A decade of the Syrian Revolution | Syrian women: arrests, forced disappearance, violence, exploitation, assault and statelessness • The Syrian Observatory For Human Rights

A decade of the Syrian Revolution | Syrian women: arrests, forced disappearance, violence, exploitation, assault and statelessness

Since the first spark of the Syrian Revolution in March 2011, Syrian women actively engaged in peaceful struggle, defying the dangers, daily killings and repression from the north to the south of the country.

The Syrian women’s revolution came against practices and laws that have violated their dignity for decades, struggling with an unknown and difficult fate, overburdened with family responsibilities in war zones and in refugee camps.

The Syrian women’s experiences, tragedies, courage, frustrations, concepts and hopes have often led them to regime and conflicting forces’ prisons where they faced torture and death. Their stories of struggle will go down in history and will be recounted despite their bitterness and painfulness, embodying their extraordinary power that they derived from their love for their country.

Syrian women: the ultimate losers

Women are the most ultimate losers in this Revolution, which was turned into a devastating war by dictators that has taken the lives of innocent people. Since the start of the Syrian Revolution on March 15, 2011, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has documented the deaths of 13,843 women over the age of eighteen.

A breakdown of the death toll by the ‘perpetrator’ category is as follows:

  • Women killed by Regime forces: 10,460 by 75.6%
  • Women killed by Russian jets: 1,321 by 9.5%
  • Women killed by Coalition aircraft: 712 by 5.1%
  • Women killed by Turkish forces and aircraft: 129 by 0.93%
  • Women killed by Turkish border guards: 42 by 0.3%
  • Women killed by Israeli aircraft: 3 by 0.02%
  • Women killed by Islamic and opposition factions: 197 by 1.45%
  • Women killed by Jihadist groups: 264 by 1.9%
  • Women killed by Pro-Turkish factions: 111 by 0.8%
  • Women killed by SDF: 189 by 1.4%
  • Women killed by ISIS: 415 by 3%

These appalling figures, since the beginning of the revolution, have reflected the suffering of Syrian women, who played a significant role in the Syrian political movement, many of whom even took up arms to defend the revolution before it was derailed it through foreign interventions that displaced half of Syrians, starved them and plundered the wealth of their country.

Loss of breadwinner

Ten years of horrific events destroyed the life of the Syrian woman, where she found herself obligated to bear the responsibilities of family and children and make a living after losing her breadwinner, who either died, imprisoned, detained or chose to fight in the battlefields, trying to take the responsibility of a father in an unstable country, a devastating war and ongoing shelling, which may target her simple tent or her humble home at any moment.

The forms of suffering endured by the Syrian women are numerous, with great responsibilities and inability to reunite with their family members separated by displacement or death.

Like the Syrian men, women experienced arbitrary arrests and injustice, which often result in torture and killings, as well as repression by conflicting forces, sexual assaults, rape and abuse.

The rates of sexual violence against women have increased, which is used to extract confessions from women by the criminal regime and armed factions. In a country like Syria, the defense of the honour and reputation is the responsibility of all individuals. Hence, rape is used to exert pressure on women opponents of the regime.

Many stories of sexual violence were documented in prisons and camps, which sparked outrage and then were neglected.

A study by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) showed that nearly 145,000 Syrian families are female-headed households in which women are the only breadwinner.

The war in Syria has forced women to work due to poor economic conditions, and they have sometimes been the sole breadwinner in light of the forced absence of men, as a result of arrest, death, immigration or involvement in war with one of the parties to the conflict, which has gradually led to a social acceptance of women’s work due to these exceptional social circumstances, which has been rejected by many Syrian families for years.

Women were also forced to accept occupations that are not commensurate with their specializations and nature in order to support their families and their children, as she worked in agriculture, construction and other occupations that were considered male domains.

Exploitation of women

During the years of the raging war, several reports by SOHR have shown that Syrian women have faced significant challenges such as limited employment opportunities and limited availability of options, particularly for women graduates, and the difficulty of accessing the Syrian labour market.

According to United Nations statistics, 82 per cent of women faced challenges in terms of transport and the presence of children’s facilities, 55 per cent faced problems related to insecurity, while 43 per cent faced challenges related to working conditions, 39 per cent family obligations and 30 per cent social and cultural customs.

On the other hand, with armed factions controlling some areas in Idlib and its countryside, the role of women is totally neglected and marginalized, according to SOHR, because of the ideology imposed by the factions on the region, where the unemployment rate of women in these areas is approximately 95 per cent, and the wages of those working in agriculture are at most $3 per day. Civil society organizations, on the other hand, have almost disappeared in light of the strict restrictions imposed by factions on women, as they prevent any women’s activity aims at empowering women and enhancing their participation in the leadership of society.


