Syrian women narrate their stories of abuse to Enab Baladi

Women in Syria lack the ability to file a complaint about their abuse (Edited by Enab Baladi)

Women in Syria lack the ability to file a complaint about their abuse (Edited by Enab Baladi)


“He would beat me all night long, and in the morning he would forget what happened. When I remind him, he would apologize and promise to quit drinking and stop beating me,” recounted Lina (39 years old). She endured this routine for a full year before deciding to escape, leaving her three children, the eldest being 13, and returning to her parents’ home as a divorcee—a stigma her brothers used to blackmail her whenever she tried to move forward in her life.

Lina (a pseudonym), living in a rural area in Latakia province, fights back tears as she requests anonymity for her village name. She said she only feels the pain of being separated from her children, whom her family refused to take in. Unemployed, she had no choice but to leave them with their father, knowing they would likely face abuse as well.

Lina detailed the events leading up to her departure. Her husband quit his job at the al-Hal market, stayed home, and became addicted to alcohol, which he bought on credit from local shops. Whenever he was drunk, he would brutally beat her thin body. Despite her screams, none of the neighbors intervened due to her husband’s bad reputation and foul language.

Lina decided to get divorce when her husband indirectly asked her to behave immorally to finance his drinking habit, leaving her no choice.

Today, the young mother started a new job at a sewing workshop, but the salary is still not sufficient for her to live independently and take her children from their father. Nevertheless, she says she harbors great hope for changing this reality.

Paying the price for unemployment

For Walaa (28 years old), a schoolteacher, the story is all too similar. She received her first slap from her husband about two years into their marriage. Things worsened after her husband was called up for reserve military service, which left him confined at home as he was considered a deserter if caught at any checkpoint in Latakia city.

Her husband lost his government job and could not secure any work. With him staying at home, the pressure on Walaa, who found herself responsible for raising their child and managing household needs, increased along with the continuous verbal and physical abuse.

Walaa turned to her parents, who told her a “decent woman endures her husband’s temperament,” and she returned home broken-hearted, with a swollen eye and blue bruises covering her body.

“He beats me with a stick, or with his hand, even with kitchen utensils, with anything available to him,” said the young woman who asked for her husband’s family to intervene. After much effort, they managed to make a slight difference. They threatened him that if he hit her again, they would take her and the child to live with them, which shifted the abuse to only verbal violence.

“Your brother is just angry”

What pains Samia (23 years old), a history department graduate from Tishreen University, the most is being beaten by her brother, who is approximately two and a half years older, in full view of neighbors and friends. He never misses an opportunity to abuse and treat her contemptuously.

Samia believes the main reason for his behavior is his lack of education, as he did not complete high school. She justifies her perspective by noting that every time he beats her, he taunts her with, “Thinking you’re so high and mighty because you’re a college student? You, your university, and my shoes are all the same to me.”

The young woman stated that her only way to prevent the beatings is to avoid him. When she complains to her mother, she is told it is normal—“maybe your brother is just upset about something.” Her father criticizes him, then reassures her that he is her brother and she should forgive him. He consolingly adds that everything will change once her brother gets married.

What does the Syrian law say?

The Syrian law does not contain specific provisions for the criminalization of violence against women but includes general provisions related to the criminalization of assault and bodily harm, as in sections “540” to “543”.

Women generally lack the capability to file a complaint, especially when their only alternatives are their husband’s or parents’ home, returning to their abuser. There are no community centers to shelter this segment of women in Syria.

The majority of associations and organizations focusing on women’s issues in Syria predominantly work on raising awareness, which lacks support in empowering women economically—a crucial factor in aiding women.

The various regions under different controls in Syria witness violations against women, including two murders in Ras al-Ain city in the northwest of al-Hassakeh in October 2023 under the pretext of “honor”, where three women were killed.

In February of the same year, a 15-year-old girl was beaten by three men and a child, each armed with a stick, amidst a barrage of curses and blows, with bystanders remaining silent and despite the girl’s pleading cries for them to stop, a louder voice incited, “Beat her hard,” encouraging the men and the child to continue, allegedly over family disputes.

Dangerous professions

The harsh economic and living conditions have forced women across Syria, particularly those residing in displacement camps in the north, into dangerous professions inappropriate for women’s physical stature.

Some women, especially from displaced camps across the north, resort to jobs traditionally held by men or risky activities like sifting through garbage heaps for plastics, with unexploded ordnances from the war being a common threat.

A report by WILPF (Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom) on “Women in the Syrian Economy” in March 2021, highlighted that wartime conditions have imposed “complex economic responsibilities on Syrian women, with the traditional breadwinner often absent or physically disabled, particularly in the northwestern regions outside government control.”

The report noted that the dire economic conditions forced women to undertake jobs that are unfamiliar in traditional Syrian society to meet essential life needs under extremely harsh conditions.

Ongoing violations

Syrian women in various controlled areas face several challenges, including limited political participation and violations such as arrest and abuse.

A report by the Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) counted the severe violations women in Syria have faced since 2011, perpetrated by conflict parties and controlling forces.

According to the report released on March 8, International Women’s Day, approximately 16,442 women were killed by conflict parties, about 12,000 by regime forces, which are responsible for about 73% of extrajudicial killings compared to other conflict parties.

Approximately 10,205 women are still detained or forcibly disappeared since March 2011, including 8,497 by the regime forces.

The report documented at least 115 women killed due to torture, with 95 killed by regime forces, 14 by Islamic State elements, two by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), two by armed opposition factions, one by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), and one by other parties.

At least 10,063 sexual assault incidents against women have occurred, with 7,076 cases by regime forces, 2,451 by Islamic State elements, 16 by the SDF, 19 by armed opposition factions and the Syrian National Army (SNA), and one by the HTS, making the regime responsible for about 75% of recorded sexual violence cases according to the SNHR.

Enab Baladi’s correspondent in Latakia, Linda Ali, contributed to this report. 



النسخة العربية من المقال

Related Articles

  1. Syrian women storm football world
  2. Despite price hikes, A continuing medicine crisis in regime areas
  3. Taxis become a luxury beyond the reach of Latakia residents
  4. Improvement of Syrian pound against US dollar does not lower commodity prices in Latakia

Propaganda distorts the truth and prolongs the war..

Syria needs free media.. We need your support to stay independent..

Support Enab Baladi..

$1 a month makes a difference..

Click here to support