Syria's Women on the Frontlines of Protest
In the face of the most prolonged government crackdown in the Arab Spring, Syrian women are protesting alongside men, showing the world they will not be silenced -- whether by their government or by fears of an Islamist alternative.
“The Arab Spring is a call for dignity, justice and freedom. None of the three can be achieved if women are left behind,” asserts Diala Haidar, a Beirut-based activist who started the Facebook page “The uprising of women in the Arab world” in October to raise awareness of women’s issues in the region.
“We think it is our right moment in this region, and we have to be fully aware of this opportunity that the Arab Spring has revealed to us.”
In fact, from the very beginning of the Syrian uprising, the contributions of women activists have been indispensable in sustaining the protest movement.
AN ACTIVE ROLE, PUBLICLY AND PRIVATELY
“Women have played an incredibly active role, even though they’re not as visible as men,” observes Rafif Jouejati, a spokesperson for Syria’s Local Coordination Committees, an umbrella organization coordinating protests and relief aid among the country’s towns and provinces.
A management consultant based in Washington, DC, Jouejati says she became an activist after hearing the news of children in Daraa being detained and tortured for writing anti-government graffiti on school walls, with no retribution to the security officials who perpetrated the outrage.
Jouejati emphasizes the variety of Syrian women’s undertakings as well as their significance and risk. “They document crimes against humanity,” she notes, “they establish relief committees, and they have been critical to civil resistance. They’re not just doing charity drives.”
Indeed, certain women have been particularly conspicuous -- despite the near-certainty of retaliation.