Local organizations discuss advancement of women and civil work in eastern Syria
Enab Baladi – Exclusive
Intending to revive the cities of Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor, in north-eastern Syria, after years of ISIS control and the absence of civil society work, the “We Are Its Residents” campaign launched by activists and civil society organizations, continues in October 2019 to include service activities and dialogue sessions on human rights, constitution and women’s empowerment.
To raise women’s awareness and rehabilitate them to participate in political and civil life and ridding them of extremist ideas imposed by ISIS during the years of its control over the region between 2014 and 2017, the campaign members organized several workshops that tackled women’s concerns in that region and ways to motivate them to claim their rights.
“We support the participation of Syrian women and their effective, not perfunctory, representation in Syrian decision-making centers and international organizations,” said a statement published by local civil society organizations earlier this year.
Equitable laws for women
Many of the sessions tackled the discussion meetings of the Syrian Constitutional Committee and the drafting of the new constitution, as it constitutes an opportunity to guarantee women’s rights and participation.
Speaking to Enab Baladi, Lamia Suleiman, Executive Director of Civil Society organization, stressed on the need for the new constitution to include “fair electoral laws ensuring appropriate representation of women and the adoption of quota as an appropriate mechanism to address the weak participation of women in political life.”
“As women, we want a constitution that guarantees non-discrimination between the sexes, ensures the right of women to assume tasks and positions in the state’s higher departments, and secure a more equitable amendment of personal status laws for women, which will, in turn, contribute to strengthening their role at the public level,” added Suleiman.
The activist Wissal from Raqqa considered that what women aspire to at this stage is to “obtain their basic rights and some of the rights that the previous constitution has neglected or not implemented, such as the right to grant citizenship to their children, along with a broader representation in parliament and the government.”
In turn, the coach at the “House of Citizenship” association and activist in the city of Raqqa, Yamam Abdul Ghani, talked to Enab Baladi about the “Civil Society Voice in the Constitution” project that she launched as part of the campaign.
Abdul Ghani pointed out that the participating women stressed on the necessity that “the constitution guarantees the process of democratic transition, the achievement of the principle of equality and non-discrimination between the sexes, the consideration of discrimination as a crime punishable by law, and the adoption of fair electoral laws that guarantee the appropriate representation of women.”
She added that the discussion was held through open dialogue sessions and workshops, since the beginning of last January. It tackled the possibility of establishing the central system or decentralization, and the probability of considering other languages than Arabic as official languages in the country.
Yamam Abdul Ghani indicated that most participants focused on the importance of implementing transitional justice, calling for mechanisms to hold all violators and war criminals from all sides, during the democratic transition period, accountable.
Participation of representatives from eastern Syria in drafting the constitution
The activities, which started in mid-December 2019, included extensive dialogue sessions held by local associations and civil organizations in Raqqa, Deir ez-Zor and Hasakah, about the constitution, good governance, and the state system, in addition to the powers of the President of the Republic, the role of the army, and the relationship of religion to the state.
The campaigners are seeking to highlight the community in the political process and the drafting of the constitution, as the participants called for the inclusion of representatives from the cities and towns of north-eastern Syria in the political process, and discussed the paths of “Geneva,” Nur-Sultan” and “Sochi” until the interrupted meetings of the “Constitutional Committee,” held in Geneva at the end of last year.
In this context, the “Environmental Protection and Sustainable Development” organization, operating in Deir ez-Zor, held a series of seminars and panel discussions on the constitution under the title “Syrian hopes for a new page of real political transition.”
Issam al-Ajeel, the director of the organization, indicated in an interview with Enab Baladi that the message they wish to convey through these activities is “raising the voice of civil society to the members of the small committee charged with the drafting of the constitution.”
The “Bercav Association for Democratic Development and Capacity Building,” active in the Kurdish-majority areas, held three sessions in Ayn al-Arab (Kobani), Dayrik, and Erbil, the capital of the Kurdistan region of Iraq.
The director of the association, Farouq Haji Mustafa, explained that during the sessions, a discussion was held on “the best government system, issues of separation of powers, minority rights, and the new constitution reached after conducting the referendum process and gaining legitimacy.”
Mustafa pointed out that the aim behind these sessions is to “develop the constitutional culture and thoroughly support the political process, refining the skills of actors in public affairs, and their extensive possession of information.”
“We Are Its Residents” is a cultural, social, media, and multi-activity campaign, managed by a group of activists and more than 20 civil society associations and organizations.
Since its beginning, the campaign has included films, press training workshops, workshops for civil society organizations, as well as activities related to human and women’s rights. It also organized service activities that included removing rubble, reconstructing homes, hospitals, and schools, securing electricity and water and supporting small projects, in addition to providing humanitarian services to more than 6,000 displaced families in Deir ez-Zor and Raqqa.
ISIS left the cities of Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor in late 2017, after intensive operations by the “Syrian Democratic Forces” (SDF) supported by the alliance, leaving widespread destruction and lack of many essential services.
The SDF is currently controlling the city of Raqqa and part of the city of Deir ez-Zor, while the Syrian regime forces are controlling other parts of the city.
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