For the last seven years, women in Syria have been raped, tortured and unlawfully detained in prisons. And this situation has the characteristics of war crime and crimes against humanity according to international law. However, because they are not among those who are stripping their veils and posing for the cameras; and because they have not requested to be “rescued” by the West from the oppression of the patriarchy and religion, it does not capture the interest of the West.
According to the Syrian Network for Human Rights, between March 2011 and February 2018, 13, 581 women held in Syrian prisons by regime forces have been tortured and raped. During this 7-year-period, it has been determined that 6, 736 women have been taken into custody or detained. Among them, 6, 319 were adults and 417 of them were children. At least 127 of them were taken into custody while they were pregnant or were taken together with their children. Additionally, at least 76 children were born in official or nonofficial detention centers.
These thousands of women were deprived of the spotlights that would allow them to announce the tortures they were exposed to and determine those as war crimes or human/women’s rights violations because they were not fulfilling the criteria predetermined for eastern women. Until quite recently.
In the previous days, a platform called “Convoy of conscience” was formed with the support of non-governmental organizations such as Humanitarian Relief Foundation (İHH), Özgür-Der (Free Thought and Education Rights Association), Memur-Sen (Public Union Confederation), Hukukçular Derneği (Lawyers' Association), İnsan ve Medeniyet Hareketi (Movement of Human and Civilization) the Ensar Vakfı (Ensar Foundation), the Turkish Directorate of Religious Affairs, various activists and journalists, academics, and others with a public reputation. The symbol of the platform was selected as embroidered head-scarfs representing Syrian women.
Within this context, women from different countries, languages, races and cultures across 55 countries including Rwanda, South Africa, Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Mongolia, Malaysia, Indonesia, Afghanistan, Ukraine, Iraq, Palestine, Bosnia, Eastern Turkistan, Chechnya and Japan took to Hatay in buses with the motto: “We, as women from all over the world, are setting off with the conscience convoy to mobilize consciences.”
Women who have departed from different cities across the world will gather in Hatay, near the Syrian border and raise their voice on March 8, International Women's Day, to announce to the world the pain and suffering of Syrian women. As for why we should support this, the answer is in the following testimonies:
Majd Izzet al-Chourbaji: “I was living in Daraa, Syria. I was arrested in 2013 and held in Syrian prisons for 7 months. My spouse was tortured to death. On the days I was remanded, my mother and children were also taken into custody. I was tortured… In Syrian prisons, torture proceeds like this: They hang you on walls with chains and hit you with iron rods until you pass out.”
Vedad Hamawi was exposed to torture while she was under custody, which included being beaten with rods and being kicked in her womb, which caused her to have a miscarriage.
Fatın Şimali was arrested in Latakia on Aug. 1, 2017, and was released with her family’s efforts after three weeks: “They were not giving importance to questioning at all and they were not posing any blames on me. They were just asking questions about my brother’s son and they were beating me for just fun and revenge. I was released after my family made a huge payment to one of the inspectors there.”
İbtisam Lehham was taken into custody at the beginning of 2017. She was released after three months: “During inspection, one of the officials there started arguing with me. He forced me to take my scarf off… I tried to keep him away and tried to learn the reason I was detained. They beat me, and I was put in solitary confinement. They threatened to beat and electrocute defame me.”
Miyade Attal was arrested in Damascus in January 2016 where she was held for about three months. In that period of time, she was exposed to various degrees of torture and insult.
Expressing that apart from torture, there are also sexual assault cases in Syrian prisons Syrian Attorney Dima Musa said, “All Syrian women must be released immediately, and the women who have not been heard from must be found urgently and provided with humanitarian aid.”
The demonstration will end in Hatay on the morning of March 8, which is celebrated as International Women's Day all over the World. The symbol of the platform, 6,536 embroidered head-scarfs, will be carried to the borders of Syria from all over the world on behalf of the imprisoned women. I hope it will make an impact, I hope it will touch deaf consciences and that it will so loud as to rattle the walls of the Syrian prisons.