Women detainees in Syria…victims of persecution and repression

Nothing can describe the suffering of Syrian women victims of the state and the authorities of oppression, where women’s dignity is constantly violated behind prison walls.

Regime forces launch large-scale arrests of women in order to exert pressure on opponents who face the regime, as do some opposition parties.

According to SOHR statistics, the number of cases of arbitrary detention and forced disappearance of women has reached 154,984 women since the beginning of the Syrian Revolution in 2011.

The woman who endured all the horrors of the war is deserves to be compensated in the first place for the years of oppression and suffering.

UN reports indicated that women were being arrested, tortured and insulted with obscene words before the start of the interrogation, and that women sometimes remain under torture for several days until they completely collapse and are forced to agree to any charges that may be brought against them, which is told by many stories of detainees who escaped from captivity.

Women are sometimes subjected to torture for several days until they completely collapse and are forced to accept any charges that may be brought against them, as many women detainees shared their stories, those who have managed to escape from captivity.

Since March 2011, SOHR has pointed out to the accusations made against women, mostly related to terrorism issues, dealing with Syrian opposition factions, aiding the Free Army and arms smuggling, and others accused of participating in demonstrations and publishing anti-regime comments, and the same is true for armed factions and opposition factions.

Other reports have monitored the atrocities committed by the regime and armed factions in prisons and security branches against female detainees on a political background, notably assault and sexual violence as a tool of war to suppress and break the will of Syrians.


Burden of displacement

The suffering continues even after their release, as they cannot live normal family and social lives in societies stigmatise women’s demands for freedom and emancipation.

The suffering of the Syrian women who have been displaced with her children to the camps is doubled, as they suffer from severe living conditions and lack of the most basic necessities of life with a lack of food and funding, the poor weather conditions experienced by refugees, including women in the camps, have exacerbated the situation, as well as giving birth in the camps.

All the frost, cold and heat waves bear witness to their suffering, in addition to the difficult health effects of those waves, which resulted in a number of deaths among children and the elderly, according to the testimonies of human rights organizations, including SOHR, which has always been dedicated to the cause of the Syrian women and their suffering.

Education: deprivation and early dropout


Syrian women have also suffered the consequences of the war, which has been ongoing for 10 years, including the loss of beloved ones, displacement, poverty, violence, abuses and dropout from education at an early age, which forced them to work to feed their families.

The war of the regime and the factions has caused a significant increase in illiteracy rates among women, according to the latest statistics of international organizations, which portends a social catastrophe that affects an entire generation.

Reports say that since the passing of the literacy Act in 1972, Syria has been able to achieve significant successes in this area, as illiteracy rate decreased from 19% in 2004 to 14% in 2007, the war, however, has brought things back to the 1990s, according to international organizations.

Despite all this, women’s role has not stopped, as they participated in promoting civil peace, especially in areas of displacement and in seeking to make proposals for a political solution to the future Syria, despite many obstacles that hinder their efforts, including with regard to society and its perception of women, and the political elites and international actors that were content with only formal and elitist participation of women.

Some observers attribute the dropout of women from education to a number of tribal beliefs in some of these areas, male domination and inferiority and ended up being illiterate.

The war has created a very bitter reality that has led to negative psychological effects on Syrian women, as a result of a lack of social security, a lack of capacity to adapt to the unstable conditions imposed by the war, as well as torture, detention and violence, which have been practiced against Syrian women in schools, where many human rights organizations have reported such incidents. This made women vulnerable to mental disorders such as permanent fear, anxiety, depression, the desire to commit suicide and isolation, especially with the lack of psychiatric treatment, the scarcity of medicines and limited medical possibilities.

All these events experienced by the Syrian women had social, economic, psychological and moral impacts, prompting some women to change their beliefs, religious or community customs, traditions or values.

The international community’s orientation towards the needs of Syrian women has led the creation of hundreds of civil society organizations that are keen to provide services to women in accordance with international requirements.

Despite all the tragedies, Syrian women remained the saviour, activist, teacher and mother and did not lose their courage, determination and hope for a better future.

Over the last 10 years, Syrian women have suffered the most terrible violations and catastrophic humanitarian conditions, with lack of clarity about resolving the Syrian crisis and all parties seeking to maximize their gains. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), therefore, calls on international organizations to intervene immediately to save the Syrian women and improve her situation, and to hold accountable all corrupted local civil organizations that receive support and funding from international institutions without improving the situation of women, which is worsening almost daily.

SOHR asserts that the restoration and rebuilding of Syria can only be achieved with the participation of women, who are a key pillar in building Syrian society again.

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