Escort on Oct. 21, 2019, 6:56 a.m.

I like your incredible post. I wanted to embrace such kind of article. likewise, without a doubt the first occasion when I visit our site. likewise, I fulfilled to be here, an obligation of appreciation is all together for sharing this astonishing post.

Research Paper Services on Oct. 22, 2019, 12:41 p.m.

Cheap Term Paper Writing Service provide 100% top-quality custom papers for all Custom Writing Service. All orders are completed according to clients’ requirements, and the Assignment Writing Services are crafted to suit the requirements of every student.

More from the blog

In this blog post, peace activist Malalai Habibi discusses women's inclusion in the Afghanistan peace process. She calls for action that paves the way for more participation from people from all walks of life in the peace process, to steer the country country towards a peaceful and inclusive future. Read more »

16 August 2019

This report, a collaboration between Peace Direct and the Alliance for Peacebuilding, explores the effectiveness of local peacebuilding, sharing real and impactful initiatives from around the world. Read more »

In this blog, former Peace Direct intern Celia Carbajosa spoke to leading social entrepreneur, activist and Rotary Peace Fellow Maria Gabriela Arenas about an approach to violence which she thinks is largely overlooked: that of visual arts and innovative education. Gaby is the founder of TAAP (“Taller de Aprendizaje para las Artes y el Pensamiento”), a foundation based on promoting peaceful living and learning through creative workshops. Read more »

08 April 2019

More from the blog