“Blooming in the Desert” is a short documentary which tells the story of three women from Raqqa who, after living through war and devastation, are creating new lives for themselves in their home city.
Raqqa is a city that has seen empires rise and fall over the centuries. Since its conquest by the Islamic State in 2013 the city has lived under a regime of terror and fundamentalism. Women were forced to comply with strict sharia rules imposed without discussion by the members and followers of the Islamic State, leaving no room for freedom and decision making in their own lives. In 2017, after an arduous battle that destroyed a large part of the city, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) liberated the city of Raqqa and its surroundings. Many people around the world watched with emotion as the women took off the burqas and threw them to the ground in anger and joy.
But after the battle comes the reconstruction, and now these women have in their hands the immense task of creating a new system based on multi-ethnic, multi-religious respect and gender equality. Meryam, Awaft and Hind are the three protagonists of this documentary who are participating in the democratic structures of the Raqqa Administration, and seeking both to create a new hope for their people, and a new way of life that places women at the centre of society. Filmmaker and journalist Benedetta Argentieri has closely followed Rojava’s revolution and the achievements of the women of the region: “The Women’s Revolution has spread in the Arab areas; it has been a great inspiration, and very empowering. Each time I went to Raqqa, I was amazed by the strength and the determination that these women have in rebuilding their future. I never could have imagined, after all the violence they had to endure, they would answer with this strength of character”.
“Blooming in the Desert” talks about this change by following three women who never before thought they could be involved in society and in the political scene. In fact, before ISIS the Ba’ath regime has excluded women from entering public life. Now, Meryam leads the “Women’s Movement”, Awaft works in the women’s area of the municipality, while Hind is a singer and a musician who takes part in spreading the Raqqa folklore.
For Benedetta Argentieri “Every story of women building a new future is worth telling”. She recognises that the knowledge of Arab women in north and east Syria is largely unknown. “Through interviews and the stories of so many women, we know how the regime thought of women mainly as wives and mothers. They couldn’t really have a part in society and had no voice in the political arena. Then they had to endure the war, and ISIS domination of the city. It was a really violent period”. She concludes: “Overall I think it is important to show how women are changing the society, and no matter how much violence or suffering you have to endure, there is always the possibility of change”.
In the context of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on 25 November, “Blooming in the Desert” will be presented in the city of Raqqa. In the words of the director: “It is always an honour when you are able to show a film in the place you shot it. It is very important for the women of Raqqa to watch this film because it is a recognition of their daily work and their efforts to built a different society and to walk towards a brighter future”. After the screening, the film will be presented online for the general public in a range of different languages.
25 November – presentation for Italian public
25 November at 19:00 CET2 – presentation for Finish public in English at https://www.facebook.com/events/830445201122029/
1 December at 20:00 CET – presentation for English public on the Women Defend Rojava YouTube channel.
• Director: Benedetta Argentieri
• With: Maryam Ibrahim, Awatef Al Issa, Hind Abdulaziz,
• Camera: Benedetta Argentieri, Sara A. de Ceano-Vivas Núñez, Dani Ellis
• Extra footage: Azad Avdike
• Editing: Azad Avdike, Matteo Mossi
• Postproduction: Luigi D’Alife,Claudio Cadei
• Translation: Xebat Abbas
• Production: Banos Film, Possibile Film, SMK Factory