Sarah al-Hourani’s life changed dramatically with the Syrian uprising in 2011. Until the protests that rocked her hometown of Daraa over the arrest and torture of 15 students for posting anti-Assad graffiti, Sarah had trained and worked as a journalist at a state owned media agency in the capital. “Like all news outlets in Syria,” explains Sarah, “our work was controlled and monitored by the authorities. My life was pretty monotonous.” Things weren’t to stay that way.
Along with scores of others, Sarah’s three brothers were detained during the protests. “At this point I knew that my life was in danger,” describes Sarah, “I went back to my hometown and changed careers in a way, volunteering my skills as a journalist. I wanted the world to know what is taking place in my country.”
As the violence escalated, Sarah took on other volunteer roles:
“With more casualties among civilians and an increasing need for emergency response volunteers, I joined the White Helmets. One of the main reasons why I joined was the death of my youngest brother who was killed by a sniper in 2013. We all stood there watching him without being able to do anything to save his life, because of the sniper and not having the emergency response skills. In order to overcome my guilt and to be able to help save lives, I joined the White Helmets.”
The White Helmets, a group of emergency first responders operating in opposition held areas in Syria, began accepting female volunteers in 2015. Since then more than 100 women like Sarah have joined the organization.
Sarah’s efforts to help her fellow Syrians haven’t stopped here, though. She recently joined our team of Digital First Responders, working on the ground to help keep Syrians safe online too. On her work as a digital security trainer, Sarah said:
“Internet is a lifeline for Syrians in general, but specifically for those under siege. Everyday Syrians face physical and virtual threats. In being a first responder with the White Helmets and with SalamaTech, I am trying my best to help my community.”
Sarah al-Hourani inspires us.