The Syrian Observatory For Human Rights

SOHR exclusive | Lack of protection and stolen rights contribute to increase of crimes against Syrian women

As women have been affected the most by the aftermath of all wars and conflicts, feminist movements around the world have worked hard to set plans for putting an end to all violations against women and make local and international laws protect them. However, these laws have failed so far to stop women falling victims and being murdered, and this includes Syrian women. The murder of Ayat Al-Rifa’i by her husband and his family has inflamed public opinion and reminded people of crimes and violence practiced against women.


On Friday, a 52-year-old woman from Duwayr Al-Sheikh Saad in Tartus was found dead with marks of stabs from a sharp tool. Another woman was found dead near Al-Karnak complex in Shate’ Al-Ahlam area (the Dream Shore) in Tartus, where a packet of insecticide was found behind the woman’s body. While, on January 10, a man from Samid village in the western countryside of Al-Suwaidaa shout dead his two daughters when they visited him. It is worth noting that one of the victims was 18 and a mother of a boy and a girl, while the other was 16 and a mother of a boy.


The phenomenon of humiliating, abusing and killing of women has topped the events in Syria. Not only are such crimes committed by the families but also by the state authorities which are supposed to comply with the laws they have legislated. However, the situation during wars and conflicts remains much serious and tragic in light of lack of laws and instable security situation.


The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) has been all along warning against repercussions of the ongoing “honour killing” and murders practiced against women throughout Syria, no matter which power dominates, and has been calling upon all human rights organisations to show solidarity with Syrian women who have already been victims of war, conflict and division. SOHR stresses the importance of highlighting the plight of oppressed women until they regain their right to live peacefully in a safe environment enabling them to attain education, work and practice their rights as first-class citizens.


SOHR strongly condemns the killing of Syrian women twice, by war and family.


In an exclusive interview with SOHR the executive director of the “Syrian Feminist Lobby”, Rima Flayhan says “there are complex factors behinds the escalating violence against women, which has been practiced for ages. The first factor is the masculinity and patriarchal ideology, where almost all the segments of Syrian society underestimate the role of women. The culture of violence against women has been based on obsolete traditions and some other practices. The second factor is the discriminating laws which have enhanced these violent practices, and it is directly related to the failure of the state judiciary system to include laws banning domestic violence and provide women shelters for those suffering domestic violence. Another factor behind this problem is the wrong practices by judicial and security authorities which also abuse women. The regime’s nature of repression, which is based on violence, also encourage violent practices by families against women.”


Mrs. Flayhan added “violence also practiced by extremist factions which repress all segments of society, including women, and restrict freedom in areas under their control. Moreover, some preachers incite violence, glorify masculinity and patriarchal ideology, justify violence practiced by men and fight feminist organisations which raise awareness of women. Also, the media is responsible for profiling the role of women, consecration of violence and consecration of masculism and patriarchal ideology in the Syrian society. The increase in these rates is attributed to social and economic pressure and poor service which have raised people’s stress and anger.”


Speaking to SOHR, the Syrian feminist, Jihan Khalaf stats “women and children are the most fragile segments of the oriental societies, especially closed communities in which the rates of education and health are low, like in Syria. This is attributed to the low incomes and extreme poverty of Syrian families; this, in turn, leads to increasing rate of violence against women. The escalation of these crimes is attributed to the fact that the country is in the midst of a protracted war. It is common knowledge that, in state of war, societies are hard hit with conflicts and considerable divisions, during which directed violence increases. The increasing rate of poverty also result in collapses in the society, leaving women exposed to various types of violence, physical, mental, emotional, sexual, social and domestic. The most prominent reason behind this phenomenon is division in the societies based on views and ideologies of small closed communities.”


Mrs. Khalaf has stressed that “the lack of deterrent laws, the domination of communal rule which is based on obsolete traditions, state of security disorder and chaos throughout Syria, which has led to absence of accountability and enabled criminals to be left unpunished; poverty, economic and social malaise which may indirectly lead to violence against women, low education level as a result of dropping out of school, and early marriage are major factors behind the escalation of violence against women. There are several ways to confront this phenomenon, such as raising social and culture awareness and awareness of laws, giving women the chance to know their rights and duties, providing appropriate levels of education and supporting educational initiatives and creating deterrent laws, prosecuting criminals and restoring rights to victims. It is worth noting that the penal code which was issued by the Legislative Decree No. 148 of 1949 excluded murderers from penalty, in the case that their crimes were committed under the pretext of “honour killing”. The code was amended in 2009, sentencing a murderer committing “honour killing” for two years in prison at most, before the Decree No. 1 of 2011 was issued cancelling article No. 548 of the penal code. However, this procedure has not put an end to crimes against women. There is an urgent need for a political settlement in order to put an end to the Syrian conflict, reach stability, set a new social contract and implement peaceful transition. All of these factors can curb the spread of crimes and achieve justice for the victims.”