WILPF Advocacy Documents


HRC41: Statement on Syria

Explosive Weapons | Gender-Based Violence | Health | Human Rights | Human Rights Violations | Justice | Migration and Displacement | Nuclear Weapons | Social and Economic Rights | Women’s Human Rights
2 July 2019
Document type:
Body submitted to:
Human Rights Council

Statement on Syria

UN Human Rights Council 41st session (24 June – 12 July 2019)

Item 4: Interactive dialogue with the Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic

The Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom is gravely concerned about the humanitarian situation unfolding in northern Syria. The Commission of Inquiry (CoI) has repeatedly warned this Council about the catastrophic consequences that an attack by the Syrian regime in the area of Idlib would have on civilians.[1] The Commission has emphasised that a military offensive “would trigger mass displacement and gravely affect the lives, livelihoods and basic human rights of up to three million civilians in north-western Syria.”[2] Despite those repeated warnings, States took no concrete action to prevent the escalation of violence that we are witnessing today.

There are currently over 3 million civilians in Idlib, many of them are internally displaced people (IDPs) who have either fled other areas in the country or were forcefully displaced from those. Since the most recent military operation against Idlib started early June, an estimated 330,000 of its civilian inhabitants have been forced to flee their homes and move toward Turkey according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).[3] Repeated internal displacement inflicts numerous hardships on civilians, and on women in particular since it disrupts women’s livelihoods and exposes them to a myriad of violations, including grinding poverty, gender-based violence, and lack of access to medical care, in addition to wider restrictions on their mobility and privacy.

Moreover, WILPF is profoundly concerned by the deliberate targeting of civilian infrastructures, such as schools, markets, hospitals and medical facilities, through the extensive use of explosive weapons in highly populated areas undertaken by the Syrian regime and its allies. This is having specific impacts on women and girls. For example, the destruction of hospitals and medical facilities has forced women in Idlib to give birth outdoors,[4]and prevented them from accessing any form of post-partum medical care.

We urge members and observer States of this Council to:

  • Exert pressure on all the parties to the conflict to immediately stop carrying out any attacks on civilians and to respect all their obligations under international human rights and international humanitarian law.
  • Take concrete steps towards pushing all relevant parties to immediately ensure appropriate, affordable, accessible and gender-sensitive healthcare services.
  • Immediately cease the supply of weapons to warring parties and curb arms proliferation in Syria and ensure that the Human Rights Council support this call in its response to the situation in Syria.

[1] See ‘UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria: Urgent steps needed to prevent outright catastrophe in north-western Syria’. Press release. Available at:


[2] Ibid

[3] See ‘ Idlib, Syria: “We are faced with a humanitarian disaster unfolding before our eyes” – UN humanitarian chief.’  Available at: https://www.unocha.org/story/idlib-syria-“we-are-faced-humanitarian-disaster-unfolding-our-eyes”-–-un-humanitarian-chief. See also Security Council Briefing on the Situation in Syria, Special Envoy Geir O. Pedersen. Available at:


[4] https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/pregnant-and-alone-syrian-women-fleeing-idlib-offensive-forced-give-birth-outdoors

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. 

IPB Congress Barcelona

WILPF Germany (+Young WILPF network), WILPF Spain and MENA Regional Representative

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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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