It’s been almost five years since the most horrific war in recent years began. Relentless air strikes, barrel bombs ceaseless fighting and the use of chemical weapons have left Syria devastated, broken, and with most of its citizens either internally displaced or as refugees abroad. It is now a hollowed out space on the map without any semblance of a country. All that is left behind is warring parties, ruined cities and helpless civilians who have nowhere to run. According to the UN, more than 200,000 have died in the war and a significant part of the casualties have been women and children.
Five years on, the conflict doesn't seem to be dying out. Instead, it is picking up speed. It can now be seen as a proxy war between the powers of the world, which means that the days of destruction, terror and death are not going to be over any time soon for the innocent civilians of Syria. Much have been said and written about the casualties in Syria, although very little has been done to stop it or help the tyrannized, crushed people. Additionally, in all the coverage of the indescribable horror going on in Syria, no one has paid much attention to the one group that has paid the biggest price of this ugly war: The women of Syria.
Unsurprisingly, women are one of the groups that are most affected by the war in Syria. In the past three years, 2.8 million people left Syria and four in five of them were women and children. Mostly resettling in neighboring countries like Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, and Iraq, it is reported by the UN that there are 145,000 Syrian refugee families headed by a woman. The men in the families are either dead, injured, or imprisoned. In addition to having to deal with the trauma of dealing with losing loved ones, these defenseless women also have to think about their families and take care of them. They face not only hunger and poverty, but most of the time, the threat of sexual violence as well.[i]
For instance in Syria, women face unimaginable crimes at the hands of the regime's forces. It is reported that the Syrian regime subjects many women to arbitrary arrests and enforced disappearances. It is not uncommon that many of these women are tortured in detention centers for confessions. At times, they are being consciously pursued to put pressure on partners or brothers, and sometimes used as human shields. [ii]
When they are held in jails, it is usually without any charges, and many die due to torture, hunger or asphyxiation.[iii]
Sexual assault is very common, and not surprisingly, kept under wraps. Domestic violence is also on the rise.
Yet, women are and have always been strong and despite the difficulties, they stand up, adapt to changing circumstances and take measures to protect themselves and their loved ones from harm.
One good example is 17-year-old Muzzoon, who lives with her family in a refugee camp in Jordan. Although she is only a teenager, she took it upon herself to protect young girls in her community from abuse, mistreatment and deprivation of education. Due to her commendable efforts, she came to be known in the international community as the ‘Malala of Syria’.
The women of Syria, who helped to organize anti-regime rallies before the civil war, are now mostly focusing on humanitarian efforts, supporting other women and children, and helping them get much-needed medical treatment. They are, in some cases, even called the ‘leaders of humanitarian efforts’. They take charge of schools and other places housing large numbers of refugees, and organize educational efforts targeting women. [iv]
With this strong character, they also show how a true Muslim woman should be; strong, resilient and inspiring, regardless of the circumstances, as a true lover of God who draws strength from her love of God.
The plight of the women of Syria should make the world open their eyes and hearts to what is going on in this part of the world. Although the world has often said ‘never again’ after every horrendous crime, - remember WWII, the war in Bosnia, Darfur and Rwanda - something that is perhaps worse is currently taking place in plain sight.
Although the Syrian people maintain their dignity and strength despite it all, it is our duty to help them get out of this incredibly difficult situation. Let’s not miss our opportunity to prove our compassion, love and dignity. Those who fail to extend a helping hand should understand that once these days are over and the Syrian people no longer need help, they might feel incredibly disappointed at themselves for not doing enough. All those things that could have been done, but weren’t, might well eat away their self-confidence and respect.
Adnan Oktar's piece on Ekurd Daily: