The following is 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 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 wellbeing of civilians who are suffering far beyond numbers of casualties. And while small arms have adevastating impact on women, the greatest threat still revolves around theextensive 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.
Beyond casualties, the use of explosive weapons in populated areas has a great impact on health care systems due to the destruction of infrastructure and hospitals, and a general fear of moving around in an armed conflict setting. This is particularly right in the Syrian context where attacks on health facilities and personnel by different parties to the conflict have become commonplace. A recent publication showed that between February 2014 and February 2015, at least 83 separate attacks on health facilities were reported.
As for women, the lack of access to reproductive health can be a death sentence especially in places where maternal mortality is already high. No recent information on maternal mortality in Syria is available. However, the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) stated that 80% of maternal mortality could be prevented by better access to health care during pregnancy, childbirth, and the postpartum period. We believe similar, if not worse, statistics are applicable to Syria.
It is also crucial to mention that the survivors of explosive weapon attacks suffer from long-term challenges such as disability, psychological harm, and thus social and economic exclusion that have a greater impact on women in a society where they have less access, more restrictions and limited freedom of action compared to men.
Read the full post here.