For years, 49 to be exact, women in Syria have seen International Women’s Day overshadowed by the celebration of the Baath party.
But this year, things have changed. This March 8, the Syrian woman was at the upfront of news headlines and global campaigns.
What is really happening on the ground regarding women’s participation in the revolution remains quite indistinct as media has been denied real access to the territory.
But what we know is that the Syrian protester is one: Men, women, children, elders, they all stand equals facing bullets, tortures, imprisonment, aggressions and mainly their will for freedom.
Hundreds of women have been killed, put in jail, or forced to flee the country. At the same time, many inspiring women have aroused from the Syrian ground during the revolution; the actress, the blogger, the artist, the doctor, the mother, the daughter …
Many of whom we know now, but most of them remain backstage, fighting for their lives and the lives of their families.
We have ‘met’ with two outspoken Syrian women, both of them human rights activists who have tremendously helped shaping the face of the Syrian revolution.
Razan Zaitouneh, the secretive
Razan Zaitouneh must be one of the most prominent female figures of the Syrian revolution. The 34-year old beautiful blond lawyer is the co-founder of Syrian human rights groups. Since March 2011, the start of the Syrian uprising, Zaitouneh has been hiding to save her life.
She was constantly reporting on police and military brutality against her fellow protesters to the international media. Last October, Zaitouneh received the Anna Politkovskaya Award for women human rights defenders from war and conflict zones.
In a brief chat, Zaitouneh told Al Arabiya: “At the beginning of the revolution, I heard young men shouting ‘Al-Bayt lil neswan’ (Women should stay home), and now I hear them say ‘Hayyou ‘alaeneswan’ (Cheer for women).”
“The revolution has given women the chance to be part of a real movement-relatively-, but most importantly to be present within their own surrounding, which was not easy prior to the uprising” she adds.
“Women have strengthened the civic side of the revolution adding a gracious side to it,” she says.
Khawla Dunia, the writer
Another beautiful face and prominent voice of the revolution is this activist, academic and poet. Adding to her activism and strong stands, Khawla Dunia is an outstanding mistress of words. Reading Dunia on her Facebook page can insert beauty and hope into the most disastrous of situations.
Talking to Al Arabiya, she said: “When bullets where flying from everywhere, women stood at the back. It didn’t mean hiding; yes, it is the safest place but sometimes too it was the most efficient. At first, our number in the streets was small as women were fighting within their own houses and their own families to protest outdoors. Quite often, women would stand in a circle formed by a human chain of men under the same reason of protecting them.
“But protecting us from what?” she asks. “Day after day, more women were joining the streets, coloring the movement with their feminine faces. Our number was growing, even in the most conservative neighborhoods.
“We don’t want to portray the ‘different’ side of the revolution. We want to be a full part of it in all its aspects. Yes, most victims of the revolution are men, but women have offered their share of blood, and our martyrs are here to remind us of that.”
She continues: “But will this revolution be a revolution on the discrimination against women? Our participation in the uprising, and later on, our contribution in building the state will answer it. We should never accept the second role.
“Today, when violence is a threat, women are the voices of reason. They defend their loved ones with their flesh, their blood and their nonviolence.
Time cannot go back. Our revolution is a rebellion against all taboos. And today, if you visit all towns of Syria, you can witness this change in the eyes of our women.”
At the time of the revolution, men and women are facing the same wall, both standing on equal grounds.
It is only once this wall is shattered and during peace times, that women are mostly at “war”.
It is only then that the real fight for their rights begins.
But for now, they are making a revolution complete.