Syrian women: suffering, poverty and unemployment … early marriage threatens a third of Syrian women … violence and physical assaults continue in various areas of control
The suffering of Syrian women is compounded by the continuation of the conflict and the worsening of living conditions. Women are the most affected in a society dominated by bygone, archaic and ingrained traditional dogmas and beliefs. In this context, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has monitored several clear social, psychological, economic and political problems that continue to haunt Syrian women:
Violence and physical assaults
Fighting, terrorism, incursions into cities, and house raids by regime forces and loyalist militias, and the desire to pressure young men to surrender to the regime, caused the detention, abduction, and arrest of many women. These situations affect Syrian women psychologically and socially. Also, the participation of women in protests against the worsening living conditions in the country, as well as their service in some security forces, and Women’s Protection Units of the SDF has increased the likelihood of women experiencing violence and combat actions.
The Syrian Observatory obtained on 23/10/2019 a videotape of the corpse of a female fighter of “Women’s Protection Unit” badly mutilated at the hands of the Turkish-backed “Al-Majed Division” despite the religious norms, beliefs, and laws which forbid criminalize such actions. It is worth noting that SOHR was the first to in 2015 document the slaughter of two civilian women by “Islamic State”, under the pretext of practicing witchcraft and sorcery and witchcraft.
Early marriage and sexual exploitation
The difficult conditions Syrian women and their families live in, and the tribal beliefs and rituals in some parts of Syria, which are male-dominated particularly, paternalistic and authoritarian, view women as inferior, dependant minors and need looking after. Such belief-systems and culture have led some families to marry their girls of at a very young age which also result in girls leaving education and become illiterate.
The Syrian Observatory revealed in 2017 that one in three marriages of Syrian refugees in Jordan includes a girl under the age of 18. In addition, females are subject to harassment, trafficking, exploitation, sexual abuse, and forced disappearance under these conditions.
Late marriage and spinsterhood
The involvement of young people in warfare, the death and arrest of many more, and migration of hundreds of thousands of young Syrian to seek refuge have led an entire generation of young men and women to becoming somewhat reluctant to marry and start a family. Women, particularly young women, are struggling to find eligible young men and the rate of celibacy and spinsterhood has therefore increased.. The marriage age for women increased from 22 years to 33 years after after 2011.
All these factors have negatively impacted the psychological and social conditions among Syrian women and families.
Recently, the rate of crimes and violence against the Syrian women has increased under the pretext of defending honor. On July 4, 2020, the Syrian Observatory documented that a young man from Hayyan town killed his mother and sister in the Al-Haramain camp for “washing away the shame”. A young woman and a young man in Al-Rayyan camp were killed, and a twenty-year-old girl, displaced from Afrin, was killed by her brother because her family thought that she got pregnant by adultery, and it turned out she was innocent but after she was killed under the name of “defending honor”.
Syrian women and their families are suffering from the significant decline in healthcare due to the conflict and security unrest, which led to the spread of diseases and high death rates , especially as women tend to be more vulnerable because of the low number of pregnancies, labours and births that are subject to proper specialized medical supervision, and the difficulty in accessing antenatal and postnatal care, and this is due to several factors: bad living conditions, especially with increasing in displacement and asylum and the inhumane conditions in the camps such as the lack of medicines, tools, devices and medical materials, in addition to their suffering from malnutrition due to contaminated food and polluted water and their shortage in some regions.
A number of international organizations have failed to fulfil their responsibility to save women and their families, and resorted to releasing only media statements; Corruption among such organisations has prevented relief supplies from reaching the families in need.
Psychological crises and lack of social security
The war created a very bitter reality that led to negative psychological impacts on Syrian women, as a result of the absence of social security, and the inability to adapt to unstable conditions imposed by the war.
Moreover, torture, detention and violence practiced against the Syrian women made them vulnerable to psychological trauma such as permanent fear, anxiety, depression, and suicidal tendenciesand withdrawal, especially with the lack of psychological treatment, and limited medical capabilities and resources.
Unemployment and the spread of the breadwinner phenomenon
The massive disintegration of the structure of the industrial sector, the bankruptcy of most projects, capital flight, corruption, looting, theft of material assets, and the depletion of resources which fed the Syrian war machine crippledthe Syrian economy and led, to an increase in the rate of unemployment among Syrians, men and women alike. Women engaged in heavy physical and manual labour such as agriculture, and civil defence work due to theloss of the male breadwinner. Furthermore, the number of widows in Syrian increased, and women were forced in some areas controlled by radical extremist elements to leave their jobs and stay home, where the unemployment rate of women in these areas reached almost 95%.
The feminization of poverty
The ongoing war has literally impoverished Syrian women at unprecedented rates. The Syrian Observatory has revealed that more than 93% of Syrians and Syrian women are living in poverty, 65% of whom are living in extreme abject poverty, while poverty rate among widows and the wives of missing persons is approximately 90%. This is due to the increase in displacement operations, especially in the “de-escalation zone”, the deterioration of the international exchange rate of the Syrian pound, the weakness of supportive organizations, and security disturbances that have affected the economic situation of women in general, and their development status in particular. The phenomenon of the feminization of poverty has emerged, due to the following reasons: women are forced to leave their land due to the war, and high prices against low or no income for some families. The phenomenon of begging is also widespread, as it has become part of daily life in northern Syria.
The Syrian Observatory monitored 2,300 cases of women and children begging in March 2020 in the capital, Damascus.
Education: deprivation and dropout
Education is the most affected sector due to military operations and displacement. Women are deprived of education either by dropping out for early marriage and working to help their family, or to relieve material burdens and the family’s inability to overcome the difficulties that may prevent their daughters from continuing their education. Among the difficulties facing the education sector: the lack of schools in the refugee camps, the distance between the camps and schools, and the poor financial conditions that prevent them from purchasing school supplies and paying exorbitant transportation costs due to the scarcity of diesel; loss of official identity papers for some girls, in addition to the lack of support for educational facilities, especially in northern Syria, and the weak capabilities of educational cadres and institutions damage education infrastructure due to shelling or evictions as a result of the ongoing military escalation, in addition to the vulnerability of the curricula and poor educational performance. The illiteracy rate among Syrian women has reached approximately 30%, according SOHR statistics
The limited participation of women in political life
The multiplicity of rival factions in Syria after the outbreak of the revolution resulted in the corruption and obstruction of political life, and the disruption of the role of Syrian women in political life, through the decline of democracy and dialogue, the limitation of political action to the conflicting parties, the withdrawal of civilians from the political scene, the control of radical groups in some regions which refuse to empower women, the meaningless and token participation of Syrian women in opposition parties, marginalizing their issues, and using them as a propaganda tool in their party programs. forost Syrian women securing livelihood for themselves and their families is a priority, while participating in political life is seen as a luxury in the current situation.
This phenomenon has been linked to displacement. Many Syrian women lost their ID documents due to the war and the military operations, and therefore ended up being stateless, and the same goes for their children who were born in refugee camps, or in the areas under the control of armed organizations.
With the increasing deterioration in the living conditions of Syrian women as a result of the fighting, the cycle of violence will continue to violate women’s rights, and any international or domestic effort to advance Syrian women will fail. Consequently, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights renews its demands to the international community and international organizations defending women and their rights, to exert pressure on the conflicting parties in Syria to provide a humane environment for women in Syrian territory, by complying with the provisions of international law and the international covenants on Human Rights and international conventions on women’s rights.