WILPF Advocacy Documents

Middle East, Syria

Statement in Memory of Sunila Abesekera

Human Rights | Women and Girls’ Human Rights
29 May 2012
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WILPF makes this statement in memory of Sunila Abesekera, a defender of human rights and a women’s rights activist. Abesekera reminded us on many occasions to protect and defend human rights. In that spirit, there are many, many, human rights defenders in Syria struggling to uphold laws and morality. At the 23rd session of the Human Rights Council, WILPF brought activists from Syria, Lebanon and Jordan to tell you that there is huge constituency of men and women, non-violent activists, who advocate for a negotiated settlement and an end to this conflict.  Their voices are still absent from the debates in the international arena. Instead, those who are directly involved in continuing the violence in Syria are taking away the voice of the Syrian people.

The Commission of Inquiry has identified that the State Apparatus has violated both human rights and international humanitarian law. Forces within the opposition have also perpetrated crimes against humanity.

The commission has identified that the most heinous crimes are being committed, in particular by the State Apparatus. Those crimes include torture, hostage-taking, murder and rape. We echo the report: “the perpetrators of these violations and crimes, on all sides, act in defiance of international law. They do not fear accountability”.

WILPF would like to draw your attention to the fact that on August 4 in the northwestern countryside of Lattakia, an armed anti-government group called al-Muhajereen Battalion kidnapped 105 women and children. The battalion has stated they will release the captives in exchange for combatants imprisoned by the Syrian government, which continues to refuse to engage in negotiations with the kidnappers. We ask the government of Syria and other relevant members to immediately commence negotiations with the involved parties in this abduction.

What will you do with this information?

3 million people will be in extreme poverty by the end of the year and 6 million by the end of next unless there is some 3.8 billion dollars in aid and the ability to deliver it. But everyone knows that this money will not be found. It will be mainly children, women and the elderly who will die as a result of this conflict as basic social and economic rights erode and fighters assume priority.

This is the Human Rights Council. Every State in this room has power, and with power comes responsibility. There is a system of law you are obligated to uphold.

It is clear from the ICJ jurisprudence that the arming and training of rebels is a violation of both treaty and customary international law.

It is clear under numerous Security Council resolutions that the direct and indirect supply, sale or transfer of arms to terrorists is a violation of public international law.

It is clear under SCR 208 (3) that transferring arms to States that facilitate their passage to terrorists is unlawful. While the Arms Trade Treaty is not yet in force, it is clear through the compelling logic under IHL and R2P that transferring weapons when there are violations of human rights or IHL is prohibited.

It is clear from the SCRs on women peace and security that the women must not be excluded in negotiations for peace.

It is also clear that there is a system for the enforcement of these laws.

Parties with responsibility in the Syrian conflict:

  •  Russia in arming the Syrian government.
  • The United States, Saudi Arabia and Qatar in arming Syrian rebels.
  • Qatar in facilitating the transfer of Libyan weapons to Syrian rebels
  • Saudi Arabia in transferring arms through Jordan and purchasing Croatian weapon stockpiles
  • Turkey in helping facilitate transfer of arms.
  • Militants in Iraq in supplying weapons to Syrian rebels
  • Jordan and Turkey in allowing the stockpiling and warehousing of arms.
  • Qatar, Saudi Arabia and U.S. in monetarily funding Syrian rebels
  • US, UK, France in training rebels in Jordan

The cynicism and hypocrisy in the responses to this war is outstanding. The Russian company Rosoboronexport is the main supplier of weapons to Assad. The US signed an arms deal with Russian company worth up to 1 billion USD so as to provide arms to Afghanistan. All actors in the supply chain of weapons and military assistance to Syria, whether they are individual companies, states or individual brokers, must be held accountable.

If you are unclear on the law then request the GA to refer the matter to the ICJ but do it quickly.

If you want to end impunity, demand the SC to refer the situation to the ICC so that there will be Justice, legal justice and not revenge and retribution.

If you uphold human rights and international law, then as States you must ensure an end to the provision of arms to all parties.

It is disingenuous to continue to discuss military intervention when that intervention is already there by proxy. There is only one long-term solution and that is for political negotiation to bring in Syrian voices who advocate an end to this horror.

You have responsibilities, you have the ability to take those responsibilities seriously and stop this war. Your failure to do so will bring disgrace to the multi-lateral system that was meant to prevent these horrors and has failed. Do it. Now.



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Thank you!

Melissa Torres


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


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


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. 

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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