Syrian women will join peace talks at UN Geneva

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Displaced Syrian women and children
A group of displaced Syrian women and their children cross the border into Jordan on foot during the conflict crisis in Syria. Image: UNHCR

(WNN/UN) United Nations Geneva, SWITZERLAND, WESTERN EUROPE: As incidences of intimidation, exploitation, early marriage and sexual assault rise for Syrian women and girls during the conflict in the region, Syrian women are now pushing back against the trauma of war in hopes of gaining their own form of empowerment.

Syrian actress Ms. Nanda Mohammad worked with more than 40 Syrian women refugees for a reinterpretation of  “The Trojan Women” play which is being performed today in Amman, Jordan on December 19. Telling a re-adapted version of the historic anti-war story written by the famous ancient Greek playwright Euripidies, “The Trojan Women” highlights the suffering of women after their world has been completely destroyed by armed conflict.

“My participation in this play has revitalized me,” says Fatima, one of the displaced Syrian women now living in Jordan, who is an acting participant in the play and now an active part of The Trojan Women Theatre Project.

“It gave me a sense of responsibility. I feel more optimistic now. It empowered me and made me feel stronger. This is going to help me overcome some of the issues resulting from our crisis. The selection of this text is extremely clever. I feel as though it is talking about us and all the details of our lives and what we went through,” she continued.

But fleeing conflict in Syria has not necessarily made it more safe for women and girls. Displacement, refugee camps and shelters offer only limited protections for women and girls who can face violence under the pressures of family fear and instability.

“Syrian women say they feel unsafe in crowded shelters where they have minimal privacy, yet they are scared to report violence, because of shame or fear of reprisal from family members. Others just don’t know where to turn for help,” outlined the IRC – International Rescue Committee in a comprehensive report 11 months ago.

Since then the situation has actually gotten much worse for women and girls.

Data from the crisis in Syria is now showing an exponential rise in the numbers of registered Syrian refugees, which has gone from 450,096 last December 2012 to over 2.27 million registered refugees today. This has caused an avalanche of need as the plight for women and girls has risen to reach proportions that call for immediate global action, say world leaders and advocates at the UN.

To face mounting needs, the United Nations has brought new appeal for humanitarian funding forward totaling $6.5 billion needed to bring aid to displaced Syrians and relief efforts that can help them. The inclusion of women in this funding effort is obvious, but not everyone has been welcoming Syrian women to come in-person to the international table to talk peace at the UN.

“It’s complicated,” say some of the officials connected to the Geneva II talks in January.

But pressure placed on the issue by one of the oldest organizations for world peace that focuses exclusively on women, WILPF – Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom has stepped up with Human Rights Watch and the lobbying efforts of the governments of the UK, Norway, France and the Netherlands to open the doors today to allow Syrian women to participate in the upcoming Geneva II talks.

The talks, scheduled from January 12 to 13, 2014 will be bringing global leaders to the table to discuss how armed violence and destruction in Syria can be realistically lifted.

“We know that Syrian women and children, who comprise over 70 percent of the refugee population, bear the brunt of this conflict, including serious threats to their safety and security, and lack of access to basic services including those related to reproductive health. Many women who are heading their households struggle to find a source of income to provide for themselves and their families,” said UN Women Executive Director Ms. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka in a speech given today at the United Nations in Geneva.

As women are often the center targets under war and conflict they are also the ones who must step up and become involved in the peace-making process in Syria, outlined the Executive Director as she backed the inclusion of women in the upcoming Geneva II talks.

“Like everyone else, I am here to listen to Syrian women. I express my solidarity with ALL the women of Syria, no matter their political convictions, their region, their religion, their allegiances. The inclusion of women during peace talks — and here I am thinking of course about the upcoming Geneva II process — is a basic democratic right.  Ensuring the perspectives of half the population paves a path for a society that is built on the foundations of inclusion and justice. Inclusion is a condition for a sustainable peace,” added Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuk.

During the upcoming talks for Geneva II, UN Women will also be coordinating with the government of the Netherlands to bring Syrian women together “from across the country and from a wide range of social and political groupings.”

There is much to talk about as the women gather in Geneva in January, say human rights advocates.

Three days ago, on December 16, a helicopter bombing raid hit the northern town of Aleppo, Syria killing what has now been reported to the UN World Food Programme (WFP) from 14 to 28 children. This attack came on the heels of an expanded food distribution program just launched by the WFP.


Fatima, a displaced Syrian women who is now living in Amman, Jordan, talks candidly about how theatre and the new adaptation of the Euripidies play “The Trojan Woman” is helping her, and other women’s, lives. This December 2013 3:03 min Vimeo video release by Georgina Paget is a production of The Trojan Women Theatre Project – Syria.


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