The Committee on the Elimination of all Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) is reviewing the second periodic report of the Syrian Arab Republic today, Friday 4th July.
WILPF has supported several women civil society organisations in producing a comprehensive NGO shadow report to CEDAW in response of the Government report. Despite challenges and restrictions on women civil society participation, a delegation from the Syrian organisations are participating in the review and dialogue with members of the CEDAW committee this week.
Grave violations on women’s rights
Gender based violence and discrimination have been holding Syrian women back for decades. The failure of the Syrian Government to amend discriminative laws, as well as the authorities’ ongoing tolerance for discriminative attitudes and practices has contributed to the deterioration of the status of women.
Syrian women continue to bear the greatest burden of the on-going armed conflict. Their legal, social and economic status as well as their physical safety and dignity are constantly under serious threats.
The serious human rights violations committed by the Syrian regime as recently reported by the Commission of Inquiry on Syria and other national and international human rights organisations, place Syrian women in a particularly vulnerable situation. The escalation of violence has a disproportionate impact on women who suffer directly as victims of killing, forced disappearances, detention, rape, kidnapping, internal and external displacement, and indirectly by losing their right to freedom of movement, education, employment and health.
There is a disproportionate impact of explosive weapons such as barrel bombs and other ordinances on women in civilian areas. The Syrian Government denied the use of such bombs or other explosive weapons at any point within the Syrian conflict.
WILPF program Reaching Critical Will recently published a report “Women and explosive weapons”, showing that Syria was the single most affected country by explosive weapons in 2012. Action on Armed Violence recorded a nearly 800% increase in civilian casualties in Syria back in 2012. The use of explosive weapons by the Government has continued to increase, as been verified by national and international organisations including the Commission of Inquiry to Syria.
Syrian women are also facing serious threats by extremist groups who are posing illegitimate limitations to women’s enjoyments of their rights in the areas controlled by those groups, notwithstanding that the primary responsibility to protect the population lies with the Syrian authorities.
Respect international law
The suffering of the Syrian women could have been significantly decreased if the Syrian government had committed to its international obligations as stated by CEDAW and other international treaties including Convention Against Torture (CAT), International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), International Convention on Economic Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) all ratified by the Syrian government, as well as UNSCR 1325, 2042, 2043, 2118, 2122 and 2139. The Syrian governments delegation has denied any violations of their international obligations and blamed the media and human rights activists for spreading false allegations to defame the Syrian regime.
Despite the obligation to ensure full implementation of the women’s peace and security (WPS) agenda, as well as ensuring the protection and freedom of movement of women activists, the Syrian regime continue to apply pressure on women activists who work to ensure adequate women participation in the peaceful transition. Women activists increasingly suffer from detention, interrogations, travel bans and denial of passports. All these violations were denied by the representatives of the Syrian government.
Disregard of the peaceful uprising and denial of human rights violations
The head of the Syrian delegation addressed the crisis in Syria as a war that started in March 2011, completely disregarding their own statement that it started as a non-violent uprising with clear and rightful claims. Nahla Haidar, the special rapporteur on Syria at the CEDAW Committee reminded the head of the delegation of their statement and encouraged them to respect and address the nature and claims of this uprising.
The discourse of the Syrian government delegation was punctuated with denial of any violations of human rights and marking all political opposition, including non-violent human rights defenders, as extremist terrorists. The delegation failed to justify their failure to fulfil the commitments made at the first review, and used the armed conflict to justify all aggression and blame extremist armed groups for all threats posed to civilians.