No Women, No Peace In Syria

A young woman with the words "Free Syria" written on her face attends a demonstration against violence in Syria on
A young woman with the words "Free Syria" written on her face attends a demonstration against violence in Syria on February 26, 2012 in Madrid.

When Syrian women attempted to participate in the first round of Geneva peace talks in 2013, they were turned away. The following year, some 35 countries made statements at follow up peace talks, and once again, there was no space for the women of Syria. These scenes are now all too familiar for Syrian women, who arguably have the greatest stake in the Syrian peace process, as they bear a disproportionate impact of the Syrian civil war and brutality by groups such as Da'esh.

As individuals and organizations around the world engage in 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence, Syrian and international activists are intensifying calls for world leaders to demonstrate their commitment to support Syrian women's peacebuilding: a commitment they formally made 15 years ago, with the passing of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325.

This landmark resolution highlighted the vital role women play in peace building and called for women's equal participation in peace and security, but good intentions have not materialized into meaningful support for Syrian women and their counterparts throughout the world.

Syrian women are providing excellent examples of grassroots, sustainable and non-violent peacebuilding, even as conflict rages on.

  • In 2011, some 2,000 Syrian women and children blocked a main road in northeastern Syria to demand the release of hundreds of imprisoned men.
  • This year, 470 Syrian women in the city of Zabadani risked their lives to publicly sign a statement demanding the Syrian army, Hezbollah and the Sunni Ahar a-Sham militant group stop attacks.
  • Women in Syria's Atmeh camp for internally displaced persons led a successful campaign to control small arms after an argument in the camp lead to the death of civilians. National and international advocacy groups rarely see this level of success when it comes to controlling the use of arms.
  • Syrian women are working to provide essential medical relief and food to a starving population, and have established safe spaces for women and children. Some living in ISIS controlled territory have even been able to negotiate the opening of temporary schools for children denied a regular education since war began.
  • Syrian women's organizations such as the Syrian Women's Initiative for Peace and Democracy are mobilizing across borders to develop a united agenda for peace.
  • Increased support for these peacebuilding efforts is urgently needed. The Badael foundation's report also found that, "lack of funding was the factor most activists pointed out as having a negative impact on their ability to carry out peacebuilding activities. The fact that many women's groups are not registered was one frequently mentioned reason for why they are turned down by donors."

    Syrian women's intimate understanding of their communities' needs and experience driving nonviolent peacebuilding efforts make them essential actors in the peace process. How can anyone justify excluding their expertise from peace talks or denying them the support they so urgently need to continue their efforts?

    Women will not singlehandedly build peace in Syria, but peace will not be achieved if they continue to be excluded. Even if an agreement is reached between fighters -- without the full inclusion of women, civil society and youth -- it will only lead to a fragile peace. This peace will be neither sustainable nor responsive to the needs of civilians most affected by the on-going massacre in Syria.

    This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and members of the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict in conjunction with 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence. To learn more about global activism to end sexual violence in conflict, visit here. To read all posts in the series, visit here.