Shedding tears for Syria's women

Shedding tears for Syria's women
Among other things, the revolution was intended to improve the lot of Syrian women; but among their new "rights" is the right to get stoned to death.
3 min read
25 Nov, 2014
Not all of Syria's armed groups are fighting for women's rights [Getty]
A young Syrian female radio announcer with a faint and slightly hoarse voice told me she was preparing for a show about women on a Syrian station that broadcasts from Gaziantep in Turkey.

She asked me to answer this question: What is the status of women after the Arab revolutions generally and the Syrian revolution specifically?

She asked me keep my answer to a minute and a half. I told her the situation brought tears to my eyes and a minute and a half was not enough for me empty my head of all the sadness.

She asked if it were really that bad, and why. And I told her.

Betraying women

Because we civilian activists who revolted against the Assad regime in early 2011 thought we would take the hand of Syrian women and lift them up too, making them equal with women around the world.

Syrian women were with us in the revolution, side by side, because they had the same ambitions.

But young militants hijacked our revolution by force and announced it was not a nationalist, civil or democratic revolution, but a jihad to set up an Islamic caliphate, to pledge allegiance to a man from Baghdad, another from the Golan, a third one from Tunisia and a fourth from Chechnya.

One of the main objectives in these men's minds was oppressing women and stripping them of the rights and freedoms they gained over the past 70 years.

Militants hijacked our revolution and announced it was a jihad to set up an Islamic caliphate.

A revolution undermined

The young announcer wanted to cut me off and tell me something but I did not let her speak and I continued. In the areas where these honourable militants had taken over they took a break from fighting the regime, they forgot about jihad and went to a school for young girls.

Instead of handing out sweets and hair ties they handed out black robes and ordered the girls to wear them.

They have preached that the right path starts with making their women inaccessible, not only by forcing them to leave work but also by staying at home and dedicating themselves to serving their husbands, doing work men consider beneath them around the house and caring for their children.

In 1949, three years after Syrian independence and the end of the French mandate, General Husni al-Zaim took control of Syria in a military coup. Zaim was an eccentric and was always shown in the press holding a marshal's baton. He made strange statements that become a source of amusement in Syria and abroad. This strange man surprised the world with two decisions, each a revolution in themselves.

First, he gave Syrian women the right to vote without restrictions or conditions. Second, he passed a new personal status law.

The age of great miracles that began with General Zaim came to an end a few decades later. Now, at the beginning of the 21st century, the Islamic state group (IS, formerly known as ISIS) has given women the right to marry mujahideen (fighters) from abroad as soon as they hit puberty. They also have the right to be stoned to death.

The young announcer said she thought that was a scary situation, and suggested we need another revolution. I disagreed. Our revolution goes on.

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the original author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of al-Araby al-Jadeed, its editorial board or staff.

This is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.