BEIRUT – The war in Syria has expanded women’s role in society and participation in the public sphere, but it has also increased the risks they face.
Syria’s Women: Policies & Perspectives, a partnership between Syria Deeply and the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy (TIMEP) explored and challenged the stereotypes and generalizations about the different roles Syrian women may play in the country’s future, and shed light on some of the lesser-known challenges within the broader issues of education, media, peacebuilding, health, politics and the economy.
To cap off our partnership, Hassan Hassan, senior fellow at TIMEP, Marvin Gate, a co-founder of Humans of Syria, Anna Lekas Miller, an independent journalist and Yisser Bitar of the Karam Foundation joined Syria Deeply managing editor Alessandria Masi to discuss the changing situation for women in Syria in our latest Deeply Talks.
Here are some highlights:
Marvin Gate, a co-founder of Humans of Syria, has spoken to and documented the stories of countless of men and women over the past three years. Through her work and her own experience living in government-controlled areas of Syria, she has seen a shift in the situation for women. “Unfortunately, over the last few years, the role of women in Syria is getting more and more limited. They had more space before. These limits on freedom are sad to see because while the revolution was getting bigger the role of women was getting smaller. But they have still fought this in all ways …They can even tell you jokes in the hardest times.”
However, the stories of individual Syrian women working to overcome their challenges and those of their communities, are often overlooked, she added. “Still people don’t know what they [women] have been able to do to overcome their limitations and what they were able to achieve. There are many interesting stories that you can find if you look of women trying their hardest as wives, mothers, sisters and daughters. They’re not just behind the screen sitting in their houses.”
Discussions on what kind of Syria will be left to women do not tell the full story. Many featured in our series are working toward the inclusion of women in roles that need to be filled and fighting to have their say in what Syria may look like later. But, it “won’t be easy,” said Yisser Bitar of the Karam Foundation.
“The potential for growth is there. It’s just knowing what the post-conflict Syria will look like and ensuring that in that period of time, women aren’t completely sidelined. We do see a lot of sidelining within the political realm,” she said.
Hassan Hassan, one of the leading analysts and commentators on Syria, discussed whether or not women’s voices are well-represented in the media.
“Ironically, most of the journalists who are covering Syria are women. But women’s issues are not represented and echoed in the reporting that’s coming out.”
Independent journalist Anna Lekas Miller, who recently wrote an article on Syrian female journalists, also explored this issue.
“The chaos in the war really changed things a lot for women I’ve spoken to who are reporting inside Syria. Men were afraid that they’d go places where they’re vulnerable to things like sexual assault, or the rise of Islamic extremism groups, and even being caught working as a woman could be a huge liability.”
“At the same time, this chaos did open up opportunities … some women have access to so many spaces that men could never dream of accessing,” Miller said.
Listen to the whole call here:
Deeply Talks is a regular feature, bringing together our network of readers and expert contributors to examine the latest developments in the Syrian conflict, with a view toward the long term prospects for peace building and stability. To join future Deeply Talks, make sure you are signed up to our newsletter below.