International Women’s Day | Syrian women endure horror of war that world turns blind eye to
SOHR renews its call to bring those who committed crimes against Syrian women to justice
Today, March 8, women around the world celebrate International Women’s Day, taking the chance to highlight their efforts and achievements to consolidate women’s rights and open up new fields for women’s self-affirmation in the society. Sadly, in Syria, women are suffering from tragic political, social and living conditions. However, Syrian women did not despair, and the harsh conditions made them stronger, boosted their willpower and motivated them to address problems and difficulties and promoted their persistence to improve their situation and maintain their families.
Although Syrian women have become the most affected by the repercussions of the horrific protracted war, Syrian feminist movements have challenged the conditions of the war, stood against all abuses and violations wrought on women and called for the enactment and implementation of domestic laws to protect women and guarantee their rights. However, the bitter reality is that laws have failed so far to protect women and stop the crimes of violence, arrests, rape, exploitation and killing of women.
The Syrian Observatory has documented the arrest of 155,002 women by regime security services since the outbreak of the Syrian Revolution in March 2011.
According to SOHR statistics, 41,312 women are still detained in regime prisons, and 20,315 other women are forcibly disappeared. These statistics are a clear evidence of blatant violation of international human rights laws, international conventions and treaties by the Syrian regime. Ironically, the Syrian regime itself had signed these laws, conventions and treaties.
Since the beginning of 2021, SOHR has documented the death of 193 women over the age of 18 in acts of violence across Syria.
The Syrian Observatory, as a human rights organisation, expresses its deep concern over the ongoing violence against women who are targeted, arrested and endured pressure for political purposes.
SOHR calls for the enforcement of laws protecting women’s rights and stresses the importance of concerted and exerting efforts to improve the situation of Syrian women struggling with harsh conditions and unwelcome by-products of the protracted war.
For 11 years of this woeful war, Syrian women have never surrendered or remained silent under the “unfair” laws, and they have sought for “women’s empowerment” and fought for a better future.
In an exclusive interview with SOHR, the political activist Moufida Al-Khatib describes the situation of Syrian women as “extremely bad,” saying “women pay an exorbitant price of the war at all levels. Since the beginning of the Syrian Revolution, many women have been arbitrarily arrested, fallen victims of physical and psychological abuses, while the role of Syrian women, in political institutions and decisions, has been under-represented and confined to symbolic participation. In addition, many other Syrian women have been displaced and lost their husbands, brothers, sons and fathers. Women have endured all of these plights in a conservative and traditional environment that is became more complicated and compounded by the Syrian conflict.
Al-Khatib has pointed out that “many women have put their lives at risk to reach a safe country for claiming asylum. In these new and different communities, women have faced many challenges to integrate and adapt to a new lifestyle and new values.
Moufida Al-Khatib recalls marginalisation of women and the social exclusion and inequality regarding their social role. She also adds that the idea of “women’s empowerment” in Syria has remained unachievable.
The political activist considers that the failure of the Syrian Revolution has blocked the way before women to achieve progress or gain their rights due to the emergence of traditional and reactionary intellectual currents that had adopted “obsolete” social ideas that Syria thought to have disposed of.
Al-Khatib stresses the need to build a national state with modern laws preserving rights and duties and ensures a genuine social and economic empowerment of women. She also mentioned some exclusive examples of females who could prove their excellence and merit. Mrs. Moufida also says, “the empowerment of women today is a duty paving the way for women to contribute and play a vital role in Syria’s prosperity, starting from their role to take care of the family and raise decent generations with the aim of reaching a balanced society.”
On the other hand, the executive director of the “Syrian Feminist Lobby”, Rima Flayhan refers to the disastrous situation of Syrian distressed women who are suffering from poverty, homelessness, asylum, detention, social injustice, exclusion of peacemaking process, nonparticipation in laying the foundations for Syria’s future and social and economic inequality.
Flayhan tells SOHR that all women’s organisations should coordinate with each others and cooperate to change the systematic discrimination against women, repeal unfair laws and put an end to violations by all warring forces across Syria, including the Syrian regime forces. She also points out to the importance of increasing women’s representation in political and social aspects, the negotiating delegations, the Constitutional Committee and the activation of UNSCR 1325.
Meanwhile, the Syrian political researcher, Dr. Jamal Al-Shoufi, in an interview with SOHR, confirms that women are essential actors of society who have to be protected, safeguarded and empowered, not attacked. The Syrian society has to get rid of outdated traditions portraying working women to have been dominated by emotion and recognise women’s rights to work and full political participation.
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, suffering 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 that could potentially put an end to this protracted war.