Hala Al Nasser

Produced by: Sharq.Org
Part of the Curated Collection: Syrian Histories,
Original Interview Length:
Interview Location: Turkey
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“His features were changed. They were tired from lack of sun exposure. We did not speak much then but silence and glances expressed our feelings.”

Hala al-Nasser grew up in Raqqa province, where she completed her primary and preparatory education. She then moved to Hama in order to continue her studies at the teacher training institute.

Hala saysRaqqa is a tribal region and its society differs from the conservative society of Hama. We girls who came to study there had suffered some societal pressures in Hama, especially since we were not veiled.” She continues, “I come from a conservative family and follow customs and tradition but not strict ones. For example, my father had agreed to me going at an early age to study in the city of Hama. This was during the seventies."

Four years later, Hala graduated from the institute and began to teach in the city of Tabaqa in Raqqa province. It was during that time that she met her husband. He was a member of an opposition party. She adds,Tabaqa's society is mixed and consists of people originally from several other Syrian provinces. During my time there, I gained rich social experience and met people from different walks of life.” She continues, “My husband was then an active member of an underground opposition party, and although I used to encourage that approach, I did not dare engage in that kind of activity personally.”

When Hala's husband got arrested in 1987, their son was only three months old. She was shocked and went through a very difficult period of her life. She says about these times, “It was a very difficult period, during which I hated the people and the social environment, so I lost the desire to breastfeed, worsening my mental state. Despite my parents and friends’ attempts to stand by me and give me moral support, what I faced was social rejection. This came even from some of my close friends because of their fear of the security services - they thought that being associated with us was a threat to them.”

Hala relied on herself and on her own work in order to raise her child throughout the period of her husband's arrest. She was able to visit him only three and a half years later, after a message was smuggled to her by a visitor of her husbands' prison mates. This message revealed that he was incarcerated in Sednaya prison in Damascus.

Hala recounts, “I went to Sednaya prison with my friend, who herself was a political prisoner. In those days, there was cooperation and solidarity between the wives of the detainees. I saw my husband for only five minutes. He was sitting behind an iron net. His features were changed. They were tired from lack of sun exposure. We did not speak much then but silence and glances expressed our feelings.”

Hala and her son, Mu'mal, waited for seven years, hoping to receive care and love from her own and her husband's family to compensate for the emotional shortfall caused by her husband’s absence. A few years later, he was sentenced to ten years in prison. The news shattered Hala who had hoped the sentence time would be shorter.

During the last years before her husband's release from prison, Hala sought to buy her own home and was able to achieve this by taking a bank loan, by taking on work teaching special courses and lessons to students, and with help from her parents.

In 1988, her husband was released from prison. Some problems emerged between him and Mu’mal who was not used to his father’s presence in the house. This was especially true when his father was hard on him regarding his studies as previously everyone had pampered him.

The family went through difficult financial times as Abu Mu'mal could not easily secure a job after his prison release. Hala had to pay for living expenses and the mortgage at the same time. She made a great effort, juggling her job and private tutoring after work. She continued to do so for almost 20 years until she retired.