Some thoughts on International Women’s Day, mainly in the context of the Syrian Revolution

International Women’s day  

“also called International Working Women’s Day, is marked on March 8 every year.[2] In different regions the focus of the celebrations ranges from general celebration of respect, appreciation and love towards women to a celebration for women’s economic, political, and social achievements. Started as a Socialist political event, the holiday blended in the culture of many countries, primarily in Europe, including Russia. In some regions, the day lost its political flavor, and became simply an occasion for men to express their love for women in a way somewhat similar to a mixture of Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day. In other regions, however, the political and human rights theme designated by the United Nations runs strong, and political and social awareness of the struggles of women worldwide are brought out and examined in a hopeful manner. This is a day which some people celebrate by wearing purple ribbons. Wikipedia

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I have collected some of my thoughts on the subject of women to post for today. I also collected some images of the women prisoners of conscience whom the Syrian regime has imprisoned and in many cases tortured for their participation in the Syrian Revolution, among them lawyers, Human Rights campaigners and writers, representing the changing roles of the traditional stereotyped woman. I have also referred to the kidnapping of women activists by some Islamist groups.

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Razan Zeitoune was kidnapped by an Islamist  splinter group together with her team who were working on the documentation of Human Rights violations

Razan Zeitouneh was kidnapped by an Islamist splinter group together with her team who were working on the documentation of Human Rights violations

Fine I am going to concede that I am a woman, though most of the time I feel just human and gender does not play a part in the flow of my life. A woman let me be, in order not to disappoint anybody tomorrow. What is it like to be a woman? Each man has a different idea about what a woman is or should be and each woman has a different notion about what makes her a woman and is in being a woman she should be different from a man, as if both of them belong to different spices? It is chaos, I tell you.

Well, let us go back to the subject. Saints have Days, nature has Days for the different seasons, birthdays have days, independence usually has a Day, water has a Day in India, Valentine has a day,  and so on. But for a woman to have a Day is much more complicated. For it is not a very brilliant idea to have a Day of much ado and bustle, leaving 364 days to the mundane and the ordinary, to discrimination and a status in society far from being equal with that of a man.

A day of apotheosis and celebration to be followed by dull toil and drudgery, dethronement and more often than not a life of hardships, struggle and the fight to stay alive and safe is what on offer. It is meagre by any standards and almost sounds like a joke because the rest of the year is left to the mercy of life and men most of the time.

 I do not want a Day to remember that I am a woman. I want a Day to remember that I am Human and to remind everybody of the fact, would be the choice of most women on planet Earth.

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The truth is that women are still largely invisible in the Arab world and they will not make them visible or invisible either by underclothing them or over clothing them. Let us continue working for the cause of women as part of our Revolution. If men think this revolution is theirs alone to determine they are terribly mistaken, I am afraid to say.

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Prisoner of conscience artisti

Prisoner of conscience artist Layla Awad

My brothers and sisters, do you want to empower women? Do you want them to truly belong to the human race? Then empower them to own not only the body, but the mind, the spirit,the heart and above all empower them to hold the right to self determination as individuals; help them to manifest their wills, their inalienable right to exercise these wills in order to choose, to determine, to declare, to pronounce and to own the word and the “public space” 

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The terrible staggering of women

The terrible suffering of women and children

On Rape during conflict

If a man is raped, his family will open its arms to him, return him to their bosom and if he has a wife she in all probability will love, soothe him and heal him with her love. But when a girl or a woman is raped , once she is released she is treated as a criminal, reviled and shunned, even called a prostitute, that is if she is not put to death by her family. In the majority of cases her family drives her away. If she is married her husband takes the children and throws her into the street to beg, starve, die of her injuries or sold for sex.

Even in rape there is no equality between men and women in the Arab world. Discrimination between the sexes is at its worst and most horrible in the treatment of male and female victims. The difference between the rape of men and the rape of women in the Arab countries.

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On torture

Many women are being held prisoners either in government jails or after being abducted, mostly by the Shabiha. There are many witnesses to the terrible treatments they are receiving at the hands of their jailers. Some are kept in their cells naked and chained or, according to a woman witness, by the Shabiha in deserted farms and houses or shacks , caged like animals while deprived of the facilities to wash and clean themselves, which results in them losing their hair and stinking like animals, not to mention contracting all kinds of diseases. Once they have used these women and raped them to the point of no return and once they can no longer bear their stench, they simply dispose of them and replace them by fresh teams of kidnapped women and girls.

While some light is being shed on the crimes committed against men, and we have now documents proving the methods of torture used against them in the regimes cells or detention centres, we do not have similar amounts of material evidence proving the extent of the horror women are subjected to. I heard on viseo the testimony of a woman who has seen women being held by the Shabiha, which left me stunned and devastated, and which overwhelmed me so much that I was unable to sleep for two nights. I do wish that images proving the terrible debasing degrading torture of women, not to mention the untold suffering of lasting injuries sustained by very young girls and women alike, resulting from horrific savage multi rapes and sexual assaults, I do wish that such images would be investigated and collected meticulously. We need such evidence to be smuggled out of Syria and held by lawyers, Human Rights officials and examined by forensic teams.

