Interview with Zaina Erhaim: covering the Syrian war as a journalist, activist and woman

Zaina Erhaim was working for a newspaper in Damasco when the Syrian revolution started in 2011. Soon Ms. Erhaim turned from a local journalist into a war reporter in her homeland. And it was not an easy job. Ms. Erhaim has narrated all difficulties related to covering the Syrian war as a journalist, an activist and a woman.

If an international journalist goes to Syria to report, that journalist would be targeted by some of the groups involved in the conflict. When Zaina Erhaim reports from Syria, she is monitored and targeted by all groups. Either you work as a propagandist for them or your life will be in danger, Ms. Erhaim explains. If an international journalist covering Syria suddenly has any trouble, she or he can always seek for help from the national authorities of his or her country of origin. Zaina Erhaim does not have such institutional support, she is rather afraid of her government: “My country is my enemy”, she says. An international journalist goes to Syria for work but can always return back home. Ms. Erhaim is covering a war in her own homeland, there is no other home where she can go back to. And although Ms. Erhaim could apply for asylum in a neighboring country, Syrians are experiencing more and more troubles when doing so. If an international journalist tells a story from Syria, it will not be questioned. On the contrary, Syrian journalists, are considered less reliable, less credible. Furthermore, because Zaina Erhaim is a woman, she cannot report without a man following her.

Despite all threats and challenges, Zaina Erham keeps reporting on the Syrian war, not simply because she likes her job but because she feels it is an obligation for those who were were kidnapped, tortured and killed for doing their job. Because when an international journalist covers the war in Syria, she or he is reporting on international affairs whereas when Ms. Erhaim writes about the Syrian war, she is narrating the suffering of her acquaintances, her friends, her family.