Between Assad and ISIS: The Story of Rita

05 June 2015

The first thought that crossed Rita’s mind as ISIS’s forces made their way into the Palmyra prison, was her about her husband--himself a prisoner of the regime at Adra prison since 2012. He thoughts raced to scenarios where ISIS would also control the prison where her husband is detained. Rita started researching the conditions detainees of ISIS have to live under, despite the lack of any reliable information. She wanted to know what would ISIS do to detainees of the regime. The answer: they would be interrogated on their knowledge of the Quran and their prayer etiquette.

Rita is herself a daughter of a former political prisoner from an Arabist secular political leaning. Her husband, from a similar ilk, is an atheist, and thus such an examination would make him a clear target for ISIS if they take control of his destiny.

This internal turmoil in Rita’s head is complicated further by the fact that she, along with her family, took a decision not to leave Damascus to the tyranny of Bashar al-Assad and to resist the regime from its capital. For if this family, with its long history of political dissidents, had developed sufficient means of resistance and avoidance to deal with the authoritarian Baathist rule, they have no clue how to deal with the new threat of tyranny from ISIS.

ملصق يبين أن داعش هي دولة الأسد. المصدر: الصفحة الرسمية لدولتي على الفيسبوك

Rita started by buying Islamist clothing, to wear if the group enters her town. “I am ashamed. I never thought we’d come to a point where I, a secularist, would have to buy a Hijab,” she tells SyriaUntold. “I hope they don’t come in the summer, it would be too hot with the Hijab,” she continues jokingly.

Soon after, Rita went to the prison to visit her husband and convince him to take religious lessons, in case ISIS finds its way to him.

Rita’s family, like many Syrians who have refused to leave their country, face many difficult choices. But it is their resistance, in simply existing that is everlasting.


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Illustation by Dima Nechawi Graphic Design by Hesham Asaad