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I am asking: When Assad and army have finished off the poor of Syria, the vermin hooligans of his brave state, by starving them to death, destroying them and their homes, who will replace them? we all know that despotic states rely on the poor to provide cheap labour and cannot survive without enslaving them or keeping them on the poverty line. Who are the future victims of the Syrian state, the lowest strata of society which will oil the wheels of the state and keep it running? They are exterminating the young men of Syria. Are the women destined to become the next generation of slaves? A society whose poor are women and children?

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Women of the apocalypse: the saviors

Women of the apocalypse: the saviors

 ان لنساء هن من سيعدن بناء سوريا روحيا وانسانيا واخلاقيا وثقافيا, حتى اعماريا لان الرجال سيقتلون بعضهم بعضا او ان

النظام سيفني المزيد

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 Is the Syrian Revolution  only a revolution for men?

Yes women have the right to go to conferences when invited and argue the case for Syria, especially in view of the ridiculously poor Representative they are getting in the male dominated forums, political and cultural. This Revolution is not a Revolution for men only. It is a revolution for women too and do not speak to me about this shattering the unified revolutionary front because it does not exist. The disadvantaged, poor, deprived and oppressed, specially women, under the double attack of the regime combined with male savagery and chauvinism suffered indescribable untold violence. In saying this I am not belittling the fact that all the Syrians have suffered terribly and horrible crimes were committed against them, but the women were specially targeted by crimes against humanity in the form of multiple rape and heinous atrocities. Let the women raise their voices in defending women, children and those who have no voices because they know how to do it best.

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Women in the Syrian Revolution

Women in the Syrian Revolution

Dr. and Mr. Abassi's children. languishing in Assad's prisons

Dr. and Mr. Abassi’s children, languishing in Assad’s prison

The posters say: International Women's Day: We are here and we shall stay

The posters say: International Women’s Day.We are here and we shall stay. Poster by the Women Revolutionists Committee in the General Organization of the Syrian Revolution

The imprisonment of Razan Zaytouneh and Sameera Al-Khalil  by masked splinter Islamist group shows how important it is to empower women politically so that in kidnapping them, in an attempt to silence their voices, the criminals will know that hundreds of others will carry on the fight for justice and Human Rights so that no matter what they do, women activists will not be silenced. I know that men activists, thinkers and writers have campaigned honourably on their behalf, but women should raise a stronger voice against the attempts to silence and diminish their invaluable role in the Syrian Revolution

Razan Zaytouneh and Sameera Al-Khalil

Razan Zaytouneh and Sameera Al-Khalil

Mostly when men write about women, I ask myself: am I a woman? Or have I been living a lie?. I do not recognize myself in the women the Arab man and many of the men all around the world imagine .

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The blogger Tall Al Molouhi, in prison since the start of the Revolution

The blogger Tall Al Molouhi, in prison since the start of the Revolution

If you tell me in way of proving that an Arab woman is respected and cherished: she is the daughter of a man, the  sister of a man, the mother of a man, the  aunt of a man,a niece of man, the grandmother of a man, the companion of a man, the wife of a man, the great great grandmother of a man, the etc, I am not playing. Count me out. Come to speak to me when you have decided she does not need to be attached to a man in order to be recognized as an individual in her own right.

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Jihan Amin, a lawyer and advocate for the defence of political prisoners

Jihan Amin, a lawyer and advocate for the defence of political prisoners

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The caption says: revolt against East and West, revolt against the the culture of the body.

The caption says: revolt against East and West, revolt against the the culture of the body.

Farewell to the voluptuous, alluring temptress; Farewell to the the kingdom of the idealized, demonized, lusted after, centre of obsessions and mythical distorted sexuality; farewell to the sequestered, invisible, hidden, shrouded, anonymous, entrapped shadow; and welcome to the fully fledged woman: thinker, artist, writer, activist. revolutionary, survivor, Humanitarian, teacher, mother, lover, doctor, nurse, relief worker,complex and diverse, free and independent, mistress of her body and destiny, visible and manifest, fighter for human Rights, co- builder of the future Syria, co-architect of the new Syria, welcome and hail to you.

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احيي المرأة مجردة,كاملة الانسانية بدون ان تكون موصوفة, بدون ان تكون مقرونة برجل. احييها لا قديسة ولا الهة,أحييهاانسانة تقرر مصيرها ومصير جسدها بنفسها وتعيد صياغة مفهوم الشرف البالي

©Alisar Iram 

Images: Courtesy of the Syrian Revolution pages on Facebook

About alisariram

I am an artist, a writer and a researcher. I know Arabic and English . I am interested in music and art of every description. I like to describe myself as the embodiment of a harmonious marriage between two cultures which I value and treasure.
This entry was posted in Alisar Iram: articles and notes, Emancipation of Women, Images, International Women's Day, Prisons and prisoners, Razan Zaitounah, Reflections, Syria, Syrian Revolution, Women, Women's Human Rights and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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