June 3, 2014 – New York, NY – CUNY School of Law, MADRE and a coalition of international and Syrian women’s human rights groups have released a report on women’s human rights violations in Syria before and during the current war. These violations include sexual violence, torture and forced marriage, as well as women’s exclusion from peace negotiations and domestic political processes.
To generate the report’s findings, Syrian women’s rights activists and their international allies conducted research and interviews over the past year. The findings are further centered upon personal testimonies, gathered during a series of fact-finding trips to the region, carried out by CUNY Law School.
Today, Syria is also holding its presidential election, in the midst of a three-year war that has displaced over nine million people or over 40% of its citizens. The vote, already widely disputed, is projected to result in the re-election of President Bashar al-Assad.
“If this election were truly democratic, presidential candidates like Bashar al-Assad would be compelled to grapple with the issues presented here,” said Lisa Davis, CUNY Clinical Law Professor. “Our report reveals that women have been specific targets of violence in this brutal war, including rape deployed as a weapon to target individuals and terrorize communities. It also underscores that women already faced violence and discrimination long before the war and that sustainable peace will depend on undoing women’s systemic political exclusion.”
The report, titled “Seeking Accountability and Demanding Change: A Report on Women’s Human Rights Violations in Syria Before and During the Conflict,” will be submitted for review by the United Nations. It will be presented before a UN Committee of women’s rights experts next month (known as the CEDAW Committee, charged with upholding the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women).
“The review before the Committee gives us a window of opportunity,” Davis continued. “Syrian women’s rights activists will have the chance to challenge their government’s internal assessment of its human rights record. What’s more, if the Committee endorses the recommendations in the report, it will lay the groundwork for activists to demand much-needed legal reforms to protect women in a post-war Syria.”