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Wars will end, but their weapons remain aimed at women

Wars will end, but their weapons remain aimed at women

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Opinion Women’s Rights Basic Rights

Friday 15 December 202307:41 pm
إقرأ باللغة العربية:

تذهب الحرب ويبقى السلاح موجهاً نحو النساء


“My children died hungry, they were killed before they could eat!”, screamed a mother in Gaza, breaking the collective heart of the world. A woman who carries no arms or weapons is forced to face war; without children, with a bleeding heart and a shaky voice.

War reinforces societal violence

War is cruel and women are especially affected, whether through death, the loss of a provider, displacement, or being forced to seek refuge and asylum. War adds another layer to the suffering of women and often enables various other forms of violence: from domestic and societal violence, to psychological, physical, sexual, verbal, economic, ideological, cultural, political, and even cyber violence. In some cases, this violence escalates to murder, as with ‘honor killings’.

A girl from the Syrian city of Daraa was killed by her brother in May 2023, according to the Syrian Observatory. Since the start of the year, there have been 92 crimes of this nature (not to mention those that have gone unreported) against women, spanning domestic violence, theft and murder. In Hasakah and northern Syria, there have been 25 documented honor killings in the first half of the year, according to Women's Coordination.

War constitutes one of the most pervasive forms of violence, and women are especially affected, whether through death, the loss of a provider, displacement, or being forced to seek refuge. War adds another layer to women's suffering, enabling other forms of violence

Widely available weapons

War has resulted in greater access to weapons for members of the public, threatening that any minor dispute could potentially escalate due to the availability of weapons.

Statistics suggest that 37% of women in the Eastern Mediterranean experience some form of violence– this is among the highest percentages in the world. In many cases, this violence is triggered by gender, rather than by the woman’s age, social status, or financial situation. However, its severity and the way it manifests can vary. Some stories have made headlines, such as that of the Afghani girls killed for wanting an education, or the women in Iran killed for protesting the hijab.

War has resulted in greater access to weapons for members of the public, threatening that any minor dispute could potentially escalate due to the availability of weapons.

Every day, women die protesting restrictions imposed on them, with estimates suggesting that 1 in 3 women experience violence at the hands of their partner. According to a UN study, 1 woman or girl is killed every 11 minutes by a partner or family member.

Zaher Hajjo, the head of the General Authority for Forensic Medicine in Syria, stated that of the 100 cases of abuse or violence against women last year, 3 lost their lives. Although over time, these numbers have decreased, they still exist, and violations span harm to death. In Syria, Aleppo is the city with the highest incidents of violence towards women, followed by Damascus, Suwayda and Homs.

Despite many cases remaining undetected and unreported, some stories have surfaced in the media. Fatal attacks were carried out with weapons provided by war, or with primitive tools such as sticks and rocks, as seen last year in the crime of Tal Khazneh, outside Hama, where the body of a girl with a shattered skull was found. Stabbings and other forms of violence have also been reported.

Ayat Al-Rifai, a young Syrian woman, was killed by her husband in 2021. The case was widely covered by the media and on social networks, and attempts were made by the husband and his family to evade responsibility for the crime.

The law is not concerned with the weapon, only honor

Crimes of honor are not unfamiliar to our society, but they have increased due to the proliferation of weapons left behind by war. Legal defenses often present mitigating excuses aimed at reducing the penalty for perpetrators, citing ‘blood frenzy’ and honor-related disputes in order to obtain lighter punishment. Glaring discrimination is apparent in the handling of cases involving marital infidelity, where the death of a woman accused of infidelity is socially accepted, and the man is often exempt from punishment.

Glaring discrimination is apparent in the handling of cases involving marital infidelity, where the death of a woman accused of infidelity is socially accepted, and the man is often exempt from punishment.

Much of these crimes are fueled by suspicion, paranoia and rumors, slander, or even false accusations motivated by revenge. Sometimes, the motive is a woman’s rejection of the spouse her family has chosen for her. There have also been cases of women murdered as revenge for rejecting a boyfriend or husband.

Violence is not limited to murder; women deemed ‘safe’ can also be exposed to suffering, whether at home, work, in public places, on transportation, or on the street. Forms of harassment vary, and range from verbal to physical and visual, and can sometimes serve as a means to settle scores between men, as in the kidnapping and murder of the young Joua in Homs last year.

Changing legislative sources

This violent reality against women is rooted in a prevailing mentality entrenched in social tradition, reinforced by laws and bolstered by religious misconceptions. Between the weapons left behind by armed conflicts and the customary and sometimes religious authority granted to men, women emerge as the weaker party, as the nozzles of these weapons point towards them after war subsides. In Syria, Personal Status Laws stem from Islamic legislation and jurisprudence derived from religious texts and traditions, which perpetuates the marginalization of women, both mentally and religiously.

Despite the Quran placing equal emphasis on both men and women, the concept of qawama serves as the foundation for discriminatory behavior towards women in the social and legal sphere. It is necessary to develop clear and explicit civil legal legislation divorced from religious foundations, and in alignment with human rights, free from discrimination, injustice, or personal interpretation, and in embrace of human, civilizational, and contemporary consensus.

This violent reality against women is rooted in social traditions that are reinforced by laws and bolstered by religious misconceptions.

Perhaps the most overlooked form of violence, despite its impact, is psychological violence, with neglect being its most prominent feature. This can manifest in coercion in choosing a partner, and the absence or refusal of civil marriage, especially for those afflicted by poor economic conditions. Economic circumstances influence domestic psychological violence; a father’s violence towards his wife and children can be seen in the way the children are treated by their mother.

These conditions, coupled with a lack of job opportunities, have driven girls and women to begging or engaging in online chat rooms for income. However, there are many risks associated with these activities, such as blackmail, human trafficking (even from a distance) and disguised prostitution. Individuals may even be coerced into prostitution because of blackmail. These activities are not only fruitless, they are draining and squander human potential, which is neglected in the midst of chaotic and deteriorating human and social conditions.


* The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Raseef22



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