🎗️Faten🎗️, known affectionately as Um Samih (mother of Samih), is a Palestinian-Syrian from Damascus. She holds a degree in English Literature from the University of Damascus and before the revolution was working in translation.
When the revolution broke out she participated in peaceful protests and civil disobedience such as the sit-in at Tiliani hospital, Damascus, to condemn the Houla massacre in May 2012. During the massacre, which had a strong sectarian character, civilians, including many children, were brutally killed in summary executions by regime affiliated militia in a small village on the outskirts of Houla.
Due to her peaceful resistance to the regime, Um Samih was arrested on more than one occasion and subjected to insults and torture whilst in regime detention. The security services also arrested her son, Samih Bahra, a medical student who was assisting injured protesters. After her third release from detention, she moved to Eastern Ghouta, the then liberated suburbs of Damascus.
In Eastern Ghouta, life was becoming more and more difficult. Due to the tight siege imposed by the regime, food and medical supplies could not enter, and people were starving. The liberated area was subjected to constant aerial bombardment.
To help those in need Um Samih established a food kitchen, which she ran based on individual donations mainly from Syrian expatriates. She became famous for transporting the food she prepared all over Ghouta in her Suzuki, delivering it under bombs to those sheltering in basements.
As her work expanded, the project became known as the One Hand Foundation. Um Samih and her team tried to build self-sufficiency under siege. They set up a small farm with chickens and goats and grew vegetables to distribute to families for free and use in the food kitchen. They also delivered medicines, firewood and blankets, worked to support orphans, provide recreational activities for children and helped fix houses damaged by shelling.
Following the fall of Ghouta, Um Samih was forced to leave, along with thousands of others, fearing a return to regime control. She was displaced to Al-Atareb in northern Syria where she re-opened her kitchen to provide food for the forcibly displaced.
She notably said, “The homeland is not a geographical territory. It is the people who have left with us, those who will stay by our side, and who we shall stay by theirs.”
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