Thursday, January 12, 2012

Syrian women, backbone of the revolution

by Rime Allaf

On January 10, while President Bashar Assad addressed his supporters in Damascus, Syrian authorities handed the tiny tortured body of a four-month old baby girl to her uncle in Homs. Arrested with her parents a few days earlier, one can only assume, knowing the Syrian regime's documented brutality, that baby Afaf had been thrown into a cell with her mother and submitted to horrific treatment, terrorizing her and her mother and leading to her untimely death.

In its violent repression of the uprising, the Syrian regime has made no distinction between men and women or between adults and children. There has been equality in oppressing, and equality in suffering. But there has also been equality in protesting, albeit in varying degrees of visibility and in different forms.

For the last ten months of the Syrian revolution, many skeptics have repeated the tired refrain that women have been absent from the uprising and that it seems to be a male- dominated (read "Islamist-leaning") protest movement. Such generalizations, meant to discredit the revolution, do much injustice to the women who have lived the uprising from the start at the side of their compatriots.

It is true that the initial Friday-centric demonstrations were, by default, overwhelmingly comprised of men. With no other possibility to gather freely, protesters met at the mosque and grouped at the end of Friday prayers to start marching and chanting, and week after week the presence of women in these demos was negligible. Moreover, there is little doubt that the sheer brutality of the regime, with its blind random shootings, would have led many men to insist that their female relatives remain at home in an attempt to keep them out of harm's way.

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