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Syrian activists living in exile speak out

Handout / Reuters

Demonstrators protesting against Syria's President Bashar al-Assad gather during a march through the streets after Friday prayers in Adlb on Dec. 2, 2011. This image has been supplied by a third party. It is distributed, exactly as received by Reuters, as a service to clients

Activists inside Syria are being forced to leave the country as violence intensifies in the ninth month of anti-government protests.

Rima Flihan is an activist who left behind two children and her career after she received death threats following her release from a Syrian police station.

Flihan said she was near al-Hassan mosque in the al-Midan neighborhood of Damascus when she and nine other young female activists were detained in mid-July for protesting without permits.


“We laughed, we cried, and shared our fears and hopes together,” Flihan told NBC News in an email about her time in detention.
 
She said she remembered meeting one of the other detained women months earlier at a demonstration on Syria’s Independence Day, April 17. They were reunited when they were arrested and detained for four days in July.
 
Flihan said she met up with other activists on the day of her release and encouraged them to continue the fight. Part of her talk was recorded on this YouTube clip she shared with NBC News. She is the woman speaking with the white shirt and microphone.

The U.N.’s top human rights official said last week that her office estimates that more than 4,000 people have been killed since the uprising began in March.

Flihan fled the country in September for Jordan after she said she was threatened by government security forces and left her children in the care of her family still there.
 
Even though Flihan is no longer in the country, she said she remains in touch with many of the activists she demonstrated with through social media daily, and encourages her friends she met at demonstrations inside the country to continue protesting.

Flihan said she hopes to return when she feels her life is no longer under threat.
 
“I dream to go on a trip with my activist friends to all of the troubled spots in Syria and light a candle and celebrate freedom, and build our country in a different way,” Flihan said in an email.
 
A familiar name to the theater community in Damascus, Flihan worked as a theater writer and wrote two Syrian dramas.

Two years ago, she created a popular Syrian television drama called “Qoloob Saghirah” or “Small Hearts” that uncovered what she called were injustices in the region to spark discussions and debate surrounding issues of organ trafficking, homelessness, and women’s rights.
 
It’s rare that we hear of the stories of Syrian female activists. Flihan, whose father was an army officer who was imprisoned for his political views against the civilian killings in the Syrian town of Hama in 1982, said she wanted to share her story with NBC News to highlight the women of the revolution.

You can follow Rima Abdelkader on Twitter at: twitter.com/rimakader