Al Jazeera Close Up

Syria’s Woman of Hope | Close Up

As one of a few female mental health professionals in Syria’s Idlib province, Abeer al-Faris has her work cut out for her.

Every day, she gets up at dawn to manage the Dar al-Amal Education Village, an independent care centre for widows and orphans of war.

The village is one of a few sanctuaries in Atmeh, a small but growing town in northern Idlib, where residents receive free healthcare, education and counselling.

But managing a mental health facility in a war zone, as Abeer explains, is not for the faint of heart. As well as a lack of funding, resources and skilled personnel, she has to battle conservative opinions about her work.

“The biggest difficulty has been getting around without a male guardian,” she says, “I’ve tried to persuade them that there’s no religious objection for women to work but it’s hard for society to accept this view.”

After years of civil war in Syria, Idlib is the last remaining rebel-held territory in the country.

Continuing violence throughout 2020 has resulted in hundreds of thousands of people fleeing their homes to IDP camps in northern Idlib, compounding the already disastrous humanitarian situation. And residents are facing a critical lack of access to quality primary healthcare – especially mental health services.

According to The World Health Organization, one in 30 people suffer from severe mental health conditions, while one in five has “mild to moderate” conditions.

“Behind each of these doors, there’s a story of tragedy,” Abeer admits, “But it’s also a story of hope,” she says, smiling.


Director: Horia El Hadad

Producer: Horia El Hadad, Ahmad AlKhatib, Ala Alhussan

Camera: Horia El Hadad, Michael McEvoy

Translator: Noha Aboelenien

Editor: Horia El Hadad, Ala Alhussan, Andrew Phillips

Executive Producer: Andrew Phillips

Special thanks: Fiona Lawson-Baker, Reem Haddad, Ingrid Falck