The Syrian Observatory For Human Rights

182 civilian women killed in 2021 | Syrian women: bitter reality…violated rights…ongoing suffering

SOHR renews its appeal to bring criminals to justice

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR)



Like many other countries, Syria has signed international accords regarding the improvement of women’s situation and rehabilitation of their rightful place in society. The Syrian regime “pretended” to comply with some terms of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which addressed the importance of achieving gender equality and preserving the rights of women.


Article 23 of the Constitution of the Syrian Arab Republic, issued on February 15, 2012, makes it clear that “the state shall provide women with all opportunities enabling them to effectively and fully contribute to the political, economic, social and cultural life, and the state shall work on removing the restrictions that prevent their development and participation in building society”. However, Syrian women have suffered from disastrous conditions during the war which worsened their situation, especially since many women have lost fathers, brothers and husbands and each one found herself forced to bear responsibility of an entire family alone.


Syrian women have been forced to work and gain their living, with monthly salaries of government employees not exceeding 20 USD .


According to UN statistics, over one million women have lost their husbands, while the percentage of female breadwinners has exceeded 11%, as many women have moved into fields which had been prohibited, while others have been thrown into drug business, prostitution and human trafficking.


On the other hand, the Syrian women have forced to work and have been exposed to sexual harassment and exploitation by employers, while warlords who wreaked havoc in Syria under the pretext of “jihad” have taken many minor female captives.


Horrific practices in Syria, including kidnappings, sexual abuse, exploitation, imposing strict measures on their freedom and depriving them from basic rights, are clear violations to all international peace treaties, while regional and international actors seems to be indifferent to all of this. Such violations have been practiced more extensively in areas under the control of “Takfiri” groups (jihadist and extremist militant groups) and rebel factions which deprived girls from educations and kept them imprisoned in their own houses or tents.



Victims of arbitrary arrests


Syrian women have been affected the most by this protracted war, as SOHR statistics confirms that 155,002 women have been arrested by regime security services since the beginning of the Syrian Revolution in March 2011.


According to SOHR statistics, 41,312 women have been detained in regime prisons, while 20,315 others have been forcibly disappeared. These shocking statistics clearly show alarming violations to human rights and international accords, whose terms have been signed on by the Syrian regime itself. Even before the Syrian Revolution, women had suffered from repression, exclusion, torture, discrimination and other violations that have affected the situation of women in the social and political life.


The testimonies documented by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) have showed the horror Syrian women endured in prisons, as they have been subjected to unbearable, harrowing mental and psychological torture, including sexual abuse, humiliation, hunger, thirst, hard labour and lack of healthcare.


Testimonies of some female prisoners also confirm that some of these prisoners had been arrested for no specific reasons or charges, while others were arrested for having pictures of anti-regime protests or video footage condemning the opposition and rebel factions.



Victims of the war


Since the beginning of 2021, SOHR activists have documented the death of 182 women over the age of 18 throughout Syria. According to the perpetrator and cause/method of death categories, the fatalities are distributed as follows:


  • Landmines and IED explosions: 28


  • Gunfire by unknown gunmen: 15


  • “Honour killings”, family and factional rivalries and indiscriminate gunfire: 44


  • Regime forces: 45


  • ISIS: 16


  • Unknown circumstances: 12


  • Under torture in regime prisons: 1


  • Car and motorcycle bomb attacks: 8


  • Turkish Jandarma: 1


  • SDF: 2


  • Turkish bombardment: 2


  • Rebel and Islamist factions: 2


  • Russian airstrikes: 3


  • Jihadist groups and organizations: 2


  • Israeli strikes: 1



In 2021, the sufferings of Syrian women have escalated further, while the deteriorating living conditions have worsened their sufferings which manifested themselves in the bitter reality of Syrian women across the entire Syrian geography.



Rape and torture


Key factors have contributed to the worsening of Syrian women’s conditions and robbed many of their dignity. Some of these factors can be summarized as follows:


  • Expansion of the Syrian conflict.


  • Invasions by international and regional powers, including Turkey, Iran and Russia.


  • Active and numerous extremist organizations.


  • Policy of revenge adopted by the Syrian regime and opposition factions.


  • Social and political exclusion.


  • Proliferation of arms.


Accordingly, many Syrian women were victims of indiscriminate killing, rape, “honour killings”, torture, arbitrary arrests and exploitation, with many being deprived of their basic rights.


Despite this bitter reality, many women have confirmed that they dare not ask for their rights, fearing prosecution, arrest and acts of revenge. Accordingly, women have found themselves forced to bow to society’s “morals and values”, obsolete traditions in “discriminating” laws. In addition, the war helped to further ingrain masculism and patriarchal ideology in the segments of Syrian society.



Violated rights


With the lack of freedom of public expression and disregard to international accords in light of repression by Syrian regime and opposition factions, the United Nations had described the situation of human rights in Syria as “the worst”. Torture, rape and sexual harassment continued in Syria, especially since Syrian law has had no terms identifying the act of sexual harassment or punishing molesters. Moreover, there is no family law or any other laws explicitly prohibiting and criminalising violence against women.


Experts have stated that there is a gap in Syrian laws regarding the rights of women, as well as adherence to international charters or the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), although local legislations and laws have to abide by international charters and accords in this regard.



Self-realization and regaining position in Syrian society


Despite exclusion, lack of gender equality and keeping women away from decision-making bodies, Syrian women have persevered and to dealt with challenges and gained some power, so they attempted to give vital contribution in the fields of humanitarian assistance and peace-making, renounce violence and confront ethnic hatred, which has been incited by several warring powers, exploiting poverty and dire living conditions. Accordingly, many Syrian women managed to take part in humanitarian activities and peace projects by UN organizations, be in charge of refugee camps and equal partners in several forums in Geneva, Moscow, Riyadh and Cairo.


Syrian women have sought to adapt with their dire situation in light of the barbaric bombardment and displacement, which run counter to the terms of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other relevant charters.


As a result of the ongoing struggle and under very dangerous and complex situation, the Syrian women movement called in 2016 for minimum quotas for women in institutions and decision-making bodies, which successfully resulted in 30% women’s participation in the Constitutional Committee established under Security Council resolution No. 2254. Furthermore, Syrian women have given high-level briefings to the Security Council, highlighting the role of women in the Syrian context. It is worth noting that this was the first time for Syrian women representing civil society to brief the Security Council.


Believing in the promotion of humanitarian principles, the Charter of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the effective coordination with human rights organizations around the world, we, at the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), call for holding accountable all criminals, perpetrators of violations and all those who aided and abated heinous crimes against Syrian people.


We count on the international community’s active involvement to save the people of Syria from killing, starvation, sufferings and ongoing violations. We also count on the free and independent media all over the world to highlight the plight of the helpless Syrian people.


Also, SOHR appeals to all international actors to exert maximum pressure on the warring powers in Syria, which have been draining the Syrian people’s resources, to stop military actions and turn to a political settlement which could potentially put an end to this protracted war.


The Syrian Observatory would like to point out that all information and figures mentioned in this report have been documented and updated until the date of publication.