March marked the 5th anniversary of the war in Syria. The Geneva peace talks on Syria now include more seats for women at the table and in prominent advisory bodies than before. Three out of 15 members on both negotiating teams are women. However, despite this gain, more women’s voices are needed if a lasting peace is to be built in Syria.
Beyond Geneva, women have been working for peace in Syria since the beginning of the war. Syria is home to at least 28 women’s groups directly involved in peacebuilding efforts. These groups promote co-existence, combat child recruitment and enhance the role of women in peace building through political empowerment.
Yet, government and anti-government forces continue to target women’s peaceful actions. Female activists and aid workers are threatened, arbitrarily arrested, detained and tortured for their engagement in peaceful protests, activism and aiding civilians and the displaced.
The violence in Syria has had a tremendous effect on women. Women who remain in conflict zones experience harassment, sexual assault and discriminatory restrictions on their dress and movement. Women also make up the majority of refugees. Displaced women face exploitation at checkpoints, early and forced marriage and a lack of access to reproductive healthcare.
In 2011, a group of teenagers used graffiti to denounce President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. The government detained and tortured the teenagers prompting huge protests. The regime used extreme violence to supress the uprising. An anti-government group formed to fight the regime. In 2014, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) began to fight all parties for control of Syrian territory. Now, various countries, their agendas and interests are deeply involved in the conflict.
“Five things you need to know about Syrian Women’s grassroots organization in the context of the talks on Syria”, Women’s International League of Peace and Freedom, February 4, 2016.
“Five years of war in Syria: what happened and where are we now“, The Guardian, March 9, 2016.
Read our partner Kvinna till Kvinna’s report, Peace Building defines our future Now.
Tweet at Secretary of State John Kerry (@JohnKerry) member of the International Syria Support Group to:
- Include Syrian women peace advocates as a third, independent negotiating bloc, separate from the government and opposition
- Conduct substantive consultation with grassroots organizations as vital connectors to war-torn communities