Previously on this blog I featured a guest post by a female writer from Ma'arat al-Nu'man on the phenomenon of children at work in the Idlib region of northwest Syria. In another post for my site that I have translated below she writes on widows in the Idlib region.
Note that this article was written in January 2020, but I have only gotten round to translating and publishing it now.
By Nada al-Mahmoud
Widows of war in Idlib, between despair and the challenge of reality
With heavy tears Maysaa said goodbye to her daughter who is two years old, before leaving her in the care of her grandmother and walking with her father to his house.
Maysaa is from the town of Ma'arat al-Nu'man and her husband died six months ago, so her father decided to marry her to another man, as she is still in the prime of life, and she cannot complete her life alone.
Maysaa is one of thousands of Syrian women who have lost the husband and provider because of the war, and on their shoulder has become the responsibility of raising the children, and spending on them despite the scarcity of work opportunities and the dire living conditions.
Maysaa's father justifies the reason for preventing her daughter from looking after her own daughter by saying: "The society does not have mercy on the widow, and watches over her constantly. As for the child, she will grow up and get married, and will find my daughter by herself alone and without support or provider, and her marriage is a natural right, and is a protection for her from here-say."
Many of the widowed women have chosen to work, and have struggled despite the difficulty of the living situation to find a door of provision through which the can spend on their orphaned children in spite of the obstacles and difficulties that impede the path of their work.
Umm Adel a widow from the locality of Jerjenaz south Idlib, makes clear that the biggest difficulty she has faced after the death of her husband is securing the needs of her children, and the fact she has been compelled to work outside the home and leave her children for hours without supervision, and concerning that she says: "I faced great difficulty to find work after the death of my husband, until I managed to work as an employee in one of the hospitals with a small salary that barely suffices for my family to the end of the month, but it remains better than nothing.
She adds that she has faced many criticisms from her surrounding society as she is a widow and works outside her house.
For her part Umm Muhammad a widow from Khan Sheikhoun, affirmed that the living difficulties are considered the most important challenges that face widowed women in Idlib, especially after the relief aid stopped almost completely during the recent time, and concerning that she says: "I lost my husband in September 2013, and I have three children, therefore I looked for work that should free me of dependency on anyone."
Umm Muhammad points out she works in agriculture alongside raising some sheep, and she earns from the dividends of her work some profits that help her to secure necessities for her house." Umm Muhammad adds: "Rarely does the woman find the one to provide for her after the death of her husband, whether from her husband's relatives or her relatives, because the situation in Syria and the obscene expensiveness have made all preoccupied with securing what is necessary for her family, and this makes the likes of me marginalized and forgotten except from some scarce relief provisions or rare aid from here and there."
The forty-something Umm Hassan from the town of Idlib is not in the best state, as on her shoulder has come the burden of raiding her four descendants after the death of their father and mother during the war.
"It is out war that we are waging in our daily lives"- thus Umm Hassan expresses the difficulty of living with the onerous living situation, and the difficulty of securing the lowest limit of income to provide necessities for her and her children, as she lives in a small and old rented apartment.
Umm Hassan has found in tailoring a means of hope to help her continue, and in so far as she has skill in this field, she has first begun repairing old clothes and shortening new ones at reduced prices, and after that she moved to tailoring basic pieces, securing from its dividends the dignified life.
The sufferings of the widow do not stop at this extent but also extend to her sufferings from lack of availability of secure income, in addition to the problems that she faces with the husbands family, like the intervention of the family of the husband in raising the children and imposition of their opinions on her, and limiting her movement and restricting her going out of the house, asnd casting doubts on her ability to care for the children. In addition they prevent her from completing her studies, and intervene in her private affairs, and in addition to all that the widow faces negative social treatment such as some of the female friends and the relatives avoiding her out of fear for their spouses, which leads her to feel despair and isolation, in addition to the face most of them suffer from lack of presence of an independent house to live in with her children.
Most of the humanitarian aid organizations and projects that offer their services to the widows and orphans in general play limited roles in reducing the difficulties of life upon them, as there are no sufficient and comprehensive programs serving this group that faces considerable economic and social problems, especially as the husband's family always share with the wide the financial payments offered to her children, despite the fact these payments generally do not suffice for her as expenditure money for her and her children especially after the rise in the prices of everything by multiple times.
With the rise of the tone of the war the numbers of the widows in Idlib have been increasing during the past few years, and most of them are facing considerable social and economic difficulties compounded with their pains, grieving and sadness after the loss of the partner of life.