Women Seeking Peace and Security in Syria

Syrian WomenWe, the Syrian women meeting in Damascus, are a voice of Syrian women nationwide, a reflection of a mosaic of Syrian society, narrators of suffering and pain experienced by Syria, and evidence of the sustainability and life of Syrian society (Syrian Women’s Charter).

On 6 January 2014, in collaboration with a group of independent Syrian women and the Syrian Women’s Forum for Peace, more than 60 Syrian women from a number of Syrian districts and governorates met in Damascus to discuss the role of women in peacemaking and to articulate the priorities of Syrian women for the Geneva II conference.

In preparation, the Syrian Women’s Forum for Peace had organized three workshops in Sweida, Hasakah, and Lattakia and distributed a questionnaire on Syrian women’s priorities for the Geneva II Conference to more than 6,000 women in all parts of Syria.

The women confirmed the importance of ensuring the representation of women from inside Syria and recent refugees living in neighboring countries in the negotiating process and insisted that these women should have an active role through a real political process.

The Syrian Women’s Forum for Peace, formed in October 2012, is working for a peaceful political transition to democracy in Syria and building a broad-based coalition of Syrian women across the political spectrum.

The Syrian Women’s Charter* that resulted from the 6 January gathering was described by Mouna Ghanem, co-founder of Syrian Women’s Forum for Peace during the Women Lead to Peace gathering I attended in Geneva just prior to Geneva II (http://codepink.org/blog/2014/01/the-geneva-diaries/).

Women, particularly those with deep connections to organised, broadly representative movements of women, can bring a different perspective into difficult political processes. Without making generalisations that are too broad, it is possible to imagine that most women would pay close attention to the way relationship were developing during negotiations and would work harder to keep the conversation together, to keep a relationship intact, even when there is conflict or disagreement. That is exactly the kind of skill is needed in a peace process.

I also believe that women will integrate into a peace process more of the components that make peace real. Political agreements over a ceasefire or change of government are important objectives of peace talks and women need to be at the table when they are discussed. I think women are also more likely to integrate into the process discussions about the humanitarian needs of the civilian population, or the healing of the psychological wounds of war on all sides, or the vital necessity of social and educational programs in the context of post-conflict reconstruction.

Any peace agreement with substance has to deal with all of the dimensions of life. This is especially true in conflicts within a country, where the ongoing challenge includes learning to live together following vicious attacks – balancing justice and peace, addressing issues of impunity while trying to keep all parties to the conflict at the negotiating table. I think women tend to be more attentive to essential details in these difficult situations.

As efforts falter to move negotiations forward for an end to the horrific violence in Syria, it is time to engage Syrian women fully in the process, honoring the commitment expressed in UNSC Resolution 1325 and subsequent declarations that reaffirm the important role of women in the prevention and resolution of conflicts – in peace negotiations, peace-building, peacekeeping, humanitarian response and in post-conflict reconciliation.

We, women, are hearing each other and learning from each other’s experience.  The women of Syria are essential to the design and implementation of sustainable peace in their country.  Listen to them!  

*Syrian Women’s Charter (January 2014)

We, the Syrian women meeting in Damascus, are a voice of Syrian women nationwide, a reflection of a mosaic of Syrian society, narrators of suffering and pain experienced by Syria, and evidence of the sustainability and life of Syrian society. We met to form our vision as Syrian women and to identify and illuminate our mutual goals, which we believe that the international community should seriously consider in light of the Geneva II conference to be held at the end of January.

Our vision is summarized as follows:

  • We must take action to end violence and prevent the export of weapons and militants into the Syrian territory.
  • We must end the siege and facilitate the arrival of meaningful relief aids for those adversely impacted.
  • We must emphasize the unity of the country and reject any political settlement made on an ethnic, sectarian or denominational basis.
  • The international community must stop using Syrian humanitarian issues for political or economic gain.
  • International stakeholders must lift economic sanctions on Syria and help facilitate the flow of basic goods and services to accelerate the process of economic recovery. 
  • We aspire to build a future Syrian state that will honor its citizens and their basic human rights.
  • We emphasize the need to involve women from inside Syria in negotiating processes as representatives of the larger Syrian fabric. Women must have an equal role to men in advocating for their needs and priorities, and for designing the future Syrian state the process to get there.
  • We must integrate women into the democratic process and support their active participation in disarmament, reconstruction, and transitional justice.
  • We must address the issue of abducted and detained women separately of political interests. We must not exploit them or use them as a means of exerting pressure.

We reject any international intervention in issues relating to the form of the state and constitution. Such issues are the responsibility of the Syrian people. The Geneva II Conference is an international conference on Syrian issues of peace and transition. In order for it to be successful, the conference must include participation of Syrian men and women from inside Syria in real and active roles. Political freedom and freedom of action of civil society and the media must be encouraged and upheld.

We must foster international cooperation through economic empowerment programs for Syrian women and educational programs for Syrian children.

We, the Syrian women assembled in Damascus on 6 January, 2014, call upon the whole world, particularly international players concerned and involved in the Syrian crisis, to make 2014 a year of peace and security in Syria. In light of this, we have adopted the above points as guidelines in our efforts to achieve peace in Syria.

Marie Dennis,

Pax Chritsti International Co-President

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