Meet Kurdish journalist Ronak Sheikhi, one of the first female war correspondents covering the liberation campaign against ISIS.
Born and raised in Hassaka, Ronak wasn’t only passionate about reading and writing since childhood, but she also wanted to be part of the process to “change the society” through her work, as she always felt that “women’s voice and role were absent in the Kurdish media.”
ZÎV Magazine met Ronak to talk about her challenging, yet exciting journey.
- Did you choose to be a war correspondent?
Yes. I started working as a war correspondent in 2016, covering the battles against ISIS for Al-Aan TV. As a mother of two, it was extremely difficult to make such a decision, thinking about my kids and my family. But today, I consider it to be one of the best decisions I have made in my life.
- As a female war correspondent, what were the challenges you faced and still face today in doing your job?
The challenges were simply the society’s acceptance of my job. First as a single woman, then as a married woman, then as a mother of two.
I was bullied several times during my pregnancy by my colleagues, while covering a conference. I faced many accusations of neglecting my children. A lot of people still have a box to put the women inside it.
But since I was a child, I always felt a powerful voice inside me and a great desire to achieve my dreams. That voice has always been with me and it has given me the strength and the motivation amongst all these negative voices around me.
My family also was and still my biggest supporter, especially my husband. He takes good care of our children when I am away. I am very lucky to have such a supporting husband and a father to my children. I always remember him saying that we will do this together.
- How do you see the roll of Kurdish media today in Rojava?
The Kurdish media faces many challenges. For many, working in media now is to make money more than anything. There is a lack of professional journalists. There is still no law to protect and support media workers. Having said that, the media in Rojava played a major role in covering the situation in our region and the battles against ISIS, as well as during the recent attacks by Turkey on Rojava and northeast Syria.
- Was there any moment where you said to yourself: I can’t do this anymore?
Yes. While covering the battle for Raqqa in 2017, I was exposed to mortar shells in our car. I thought that was it. It was so scary. At that moment, I wished I could just stop. Luckily, we were able to escape miraculously. But then, when I was seeing my children, my neighbours, everyone in my city trying so hard to overcome this war imposed on us for the past ten years, I decided to go back doing my bit of the struggle, and cover the news from the front lines.
- In your opinion, what is the roll of Kurdish women in changing the society during the war?
What is happening in Rojava today isn’t just a war against ISIS, it is a war against old fashioned traditions that treat women unfairly and make little of their capabilities and what they can offer to the society. So many female journalists lost their lives working in brutal conditions that many of us can’t even imagine.
I believe that women even in our difficult society, are able to do many jobs at the same time. I am a war correspondent, a mother, as well as a full-time housewife! I love cooking, doing housework and taking care of my children. Besides that, I also try to find time to take care of myself.
- What about the future, do you have any plans?
I want to establish a media platform, and a media centre to teach journalism and media basics.
I am also going to write a book about my experience as a mother and a war correspondent in the past 10 years, with all its details. I want to tell the world about this experience, the suffering of my people and the instability of our lives, but also about our resistance, strength and love of life.