Monica’s Story

Monica is an 18-year-old woman from Latakia, Syria. While she worked in a children’s apparel store to earn money, she harbored a passion for music. In 2009, she and several friends started a hip-hop group called West Side Soldiers. Two years later, when the Syrian Revolution erupted, they made a song about the uprising gaining momentum across their country. The song, posted on YouTube, immediately drew the attention of the Assad regime, which accused Monica and her friends of sedition and labeled them “devil’s slaves.” The regime attempted to track down members of the group, arresting and interrogating friends and peers. They contacted Monica’s brother and threatened to kill him. Monica twice ran from government cars trying to run her over. She kept a low profile: she cancelled all concerts, stopped attending parties, and, for an entire year, barely left her house.

In 2012, Monica fled to Egypt. In her words, she escaped only by a miracle. At the airport in Damascus, an official recognized her name in the computer and risked his own life to help her: he said he knew she was a good person and escorted her directly to the plane.

In Egypt, as she learned that her fellow group members had been arrested or killed as a consequence of their music, Monica realized that she was still at risk. She narrowly evaded two kidnapping attempts in Egypt: the first by two men on motorbikes and the second on a bus. In 2014, Monica fled Egypt for Lebanon, where she received assistance from IRAP. IRAP helped Monica to win approval from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to seek resettlement in France, and guided her through the application and interview process to give her the best possible chance of living a secure life in a place where she can express herself freely.