Women on the Frontline in Syria

Read the story in Arabic                                         اقرأ ھنا القصة باللغة العربیة

16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence

November 25, 2016 marks the beginning of the global 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence Campaign, an international campaign which commences on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women (Nov 25) and concludes on International Human Rights Day (Dec 10).

In the context of this year’s campaign, Women on the Frontline is bringing to the fore the work being done by the Women on the Frontline members in Syria to end violence against Syrian women and to stipulate war is the worst form of violence. Clearly, the elimination of this violence is a precondition for rebuilding a peaceful Syria.

Across Syria, the space for women’s political and social participation expanded rapidly in the early days of the 2011 revolution.

However, the once significant gains for women’s participation have been almost entirely reversed due to the ongoing armed conflict, the emergence of extremist groups, increased human rights violations by the government, and the great exodus of millions of Syrian refugees.

As Women on the Frontline has learned from its work, and from its incredible network of partners on the ground, violence against women is a principal restricting factor to Syrian women enjoying their full human rights. While gender-based violence significantly impedes women’s full participation around the world, violence against women in Syria has not only rescinded nearly all gains for women made through the revolution, but it also threatens to jeopardize all future prospects of a successful, post-conflict transition in Syria.

Once taboo, the Assad government has arrested, tortured, and killed women at unprecedented rates while rebel and extremist groups of all ideologies have engaged in the systematic marginalization and repression of Syrian women within their respective territories. Even outside Syria, women refugees are doubly at risk, made vulnerable both by their refugee status and their status as women. Finally, existing violent trends in Syria, including domestic violence, honor killings, and child marriage, have been exacerbated by the strains and trials of Syria’s civil war.

The coming 16 days we will publish a series of stories of Women on the Frontline members in Syria. Through recounting their personal stories, and the essential work that their organizations do, each story provides a unique perspective and call for action to end violence against women:

In The Letter of the Law, Sawsan Zakzak from the Syrian Women’s League presents her latest research findings on the state of violence against Syrian women and discusses how the ongoing phenomena of gender-based violence is rooted in existing Syrian law.

In Come As You Are, Noura Burhan from the Center for Civil Society and Democracy in Syria (CCSD) recounts the success of Syria’s 25 “peace circles,” which are small groups of women throughout Syria that work on the local level to increase women’s rights and transform women into local community leaders.

In Storytelling for Change, Inaam Charaf and Youssef Shekho describe how the Saiedet Souria magazine uses storytelling as a means for everyday Syrian women to find their voice and to use this voice to work toward a better Syria based on peace, justice, and the provision of full rights to women. To date, Saiedet Souria has distributed over 150,000 copies of its magazine by and for Syrian women.

In The End of Dictatorship, Once and For All, Samira Zair from the Syrian Women’s Network addresses the importance of placing women and women’s rights at the center of all solution-based activities in Syria, lest, as she describes it, the future Syria simply replace one form of dictatorship with another.

Finally, in Building a Culture of Peace, Ayham Alhuseen of Badael discusses his work supporting on-the-ground civil society initiatives in Syria. In particular, he discusses how local civil society initiatives, including those lead by women, are establishing a new culture of peacebuilding, even in the midst of an ongoing civil war. This year Badael published an extensive study on women’s peace activism in Syria.