The Syrian civil war has been all over the news for the past five years. It is clear that the help the Syrian people get doesn’t match the amount of that coverage, but that is another story. There is one group though, that almost gets no reporting in the media, although they have been hurt beyond measure in this war: They are the women of Syria.
We now know that the conflict has claimed the lives of more than 200,000 people, caused millions to lose their loved ones and homes, and what’s been left in its wake is a broken, hollowed out country. However, despite the relentless air strikes, barrel bombs, chemical weapons and fighting, women continue to be a beacon of hope for many.
In most cases, they have lost their parents, their spouses, their children or siblings, their homes and lives and their careers. Amongst the 2.8 million people that have left Syria in the past three years, four in five of them had been women and children. UN reports that there are now 145,000 Syrian refugee families headed by a woman in neighbouring countries. The men in their families are killed, injured or imprisoned.
They are subjected to inexplicably outrageous crimes. In addition to losing everything they had, and their lives, and despite the poverty, difficulties of being a refugee now, they have to deal with threat of sexual violence as well. In Syria especially, they face unimaginable crimes at the hands of the regime forces.
Arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearances and torture in detention centres for confessions are commonplace. Moreover, they are often actively pursued by the regime’s forces to put pressure on their husbands or brothers, and sometimes used as human shields. They are held in jails without charges most of the time, and most die due to torture.
Yet, they haven’t lost their resilience and strength. Take 17-year-old Mazoun Almellehan, who lives with her family in a refugee camp in Jordan. Although she is only a teenager, and despite the fact that she lives in a desolate camp in less than favourable conditions, she has a constant smile on her face with her bright eyes and an unbridled enthusiasm for life and a desire to help others. In a display of courage that could put many adults to shame, she took it upon herself to protect young girls in her community from abuse, mistreatment and deprivation of education. She is now known in the international community as the ‘Malala of Syria’.
She is definitely not the only one. Syrian women were known to help organise anti-regime rallies before the civil war, and they’re now focusing on humanitarian efforts, supporting others to get the help they need. They are even called the ‘leaders of humanitarian efforts’. They run schools and other places housing large numbers of refugees, and organise educational events targeting women and children.
Yet, the strength and resilience of these great women should not make the world think that they do not have any responsibility of helping them. Remember how the world collectively said ‘never again’, after the Second World War then once again after the Bosnian War, after Darfur and after Rwanda? So what is happening now? Why is the world letting this go on and not do anything to help? And worse, how is it possible that in some places of the world, Syrian refugees are being shockingly mistreated, turned back on their heels and blamed for the actions of the terrorists? How can a European politician say that “women and children should be bombed because IS is there” and get away with saying that?
Let’s keep one thing in mind: As human beings, it is our duty to help the Syrians get out of this difficult situation even though they are doing a great job maintaining their dignity and strength despite facing the most appalling conditions.