Arbat: Speaking into a microphone in her modest studio, Sherin Mohammad goes live with the news. But this is no typical radio station: Gardenya FM is run by, and for, Syrian refugees. Broadcast from the refugee camp of Arbat in northeast Iraq, Gardenya FM features news programmes and talk shows, produced by a team far from their native Syria.
Nearly 500 kilometres (300 miles) away from her home town of Qamishli, Sherin concludes her news round-up, waits for the catchy jingle to end and sets down her clunky headphones on a white wooden desk.
The 31-year-old fled Qamishli in 2014 so she could stay with her husband, desperate to avoid the military conscription imposed by the Syrian government.Their painful displacement came with a silver lining: she could realise her lifelong dream of being a journalist.
“I wanted to be a reporter back in Syria but it wasn’t on offer at my local university, so I became a teacher,” she told AFP. She has dedicated herself since then to providing reliable information to fellow refugees on the Syrian conflict, which erupted in 2011 with protests against the rule of President Bashar al-Assad.
Gardenya broadcasts locally at 101.3 FM, but the team also posts on the station’s Facebook page, which has several thousand likes.
Through it, Sherin said, loved ones still in Syria could see what life is like for Arbat’s 9,056 residents, many of whom sensed their displacement would be long-term and began replacing tarp tents with cinderblock structures in 2017.
“We want to give real information to those still in our homeland through our Facebook page so that people see we don’t live in tents,” she added.