The following is an excerpt from the latest submission for the #R2P10 blog series. ICRtoP had the privilege of speaking to Laila Alodaat, a human rights lawyer and MENA Project Coordinator at Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, to discuss the impact of the Syrian conflict on women.
The Syrian crisis continues to show the detrimental impact that the spread of arms and the use of explosive weapons has on civilian populations. How has the widespread use of such weapons impacted women in Syria and what are likely long-term consequences?
The Assad regime spared no effort to turn the peaceful uprising that called for freedom and dignity into an armed conflict. While brutally targeting pacifist activists, lawyers and political figures who were demanding civil and legal reforms, it also applied indirect measures like releasing extremist convicted criminals from prisons, turning the political seen into chaos. Such actions, combined with aggressive repression, abuse,torture and use of propaganda, resulted in civilians taking up arms as self-defence, a phenomena that later on turned into an element of the armed conflict feeding on the uncontrolled influx of arms to the country.
Today, the increased militarisation and the proliferation of arms have devastating impacts on the structure of society and on the well-being of civilians who are suffering far beyond numbers of casualties. And while small arms have a devastating impact on women, the greatest threat still revolves around the extensive use of explosive weapons, which has been the main strategy of the Assad regime to impose corporal punishment on entire communities and to retain control of areas that fell out of its control.
Since the beginning of the uprising in 2011, 53% of civilians died by explosive weapons. As a result of the Assad regime doubling the use of explosive weapons in 2014, over 35% of the death toll in Syria (76000 of an estimated 220000 casualties) took place in that year. Furthermore, almost half of the global casualty by explosive weapons in the world between 2011-2013 occurred in Syria. This has a devastating impact on women and girls, as 74% of the casualties are a result of explosive weapons and 17% of small arms.
Around 500 Buddhists, supported by extremist monks, protested in the Rakhine State over the country’s repatriation of Rohingya refugees. Meanwhile, a Pakistani Taliban leader called for the Rohingya to “take up the sword and kill in the path of god.” As national elections are set to take place in November later this year, Amnesty International warned of strict media control in the form of harassment and intimidation tactics carried out by the government. Speaking on the citizenship status of the Rohingya the Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi said, “The protection of rights of minorities is an issue which should be addressed very, very carefully and as quickly and effectively as possible, and I’m not sure the government is doing enough about it.”
More than 300 people have been injured and dozens killed since protests erupted over President Nkurunziza’s bid for a third term at the end of April. Human Rights Watch released a video showing evidence of police abuses against protesters, including firing bullets at them indiscriminately. The AU agreed to send around 50 military experts to Burundi with a mission “to observe what is happening and to give counsel to the police if need be.”
The National Election Authority (ANE) is expected to announce later today the official dates for elections to be held in October. CAR officials say that the voter census and sign-up will begin in July.
The Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights discussed a plan to open a field office in Seoul as early as this month to monitor human rights in North Korea, upon recommendations in the U.N. Commission of Inquiry’s report.
Anticipating the UN’s account regarding last year’s Israel-Gaza conflict, Israel’s Foreign Ministry issued a report stating their operations in Gaza were “lawful” and “legitimate.” Israel has already refused to cooperate with the UN Human Rights Council’s inquiry, stating it is biased. Israel’s report also attacks Hamas, saying the group, “intentionally and systematically used strategies designed to maximize harm to civilian life and property.” The final UN shelter in Gaza closed Thursday, while many people still remain homeless.
US and coalition forces launched 16 airstrikes against ISIS in nine Iraqi cities including Makhmur, Mosul, Ramadi, Sinjar and Tal Afar. Twelve militants, two government soldiers and three members of Shi'ite militias were killed in a clash between ISIS and pro-government forces in Baiji, a town that is close to the country’s biggest refinery and a strategic point in counter ISIS efforts.
Somali al-Shabaab militants tried to force entry into a Kenyan military camp resulting in the death of 11 al-Shabaab militants and two Kenyan soldiers. Al-Shabaab says that they have repeatedly attacked Kenya in retaliation for Kenya’s participation in an AU peacekeeping force in Somalia. The AU once again called for the ICC case against Kenyan Deputy President William Ruto to be terminated due to recanted evidence. Human Rights Watch in their latest report, accused Kenyan security forces and police for violating the rights and assaulting Muslims and ethnic Somalis.
The alliance controlling Tripoli welcomed the UN draft agreement between the Fajr Libya Islamist militia-led alliance and Libya’s government. The agreement has yet to be signed but under the proposed draft both governments would commit to integrating their militias into a reformed military under the direct control of a unity government.
Human Rights Watch called for Libya’s internationally recognized government to end arbitrary detentions and ill-treatment, including torture, and for further investigation into the alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity being committed by the government.
