January 23, 2014 – While calling on delegates to the Geneva II talks on Syria to bring a swift end to the conflict, the Syrian Women’s Forum for Peace has questioned whether the groups involved can legitimately build the foundations of a democratic Syria.
Delegates from the Syrian government and the Syrian National Coalition started talks in Switzerland yesterday to bring an end to a civil war that began in April 2011. The UN-chaired talks also have the aim of leading the Syrian people to independently and democratically determine their own future.
However, the Syrian Women’s Forum for Peace has called into question the extent to which the delegations can claim to represent all of Syrian society.
The Forum conducted a survey of 6,000 women in Syria in December 2013, which found that 98 per cent of respondents wanted a free and democratic Syria and 99 per cent wanted women to be part of peace and reconciliation processes. However, there are no women currently taking part in the Geneva II talks as part of either the Syrian government or the Syrian National Coalition delegations.
In another survey of 1,000 Syrians undertaken by the group mid-January, only 42.5 per cent felt that they were represented by either of the two Syrian delegations. The Syrian National Coalition (SNC), the group invited by the United Nations to represent those opposed to the Assad government, could only rely on the support of 3 per cent of those surveyed.
Representatives of the Forum are currently in Geneva raising awareness of both surveys.
Dr. Mouna Ghanem, a medical doctor from Syria and Head of the Syrian Women’s Forum for Peace, said:
“Halting the conflict in Syria must of course be the priority for the Geneva II talks and we would urge delegates to exert more effort to begin negotiations among all international, national and regional actors to bring an end to the violence. However, Geneva II is not simply a peace conference as its aims go further toward a transition to a democratic Syria.
We question the legitimacy of the current Geneva II delegates to make the necessary transitional decisions on behalf of Syrian people. Our surveys show the Syrian people do not feel represented by either delegation. Syrian women regardless of the backgrounds, religions, or political affiliations share the desire to live in a democratic state where they enjoy their full rights. They want to be a part of the peace building process and want their voice to be heard by the international community – but the delegations at Geneva II cannot claim to articulate that voice.”
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