Nisreen Ali, a young Syrian activist with big dreams, moved to Turkey in April 2015. She planned to set up in Gaziantep, a vibrant city near the Syrian border that was full of “people who wanted to change our country, to shape its future, people like me.” Ali found a job as a multimedia journalist for a Syrian opposition radio station. She was going to go in and out of rebel-controlled Aleppo and report what she saw. “When I heard how Aleppo was fighting against extremists and jihadists who were trying to hijack our revolution, I was really excited. I wanted to be among them. I had an ideal picture of how my life here would be,” Ali said.
Five years on, the 32-year-old is suffused with bitterness and despair. She uses a pseudonym to avert reprisal from the Turkish government. Her mother warns her daily to avoid posting “dangerous words” on social media about Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The Western-funded humanitarian organization she works for dares not mention Turkey’s repeated stoppage of water to close to a million people in northeastern Syria in its reports. And Aleppo is back under the full grip of the Syrian regime.