The Current

ENCORE: Syrian journalist Zaina Erhaim shares harrowing stories of life between bombings

She is 30 years old, a Syrian who had a good job in the U.K. but went back to Syria because it is Zaina Erhaim's home, and as a journalist, she has work to do. Zaina Erhaim brings us into her troubled world to share the stories of women during war.
Syrian journalist Zaina Erhaim is the 2015 winner of the Peter Mackler Award for Courageous and Ethical Journalism. Winning the award reminded Zaina Erhaim, "when living in horror for all these years, it is normal to feel abandoned and forget that there is someone listening or reading to our stories and that she or he actually cares." (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images)
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When Syria's brutal civil war broke out, Syrian journalist Zaina Erhaim was working for the BBC in London. But as violence intensified and locals began to flee the country — she chose to return home to Syria.

Erhaim spoke with The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti in December to talk about why it was important to go back home and document the stories of women still living amid the fighting.

"I always say it. I didn't go back to be a war correspondent. I never wanted to be one. I just went back because this is my home and I do belong to the people," she says.

Erhaim produced a documentary featuring the stories of citizen journalists who were documenting what it was like living through the war. She says she wanted to train women to tell their own stories.

Preview Zaina Erhaim's documentary, Syria's Rebellious Women

"Having something to document their work is essential, because [women] get neglected when men write our history," says Erhaim who was the Syria project co-ordinator for the Institute for War and Peace Reporting at the time she spoke to Tremonti.

I can't imagine any future, neither for myself nor for Syria at all. It's very black.- Syrian journalist  Zaina   Erhaim

Working in Aleppo, Erhaim beared witness to the reality of living through war that she had to process.

"This is the life. You can't get used to it, seeing dead bodies in the street, but you find your way to adapt to it."

Erhaim's experience also prompted hopelessness that she still carries.

"I can't imagine any future for myself or Syria. It is very black."

Journalist Zaina Erhaim says she felt it was her duty to return home to Syria after the war started but adds it's also a burden. Still, she feels it's important to make sure the stories of women living in Syria are not lost. (Courtesy of Zaina Erhaim)

However, Erhaim says that Canada plays a special role in reviving what little hope she does have.

"The only thing that happened recently and made me again believe a bit in humanity is what happened with Canada and the refugees. That brought tears into my eyes because I really felt like no it's not done, someone cares. That was very touching," Erhaim tells Tremonti.

Since The Current spoke with Zaina Erhaim, the situation in Aleppo has become more desperate for many civilians who live there. Aleppo is now under siege, with government-allied forces choking off a critical supply route from a rebel-held area of the city.  

Erhaim now has a baby daughter and is living in Turkey. Her husband, Mahmoud Rashwani, remains in a besieged rebel-held area of Aleppo.
 

Listen to the full conversation at the top of this web post and hear some of the stories from the citizen journalists.

This segment was produced by The Current's Liz Hoath.