The UN helped get the combatants together in Switzerland in January 2014, except that women were left out—with no women on Syrian or UN teams. An NGO leader Hibaaq Osman said, “When we talk about women at the table, the men see them as tablecloth,” despite the deaths of thousands of women and child, the use of rape to punish enemies by raping their family members in front of them, being used as human shields and hostages, and loss of freedom in areas controlled by fundamentalist rebels.[i] In some areas women can’t leave home to go to work or school without a male guardian. Over 80% of refugees are women and children. As these families face hunger, some marry their girls off for dowries and some women are forced into prostitution. Female activists met under the umbrella of UN Women to call for representation of women in all negotiations including the formation of a transition government. International women’s groups gathered at the Swiss talks to support the demands of Syrian women, including CODEPINK, Women’s International league for Peace and Freedom, MADRE, Karama and the Nobel Women’s Initiative. They organized a Women’s Summit from former battle zones to learn about how to transition form war to peace.
January 25, 2014