Syrian Women Demand Voice at Peace Talks

Posted on: January 14, 2014, by :

Excerpt from the article, which originally appeared on Al Jazeera America:

AlJazeeraAmericaGender-based violence among victims of Syria’s civil war is increasing. Since the start of the conflict in 2011, more than two million refugees have fled the country, most of whom have sought shelter in neighboring Lebanon and Jordan. According to a U.N. Women study, child marriages and domestic violence are on the rise among refugee families in Jordan.

Mothers cited economic stress as a contributing factor. Families living in refugee camps are more inclined to pull their daughters out of schools or marry them off at younger ages in exchange for sizeable dowries.

Women also indicated that their inability to leave home without a male chaperone, due to social expectations and dangerous conditions in the camps, added to their unhappiness.

Hibaaq Osman, founder of Karama, an international organization working for the inclusion of women in politics in the Middle East, assembled a collective of local Syrian woman in Damascus last week to discuss similar issues.

Osman told Al Jazeera that she believes women will be the ones to bring peace to Syria.

“Because they (women) have everything to lose,” Osman said, “they want to sustain peace.” While “men will be fighting over power, women are more pragmatic.”

Osman also praised the efforts of U.N. Women to bring women to the negotiators’ table in Geneva next week.

“When we talk about women at the table, you know what the men will think, they will see them as the table cloth. (But) that’s not the point,” she said. “In order for us to not be a table cloth, we need to send representatives. To spotlight their concerns.”

Armed conflict and periods of political transition are particularly prone to an increase in gender-based violence.

In Egypt, women played a prominent role in kicking off the 18-day protests at Tahrir Square that led to the toppling of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in 2011, but the country’s National Council for Women was among the first to be abolished after the protests. Many women protesters were arrested and subjected to “virginity checks” by security forces. Street harassment and widespread intimidation has continued to hamper women’s participation in the public sphere.

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