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A Commentary on the Commission of Inquiry Report: “I lost my dignity”

In May 2018, WILPF Secretary General Madeleine Rees and London School of Economics and Political Science Emerita Professor of International Law Christine Chinkin released a commentary on the UN report “ ‘I lost my dignity’: Sexual and gender-based violence in the Syrian Arab Republic.

Banner: "A commentary on the Conference Room Paper of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic" - "I lost my dignity: Sexual and gender-based violence in the Syrian Arab Republic"
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WILPF International Secretariat
19 May 2018

In May 2018, WILPF Secretary General Madeleine Rees and London School of Economics and Political Science Emerita Professor of International Law Christine Chinkin released a commentary on the UN report “ ‘I lost my dignity’: Sexual and gender-based violence in the Syrian Arab Republic.[1] “I lost my dignity” is the written summary of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry’s investigations covering the period March 2011 to December 2017, and it was presented during the 37th session of the Human Rights Council on 8 March.

The commentary provides historical context to the evolution of research on gender-based violence and a summary of the Commission of Inquiry’s report. Subsequently, Chinkin and Rees explain the nuances of the economy of women’s bodies and of war, and contextualise it within UN policymaking and implementation.

Broadly, Chinkin and Rees find the Commission of Inquiry’s report “ground-breaking. Few will be surprised by the content, given the previous reports and the existing knowledge of the brutality of the conflict, but this might well be the first report by a UN mandated body, albeit an independent one, which makes a significant departure from existing approaches to the subject.”

The analysis responds to the new information and advocates for international accountability as “a paramount obligation.” International criminal law and international human rights law, specifically in relation to UN Treaty Bodies and Human Rights Council members, are imperative to substantive peacebuilding and gendered violence prevention, state Chinkin and Rees.

Finally, the commentary concludes with recommendations for implementation, of extreme and time-sensitive importance in the prevention of violence.

“For there to be a break through on the appalling human rights violations and violations of IHL in the Syrian conflict, the multilateral system, through all its manifestations needs to work as it is supposed to do,” conclude Chinkin and Rees. “The report of the [Commission of Inquiry] says clearly what needs to be done, it is incumbent on the system to make that happen.”

WILPF is committed to a rights-based approach to furthering the agenda for feminist peace in Syria through a three-tiered strategy, comprising: a) civil society support for feminist movement building; b) enhancing women’s meaningful participation in decision making and politics, including in peace and transitional processes, and; c) advocating for grassroots-led, gender sensitive approaches to seeking accountability and justice for the harms experienced.

[1] UN index: A/HRC/37/CRP.3

Download the PDF of the commentary here.

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WILPF International Secretariat

WILPF International Secretariat, with offices in Geneva and New York, liaises with the International Board and the National Sections and Groups for the implementation of WILPF International Programme, resolutions and policies as adopted by the International Congress. Under the direction of the Secretary-General, the Secretariat also provides support in areas of advocacy, communications, and financial operations.

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Melissa Torres

VICE-PRESIDENT

Prior to being elected Vice-President, Melissa Torres was the WILPF US International Board Member from 2015 to 2018. Melissa joined WILPF in 2011 when she was selected as a Delegate to the Commission on the Status of Women as part of the WILPF US’ Practicum in Advocacy Programme at the United Nations, which she later led. She holds a PhD in Social Work and is a professor and Global Health Scholar at Baylor College of Medicine and research lead at BCM Anti-Human Trafficking Program. Of Mexican descent and a native of the US/Mexico border, Melissa is mostly concerned with the protection of displaced Latinxs in the Americas. Her work includes training, research, and service provision with the American Red Cross, the National Human Trafficking Training and Technical Assistance Centre, and refugee resettlement programs in the U.S. Some of her goals as Vice-President are to highlight intersectionality and increase diversity by fostering inclusive spaces for mentorship and leadership. She also contributes to WILPF’s emerging work on the topic of displacement and migration.

Jamila Afghani

VICE-PRESIDENT

Jamila Afghani is the President of WILPF Afghanistan which she started in 2015. She is also an active member and founder of several organisations including the Noor Educational and Capacity Development Organisation (NECDO). Elected in 2018 as South Asia Regional Representative to WILPF’s International Board, WILPF benefits from Jamila’s work experience in education, migration, gender, including gender-based violence and democratic governance in post-conflict and transitional countries.

Sylvie Jacqueline Ndongmo

PRESIDENT

Sylvie Jacqueline NDONGMO is a human rights and peace leader with over 27 years experience including ten within WILPF. She has a multi-disciplinary background with a track record of multiple socio-economic development projects implemented to improve policies, practices and peace-oriented actions. Sylvie is the founder of WILPF Cameroon and was the Section’s president until 2022. She co-coordinated the African Working Group before her election as Africa Representative to WILPF’s International Board in 2018. A teacher by profession and an African Union Trainer in peace support operations, Sylvie has extensive experience advocating for the political and social rights of women in Africa and worldwide.

WILPF Afghanistan

In response to the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban and its targeted attacks on civil society members, WILPF Afghanistan issued several statements calling on the international community to stand in solidarity with Afghan people and ensure that their rights be upheld, including access to aid. The Section also published 100 Untold Stories of War and Peace, a compilation of true stories that highlight the effects of war and militarisation on the region. 

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Demilitarisation

WILPF uses feminist analysis to argue that militarisation is a counter-productive and ill-conceived response to establishing security in the world. The more society becomes militarised, the more violence and injustice are likely to grow locally and worldwide.

Sixteen states are believed to have supplied weapons to Afghanistan from 2001 to 2020 with the US supplying 74 % of weapons, followed by Russia. Much of this equipment was left behind by the US military and is being used to inflate Taliban’s arsenal. WILPF is calling for better oversight on arms movement, for compensating affected Afghan people and for an end to all militarised systems.

Militarised masculinity

Mobilising men and boys around feminist peace has been one way of deconstructing and redefining masculinities. WILPF shares a feminist analysis on the links between militarism, masculinities, peace and security. We explore opportunities for strengthening activists’ action to build equal partnerships among women and men for gender equality.

WILPF has been working on challenging the prevailing notion of masculinity based on men’s physical and social superiority to, and dominance of, women in Afghanistan. It recognizes that these notions are not representative of all Afghan men, contrary to the publicly prevailing notion.

Feminist peace​

In WILPF’s view, any process towards establishing peace that has not been partly designed by women remains deficient. Beyond bringing perspectives that encapsulate the views of half of the society and unlike the men only designed processes, women’s true and meaningful participation allows the situation to improve.

In Afghanistan, WILPF has been demanding that women occupy the front seats at the negotiating tables. The experience of the past 20 has shown that women’s presence produces more sustainable solutions when they are empowered and enabled to play a role.

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