At a Session Held by the American Center for Justice (ACJ) on the occasion of International Women’s Day, Women from Yemen, Lebanon, Libya and Syria Speak out about the Suffering of Women in conflict Areas

Latifa Jamel, president of the American Center for Justice (ACJ), said that this year’s Women’s Day comes while women in our Arab region are still being burdened as all these huge political changes have not been able to be open to women’s issues.

In the session held by the American Center for Justice (ACJ) on Twitter regarding “The Reality of Women in Conflict and War Zones” on the occasion of International Women’s Day, Jamel indicated that some change in favor of women has occurred represented by their participation in revolutions, and then decision-making, political positions and public life as a result of the impact of the Arab Spring Revolutions. However, women still have to face the traditions, marginalization, and exploitation that strips them of their rights and prevents them from continuing their efforts and achieving their ambitions.

Heba Markiz spoke about the situation of women in Lebanon, and she commended the achievement of Lebanese women in political and public life. She also commended their recent acquisition of many political positions, especially the increase in the number of women who held positions of ministers in the government and ambassadors abroad, in addition to leadership positions in the economic and administrative sectors. Nevertheless she thinks that the percentage of women’s participation is still weak.

Heba also touched on the suffering of women in Lebanon, whose society is getting poorer due to successive crises, starting with the security crisis, passing through the crisis of the Corona pandemic, the economic crisis and the collapse of the local currency and what happened to women as a result such as the disruption of many small projects where women used to work or manage, as well as the increase in the burdens on them as a result of the alarming rise in prices.

In addition, she praised the roles of women in facing these crises and their contribution to relief work and assistance to the affected groups, but she regretted the migration of qualified people due to the decline in income and the scarcity of access to work, as many women are forced in various fields, especially the areas affecting public life, to migrate in order to seek better living opportunities. She also criticized the failure of Lebanese women, despite all their struggles, to obtain their right to grant their children the Lebanese nationality in case women are married to a non-Lebanese.

As for the Libyan experience, the Libyan activist Haifa Nasouf indicated that since 1950s, women in Libya have not participated in public life except in the educational fields until the Arab Spring. This was the event that gave them the opportunity to participate in various fields, contribute to public life and assume political positions, despite the fact that the past ten years following the revolution made women face many difficult situations and severe suffering due to conflicts and wars.

Samira Al-Houri, a Yemeni activist who was a prisoner in a Houthi detention, talked about the experience of Yemeni women in detention and prisons and described the situation of Yemeni women as catastrophic and tragic due to the war and the control and influence of militias that set Yemeni women back decades, criticizing the international community’s silence and ignoring the suffering of Yemeni women.

She explained one of the examples of Yemeni women’s suffering where dozens of women had their legs amputated due to the mines planted by the Houthis, and they are currently in need of prosthetic limbs. On the other hand, tens of thousands of them stand in queues in front of the offices of relief organizations which is humiliating. She pointed out that the decision to grant women the right to obtain a travel document without guardianship does not mean anything to millions of Yemeni women since they suffer from war, siege, displacement and starvation.

Ola Muhtadi, a Syrian activist, stated that the tragic conditions of Syrian women date back to fifty years before the revolution, and not only because of war and conflict as the regime, which she described as a dictatorship, put all members of society under pressure and harsh treatment, which was the treatment that women and men both suffered from. Yet, the discrimination against women was double, noting that the legal system, many of whose texts granted women their rights, was not feasible because the implementation of these texts was rare due to the regime’s repressive practices and its standing against the change that grants women their freedom.

As for the post-revolution experience, Muhtadi said that heavy burdens fell on the Syrian women’s shoulders due to the conflict as the majority of men were either dead, wounded, disabled, detained or fighters, so women had to face the burdens of living, and most of them were able to support themselves and their families without the need for relief organizations, not to mention their militant role in the revolution.

She criticized the preference of women over men in programs of work, relief and aid, and their marginalization in this aspect, in addition to the ideological targeting of women, which are two things, as she mentioned, that lead to the destruction of family life and the disintegration of families.

Activist and reporter Amal Zamta from Turkey was surprised by the women activists taking so long to complain and write about their rights instead of turning ideas into action. She said, “Women remain trapped between two options: either they accept reality or they rise up and demand their rights since reality requires us to solve, not analyze.”

Activist Sonia Saleh, a former kidnapped by the Houthi militia, also criticized the international community and its organizations and the way they handle the suffering of Yemeni women, especially those who have been subjected to kidnapping, detention, disappearance, torture, exploitation and sexual extortion and said that the interaction of these organizations is limited only to performing the task of documentation, and showing sympathy.

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