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CEDAW Review on Syria: An (Un)Constructive Dialogue

4 July 2014

photoThe 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.

Explosive weapons

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.

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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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