Ihab Al-Said

Produced by: Sharq.Org
Part of the Curated Collection: Syrian Histories,
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Interview Location: Turkey
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"Our village in Slinfah was gradually stolen by some Alawites, who became officers and power holders in the region, especially after the events of the 1980s."

Ihab al-Said was born in 1965 in Qadisiyah village in Al-Haffah region of the Latakia province.

Ihab says that Al-Haffah community was composed of three main groups, notably Sunni Muslims, Alawites and Christians. In the past, there had existed no problems between these groups, but some Alawites dominated, especially after the events of the 1980s. In relation to this, Ihab says, “We were a well-off family that owned land and goods. We owned a village in the Slinfah area and another one called Baruda. A group of bandits stopped my grandfather and forced to sign an agreement that took our last property away. The village in Slinfah was gradually taken away by some Alawites, who also grew up to become officers and people of influence in the area; this was true especially following the events of the 1980s.”

Ihab did not complete her studies but later regretted not having done so since most of her family members and relatives had completed their education. Later, she went on to successfully pass her high school exams. She tried afterwards to enroll in the female teachers' class at the institute but was not admitted because she was not a Baath party member. She says, “My father tried to enroll me in a Lebanese university but he did not succeed. Then, I tried to register at the Sport Institute of Aleppo, but my father changed his mind and prevented me from doing so on the advice of one of his friends. This is why I taught primary school students using the hiring system for about three years.”

Ihab got married and moved to Izzaz in the countryside of Aleppo where, since she was in no financial need, she stopped working and was free to concentrate on raising her children and taking care of their education. She adds, "My husband's family came from Izzaz's closed society, which was opposed to the more open Latakian community. The women of Izzaz covered their faces and were prevented from going out on their own, which was not common in our region. My husband, however, was a decent and understanding man, and did not force anything onto me, so I was the only daughter-in- law who did not cover her face in the family."

Three years later, Ihab moved with her husband to live in Aleppo, where she initially faced social rejection because people thought she was Alawite since she was from Latakia province. "Most of my female neighbors were religiously observant Aleppine women wearing the face veil, and I was the only one wearing a normal hijab," she says. "They thought I was Alawite and treated me with disdain but over time I got to know them more and developed good relations with them."

One of the most difficult experiences that Ihab faced during her life was when her husband was taken away for about one year on charges of political opposition. He was arrested and transferred to a security branch in Damascus. Ihab explains, “The shock was so great on the family that none of my brothers or relatives dared to come to Damascus to ask about my husband's condition or the charges brought against him. I went with my son to Damascus, and when we arrived we took a taxi. The driver didn't dare to take us to the security branch door so he parked his car in a remote place and we continues there on foot.”

She tried hard to help her husband and lodged a complaint with the Minister of the Interior himself. Her husband was finally transferred to Aleppo after 6 months of being detained in Damascus. She says, “These was very rough times. I took charge of the children and covered my husband's work in his real estate office. I followed up on his legal status by appointing a lawyer for him until he was finally released. Although my own and my husband’s family did not help me much during that time, many of my female friends and neighbors stood with me, helped me with housework, and prepared food for the children during my absence.