Friday, December 21, 2012

Syrian Women Upset With Rise Of Islamists In Opposition

It's the women of the Arab Spring- that turned into a civil war in Syria- that I most feel sorry for. At least those that truly did or do yearn for freedom. They were (and continue to be in Syria) instrumental in helping to oust the various dictators they believed held their freedom in shackles, only to discover that their battle for equality will continue under the Islamists that now lead their countries.

They're still struggling in Syria, and some women over there are running scared now that they see hardline Islamists in the opposition movement are gaining strength, which inevitably means they will have gained nothing when the battle against Bashar al-Assad's regime is finally won.

These men, they say, are extremists who are expanding control, waving the black flag of Jihad and excluding women in a way that mirrors the male domination of the autocratic regime that is still clinging to power.

"All opposing Syrian factions insist on marginalizing women," said Maya al-Rahbi, a human rights activist, "which means that these factions are not a true representation of the Syrian people. Half of the population is left out."

Rahbi, director of a Damascus-based women's research center, said "this indicates how patriarchal these groups are and how unbelieving they are in democracy, which can never be achieved without giving women their rights."

Another woman, Majida, is an anti-government activist who does not want to use her real name to protect her safety. She told Women's eNews in an email interview that only three of the 60 leading members of the new Syria National Coalition, which was established in November in Qatar, are women. That ratio overlooks the female momentum behind the opposition fighters and blatantly ignores their active participation in the Syrian conflict for the past 21 months.

Women's rank in the opposition, in fact, mirrors that of the Syrian establishment, where the few female ministers in the government are channeled into "female" ministries such as Social Affairs and Labor.
"We, women, have been fooled," Majida said. "How can such a weak representation be accepted? Do three women reflect the role of the female population in Syria? Did they forget what women died during the revolution by organizing protests themselves? How thousands of us were arrested and tortured just like men? It is men who chose the armed conflict, limiting the physical role of women to some extent. But our suffering was greater than theirs, because murder, rape and torture always affect women and children more than men in armed conflicts."

Rahbi echoed that outrage. "Where are all the mottos we've been hearing since the beginning revolution? Where did the calls for 'freedom, dignity and justice for all citizens' go?" she said.

She added that, "This reminds us of the same oppressive regimes and of their same policies against women. Why then did women take part in the revolution from the very beginning? Why did they sacrifice and lose their loved ones? Why were they killed, arrested, exiled and stranded? Why the revolution in the first place?!"

Indeed they've been fooled. In essence what they have done is unwittingly help their men folk pave the way for the re-emergence of Islamists which were outlawed in those countries. They realize they will have fewer freedoms under the Islamists than they had under their dictators, but it's too late now.

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