International Women’s Day

Free all peaceful women activists, human rights defenders and aid workers arbitrarily detained or abducted in Syria!

Since the start of the popular protests in Syria in March 2011 women have had a strong voice among the opposition across the country. They have been widely involved in delivering humanitarian assistance, participating in protests and developing civil society initiatives in a very dynamic fashion. Over four years, more than 200,000 people are estimated to have been detained by government forces, including thousands of women. Accurate numbers are difficult to pin down as the Syrian government denies access to detention sites to independent monitors. As the conflict expanded across the country armed opposition groups, have also abducted and arbitrarily detained people, including women.

The Syrian government forces and pro-government militias but also non-state armed groups have arbitrarily detained women, particularly peaceful protestors, human rights defenders, activists, journalists and aid workers, and in some cases, subjected them to torture and sexual abuse. Although many were released shortly after, some were kept longer to exert pressure on their families or to deter their relatives from joining anti-government protests. State media publicly denounced these women as “terrorists”, “saboteurs” and even “sex slaves” for “terrorist groups”.

Where is Salma Jamal Abd al-Razak, a 25 years university student and a peaceful protester arrested by the Syrian authorities in December 2012 ? Why was Faten abd al-Rahim moved to an unknow location after her detention in Adra prison ? Where are Razan Zaitouneh and Samira Khalil, both human rights defenders abducted by members of an armed group in December 2013 ?

Why was Walae Adnan al-Akel, a humanitarian aid worker, sentenced to 15 years in prison in March 2014 ? Why is Samar Kokash, a mother of two and a humanitarian aid worker arrested in November 2013 denied medical care despite of her bad health conditions ? Why are the children of Samar Darwish, a humanitarian aid worker arrested in August 2013 unable to visit her in prison or even to locate her place of detention ?

On the occasion of the International Women’s Day, undersigned organizations -members in the Free Syrian Voices campaign – remind that all parties in the Syrian conflict should abide by International Humanitarian Law principles, and grant specific attention to the protection of women. Our organizations urge all parties to stop harassing and persecuting women activists, to put an end to arbitrary arrests and abductions of civilians and to immediately release all hostages and detainees. Courts that do not present genuine guarantees to protect the rights of the accused detainees should be abolished.

Signatories :

Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network (EMHRN)
Front line Defenders
International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)

Find out more about the Detention of Women in Syria