SAFE ZONE is a feature documentary about resilience of women and girls caught in the chaos of the Syrian refugee crisis. The film is the intimate story of two girls, Fatima and Nariman, currently living in refugee camps in Lebanon as they and their families try to rebuild their lives.
12 year old Fatima escaped Syria after being found buried under rubble when her family’s home was hit by a bomb. Fatima has a captivating personality intensified by the gaze of her deep hazel eyes. She is a standout singer in her tent school’s choir. Throughout the film, she sings with the passion of someone beyond her years. Under the guidance of her social worker Rasha, music has been the most successful therapy helping her deal with PTSD.
15 year old Nariman is a shy but well spoken top student at her informal refugee camp school. She and her mother made a daring midnight escape from Syria with her siblings after an armed group took over their small town and enforced harsh Islamic law. She dreams of becoming a doctor and has struggled for almost two years to enter an accredited high school in Lebanon. Syrian refugees are caught in limbo, lacking citizenship, connections or money that place the Lebanese school system beyond her reach. As the closure of her informal school is announced due to lack of international funding, Nariman’s life is turned upside down yet again as she begins to lose hope. Without school Nariman and her siblings will spend their days on the dangerous streets of the refugee camp.
In the current climate of chaos in the region around Syria and Lebanon, hope is often distant and many women and girls are traditionally marginalized by their societies. A growing number of women and girls, against all odds, have become the social fabric that holds the region’s displaced communities together. The film explores the strength and compassion of empowered Middle Eastern women and how they could be the most powerful untapped resource in the region. As governments struggle to deal with a refugee catastrophe on a macro scale it is the “safe zones” that schools and people who create them provide that really make a difference in the lives of refugee children and their families.
By examining the struggles of Fatima and Nariman, the film also follows Maria and Rasha, two incredibly passionate and compelling Middle Eastern humanitarian women who work tirelessly in these camps funded by UNICEF to build schools and extend social services, helping children gain a sense of self worth and community. Maria and Rasha’s insight into the futures of Fatima and Nariman illustrate the importance of school and how it keeps kids from falling prey to the chaos, violence and perverse economic pressures that flow through these camps.
Safe Zone explores the harsh reality of life in a refugee camp and child labor in the agricultural fields. The film paints an intimate portrait of family life in the Syrian refugee camps and illustrates their strength, normalcy, and shattered lives. The compassionate activism of women and their struggle for peace could very well be the most powerful catalyst for change in the region by inspiring a new generation. Safe Zone tells a different story of the Middle East – a story of solidarity, compassion, and a global need for young women in Middle Eastern society to thrive.
“There are two sides of war and we’ve only seen one side on TV.”
– Zainab Salbi, Founder Women for Women