Nigerian President Buhari released $21 million of the $100 million intended for the newly formed Multinational Task Force, comprised of Chad, Cameroon, Benin and Niger. The force will work to fight terrorism and promote regional security in Central Africa. The US also pledged 5 billion USD to the multinational joint task force, declaring that “Boko Haram is not just a Nigeria problem.” Just days after the task force was set up, abandoned bombs from Boko Haram exploded, killing 13 people and injuring 45 others in the North East. The Chadian military led several strategic air strikes against Boko Haram bases in Nigeria in retaliation for the string of recent suicide bombings in both Chad and Nigeria.
An estimated 14,000 South Sudanese fled into Sudan over the weekend, adding to the 160,000 South Sudanese already registered by the UNHCR in Sudan. The AU’s Peace and Security Council threatened to take measures against warring parties that are destabilizing South Sudan and urged the UN Security Council to identify individuals and entities in accordance with UNSC resolution 2206 (2015). The IGAD-Plus mediation group on South Sudan was launched to support the IGAD led peace negotiation between President Salva Kiir and Riek Machar. The IGAD-Plus group will include the AU, the UN, EU, China, the troika (UK, US, and Norway), and five African states (South Africa, Nigeria, Algeria, Chad, and Rwanda).
During Omar al-Bashir's visit to South Africa to attend the AU Summit, the ICC called on South Africa to arrest the Sudanese President, accusing him of crimes against humanity, war crimes, and genocide. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon reaffirmed that ICC member states, which includes South Africa, must implement the arrest of Bashir. While the Pretoria High Court was deciding whether to hand Bashir over to the ICC following a suit brought forward by the Southern Africa Litigation Centre, the ICC fugitive returned to Sudan on Monday. On Tuesday, reports emerged that Sudanese soldiers had surrounded the base of South African peacekeepers working for UNAMID, as they waited for the Pretoria High Court’s decision on Bashir’s arrest, only withdrawing after Bashir left South Africa. However, the UN and the South African National Defense Force denied that South African peacekeepers in Sudan had ever been held hostage in exchange for the safe return of President Omar al-Bashir.
The ICC rejected the reasons cited by South Africa for allowing Al-Bashir’s visit. According to AU Chairperson Robert Mugabe, South African President Jacob Zuma blocked actions to arrest Bashir.
The Institute for Security Studies condemned South Africa’s failure to arrest Bashir but praised civil society’s efforts for his arrest, while Amnesty claimed that the decision not only "undermined the country’s commitment to the ICC" but has "ridden roughshod over the rights and hopes for justice of all those people who were killed and displaced during the war in Darfur."
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that at least 43 people were killed, including at least 12 children, and over 190 injured after up to 300 rockets were fired on the city of Aleppo by opposition rebels Tuesday. Pro-government forces in Damascus carriedout an attack using improvised weapons, “elephant rockets,” targeting rebel held areas just outside of Damascus, resulting in the death of at least 27 people and injuring 60. The Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) provided evidence to the US Congress showing the systematic use of chemical weapons, including chlorine, by the Assad regime to spread fear amongst the civilian population. The UNHCR reported that 23,135 refugees have fled from Syria into Turkey amidst new fighting near the Syrian border town of Tal Abyad between the Islamic State and Kurdish forces. Kurdish fighters eventually won control of the town, cutting off the Islamic State's major supply line to Raqqa.
Saudi-led airstrikes hit civilians fleeing the violence in the southern city of Aden on Wednesday, killing at least 31 people, marking the single deadliest attack since the air campaign began three months ago. Several mosques in Sana'a were hit by explosions in attacks claimed by the Islamic State which resulted in the death of more than 20 people. On the eve of Ramadan, in the capital of Sana'a, ISIS set off four car bombs that claimed two lives and injured 60. According to data released by the OHCHR, from 11 June to 15 June a total of 50 civilians, including 11 children, were killed. These latest figures bring the total number of civilian deaths to 1,412 in Yemen. Furthermore, the humanitarian situation is increasingly worsening with more than 80% of the population in need of critical humanitarian aid, due to the air and sea blockade aimed at cutting off the Houthi rebels supply of arms, which has also blocked aid from entering the country. At the preliminary inclusive consultations to bring together the Houthi rebels and the Saudi-backed government of exiled President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon called for a humanitarian truce so that aid could reach the population.
A new in-depth report by the Enough Project discusses how rebel and militant groups in the CAR obtain funding, often from natural resources, and offers recommendations on how to prevent these actors from receiving economic profits in the future.
UNHCR says that the number of refugees and displaced persons is at an unprecedented high, with almost 60 million people displaced worldwide. In the past year alone, the number rose by over 8 million.
Above photo: UNObservers Document Damage Done by Recent Shelling in Homs. UN Photo/David Manyua