Jumana (pseudonym) is a woman in her thirties living in one of the villages of Deir Ezzor with her family, consisting of her mother, four brothers, and their wives and children. Her life was miserable and without ambition. Her opinions and most of what she knew was household chores. She couldn’t continue her education after her father deprived her, as a child, from going to school, claiming that a woman’s destiny is in her husband’s house and that studying or working will be beneficial.
Jumana devoted her life to working at home and serving her brothers and their families. She did not have any luck with marriage, which made her responsible for the hard tasks at home, such as raising livestock, farming, and harvesting the land, certainly like many women.
Jumana tells her story: “I finished my usual hard work with livestock and went into the house to be surprised by my brothers discussing the issue of the family’s inheritance and the mechanism of sharing what my father left us. I heard my younger brother wondering about my share and whether I will get a share of the inheritance!”.
However, a definite rejection was received from the mother: “Only the four of you will share the inheritance. Jumana will not get anything because she is not married and has no family or children or responsibility. Additionally, she is a woman, and women do not inherit from family according to our customs and traditions!”.
Jumana continues telling how she took a decisive position towards her right to inheritance: “I told my friend what happened, who was lucky enough to continue her education and work as a staff in one of the public departments. She told me that I have the right like my brothers and encouraged me to demand my right. I made up my mind and decided not to back down until I got my full right of inheritance. Although, I have been always afraid of how the society in the village would perceive me because it was unusual for a woman to share her brothers in the inheritance”.
Mrs. Jumana continues: “I did not hesitate and told my brothers that I have the right to inheritance and that the law and the religion granted me this right. My brothers denied my demand, and my mother supported them because she sees that it is shameful when the sister demands her share of the family inheritance”.
Jumana insisted on continuing on the path of demanding her right and talking to her brothers and mother, she says: “After a long argument, and when my family realized that I was determined to move forward with obtaining my right of the inheritance, they accepted the matter and told me that I will get my share in full and according to the law. I felt like a human being with rights and opinions, and capable of defending myself when one of my rights is violated. I also didn’t want the situation to escalate to sue my brothers because then I would become the talk of the village”.
A few days later, a man in uniform came to Jumana’s family house to carry out the necessary legal procedures for Jumana and her brother to obtain their right to inheritance: “My brother told me that this was the lawyer, and he will run the necessary procedures to ensure that I obtain my full rights and in a final and legal manner. The lawyer gave me papers and asked me to put my thumbprint signature on them. That was in the presence of all my brothers. And since I did not complete my education from a young age, I was not able to read and write. So, I signed the papers without knowing their content. At that moment, I was overwhelmed with happiness. Thus, that happiness turned to disappointment after it became clear to me that by signing the documents, I gave up my right of inheritance in favor of my brothers. I did not know that they planned this, and I did not expect this injustice and deception from them. What’s even more saddening is that my mother was involved with them in this deceitful plan. Unfortunately, I couldn’t do anything but to accept the reality”.
” I submitted to the reality after I was deceived by my own family. I advise all girls to prioritize their education because it is the foundation stone, and never stay silent on their smaller rights, so they won’t be subjected to the same injustice that I faced. I call on everyone who has an influence in our society that women have the right to inheritance religiously and legally, and this must be respected.”
Jumana’s story shows that obtaining legal rights and deterring those trying to deceive uneducated women is not an easy task. However, this is necessary, and it requires strict measures to guarantee women’s rights to inheritance. Additionally, Jumana’s determination to claim her inheritance inspires all women who have been deprived of their rights because of the local customs.