Syria: Women Fighting on Front Lines as the Tide Turns

Posted on: October 3, 2012, by :

The uprising in Syria has taken on an even more urgent character in recent days.  In late July, what is thought to be a suicide bomber killed Syria’s top military officials, including Daoud Rajha, the defense minister and Asef Shawkat, Bashar al-Assad’s brother-in-law.  

This daring attack marked the beginning of the Free Syrian Army’s increasingly organized assault on government positions inside the capital Damascus and Aleppo, Syria’s second largest city and industrial hub.

With Assad’s critical military leaders killed, and intensifying rebel military pressure in urban centers, the Assad regime looks to have reached the “point of no return” although still possesses tremendous destructive power.   

Indeed, the resignation of peace envoy Kofi Annan earlier this week may signal recognition by the international community that a diplomatic solution is no longer probable. 

With open street battles in major cities, the humanitarian situation has become increasingly dire. Current estimates indicate that 19,000 lives have been lost in the conflict, and more than 120,000 refugees have flowed into Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraqi Kurdistan. 

As with Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and Yemen, women have been at the forefront of the effort to remove Assad from power. From the very beginning, reports have described women forming human chains around groups of protesting men, shielding them from gunfire with their own bodies. 

Razan Zaitouneh, a female opposition member, reports hearing popular chants change from “women should stay at home” to “cheer for women” as the conflict developed, according to al-Arabia reports. 

And Khawla Dunia, a writer, poet and activist, has joined the fight online, through inspiring and creative postings on a number of social media sites.

Other reports describe increasing numbers of women from the Syrian diaspora joining the Free Syrian Army to fight on the front lines, but also act in other roles from logistics, to planning, to intelligence, and media relations. 

As the situation develops, Karama continues to coordinate closely and discreetly with our partners inside Syria and the diaspora, and will share further updates as soon as they can be made public.