Eman Shahoud was a lawyer and a judge in the Syrian Court of Appeal. Now she is a member of the UN constitutional committee that is working on a new constitution for Syria. She doesn’t want to talk about what she is doing there. But she talks freely about her work for women here in Sweden.
Eman’s flat in Hanaskog is full of documents. Many of them contain Syrian cases. We speak to one another in Arabic, but her Swedish is good. We talk for two hours.
It soon becomes clear that she is ambitious. She has a degree in law and worked for several years as a lawyer in Aleppo, Syria. She had many difficult cases to deal with.
– I enjoyed working as a lawyer, but I want to develope, she says.
When the Syrian revolution got under way Eman was working as a judge. It was dangerous work, and she received many threats. Her brother was killed in Syria. She tried to find out what had happened, and discovered that an armed group within the Syrian police was responsible.
– How can I go on working as a judge and fighting for other people’s rights when I can’t get justice for myself, Eman wonders.
– My brother’s death was a turning-point in my life. I began to think about helping and supporting people in their demands for political rights, she says.
”I worked from early in the morning until late in the evening, I was used to hard work. But I was threatened by extremist opposition groups because I am a woman who works as a judge. That goes against their convictions”
She moved to an area that was not under the control of the Syrian regime. In 2012 she started working as a judge in a group called the ”Indepenent Syrian Judicial Council”.
– I worked from early in the morning until late in the evening, I was used to hard work. But I was threatened by extremist opposition groups because I am a woman who works as a judge. That goes against their convictions, she explains.
Eman grew up in a family that valued equality. She learned early on that the role of Syrian women in society was weak, both before and during the war.
– It was during this period that my colleagues and I founded the women’s group ”Syrian Women’s Network”, she says.
The group was supported by many international organisations, including ”Kvinna till Kvinna” (Woman to Woman) and the ”Olof Palme International Centre”. The purpose of the organisation is to give women support and encourage them to take an active part in politics and social life.
In 2014 Eman decided to come to Sweden. Her work to support women still goes on.
”Sweden takes a positive view of the fact that a woman has different roles in society, not just as a wife and mother”
– Sweden takes a positive view of the fact that a woman has different roles in society, not just as a wife and mother.
– When I got my residence permit my first thought was how to support new arrivals, says Eman. So she started the ”Kvinnosol” group.
Why a group to support women’s rights in Sweden?
– There are a lot of new arrivals who don’t know their rights and obligations, for themselves and for their children. We work for equality and help women from a different background to take their place in the community.
Eman is brimming with ideas, but her language difficulties and her work on writing and changing the new Syrian laws take up a lot of her time.
– I work alongside 150 civil rights activists. We discuss, alter and write the new Syrian constitution, she says.
– We all work within the UN framework. Our aim is to secure a peaceful shift of power and establish a democracy.
What are you doing just now?
– I’m concentrating on finding a team who can help me in the group and help new arrivals into the life of the community, she says.
I work alongside 150 civil rights activists. We discuss, alter and write the new Syrian constitution, she says.
Born: 1970 in Damascus, the capital of Syria.
Lives: in Hanaskog, came to Sweden in 2014.
Family: Husband and four children: Hadi, aged 21, Sali, 19, Hani, 18, and Sara Bakro, 11.
Work: Taught Arabic-speakers Arabic in Sibbhult in 2016-17. Studied Swedish in Hanaskog 2018-19. Lawyer and judge in the Syrian Court of Appeal. At present she is a member of a constitutional committee within UN.
Leisure: spends time with family and friends. Is working on preparations for a new Syrian constitution. Is learning Swedish.