Economics & Politics, Gender-based Violence, Rights
Comments 12

The Harsh Reality for Women and Girls in Syria

If there is one thing we know about Syria it is women, girls, youth and their families have suffered far too much for too long,” -UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin.

As the civil war in Syria continues, the world holds its breath waiting to hear the final decision from the Obama Administration and U.S. Congress on whether or not to launch a missile strike in Syria. Many questions remain unanswered; the use of chemical weapons in Syria has been internationally deliberated with tragic testimonies, graphic images and video footage screened across the internet and mainstream media. In the debate over the use of chemical weapons, one of my favourite political pundits Tony Benn stated,

I am totally opposed to intervening in Syria, it would lead to a Middle East war. Chemicals are just another weapon that kill people. Don’t bombs kill people? Don’t ‘Cruise Missiles’ kill people? If America and Britain defy the UN then it will lead to a greater conflict.”

The U.S. Senate drafted a resolution that permits U.S. President Obama to order a “limited and tailored” military mission against Syria, as long as it does not exceed 90 days and involves no U.S. troops on the ground for combat operations. The President will now have to pass the resolution by way of chamber votes in Congress.

??????)?While politicians give their solutions and verdicts over an intervention in Syria, millions of Syrian refugees live in refugee camps across the Middle East and remain vulnerable and uncertain of their future. It is now estimated that, since the civil war began back in March 2011, 2 million Syrian people are currently displaced and have fled the country – the majority of whom are women and children. Furthermore, within Syria itself, over 4 million people remain displaced, forced from their homes due to violent conflict. In a joint statement earlier this week, the foreign ministers from Iraq, Jordan and Turkey in addition to Lebanon’s Social Affairs Minister and UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres urgently appealed for greater international support for the refugee crisis.

To paraphrase former British Parliamentarian Tony Benn, bombs and missiles kill people therefore increasing the killing will only lead to greater conflict across the whole region. What is really needed now is humanitarian support as the neighbouring countries struggle to manage the increasing number of refugees entering their borders.

An average of almost 5,000 Syrians flee into neighbouring countries every day, in total some 716,000 refugees alone have entered Lebanon. Of the 2 million Syrian refugees currently seeking safety, shelter, food and medical care, over half are children, three-quarters of whom are under the age of 11. Hence, instead of launching a missile strike on Syria, shouldn’t the international community be providing humanitarian aid and assistance to aid agencies in Syria and its neighbouring countries experiencing the influx of refugees? The UN says the conflict in Syria has resulted in the worst refugee crisis for 20 years, with numbers not seen since the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.

?????????????????????????????????????????????????Women and girls continue to suffer indiscriminately through war and conflict as brutal killings, rape and sexual assault and harassment destroy the fabric of families and whole communities. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees has reported that rape and sexual assault are now being used as a weapon of war in Syria. Furthermore, young Syrian refugee women and girls also face a tragic future, as multiple reports have concluded that child marriage, a human rights violation, is particularly prevalent among refugee camp families. The negative impact of child marriage in any situation means that girls become more vulnerable to violence, sexual assault, slavery, HIV and AIDs, maternal mortality and poverty. Erica Hall, World Vision Senior Child Rights Adviser stated:

Parents will feel incredibly vulnerable and may believe that a husband will be able to protect their daughter from these threats, and allow them to better provide for their remaining children, too.”

Shockingly, aid workers in refugee camps are not exempt from this behavior as they have been identified as perpetrators seeking sexual favours in return for help. There is little or no protection at all from such sexual assaults. With nowhere to turn, no support or money to feed their children, many women are forced into prostitution as a mode of survival, putting themselves into great danger of violence and HIV.

The reports and testimonies of sexual violence from pregnant women, women with disabilities, women living with fatal diseases, women seeking emergency medical care and so on are seemingly endless. As politicians discuss their ‘interventions,’ women, girls, men and boys are dying and struggling to keep hope alive.

All images courtesy of Flickr’s Syria Freedom Creative Commons.


  1. A friend and I are researching to start an organization that will help in a lot of these areas. However, blogs and articles like this just make everything seem so hopeless that it’s hard to find where to start. Does Girls Globe or anyone have any thoughts for how to take steps toward solutions and ways to help? We are wanting to get supplies and support to women so they can have skills and items to create businesses and continue on with life and to also get school supplies and books to the children. We would also like to make reproductive health services a part as well. We have all of these ideas, but are struggling with feedback as to how we can start to get things going and connect with the situation there.

  2. Hi MaryBeth thanks so much for the comment, I agree with you the situation seems hopeless but there is a way to secure peace. As I wrote in the blog what I think is needed is more humanitarian support and also political will for negotiations. There are many humanitarian agencys and org’s out there who you can support directly through donations:

    Where are you based Mary Beth?

    • Thanks, I am in NYC. We’ve been reaching out to organizations to partner with to help build a movement and use the idea that a brighter future is possible.

      • A brighter future IS possible that much is true. I believe we have to face the harsh tragic realities and share these stories in order to demand humanitarian action. I was thinking her eis a link to UNFPA with some contacts as you mention reproductive health services and they focus on this with regard to Syria. Am now on a mission to find out some more contacts for you 🙂 Are u on twitter?

      • That is great, thank you! And I do agree, it’s important to reveal the hard truths that are going on, but be sure that people realize there is hope. I would love to share stories of Syrians who still carry that hope and build a future off of that energy. Is Girls’ Globe based in NYC? My Twitter is @MaryBeth_Bognar. I also tweet for She’s the First and reference a lot of Girls’ Globe stories that focus on girls’ education for them!

  3. Pingback: Humanity seems on its lowest level right now. I must have seen the word “rape” , “sexual assault” or “sexual abuse” at least 5,000 times across various news articles since 2013 began. Horrendous. » Katarina Nolte

  4. “Education without borders” information
    2 million people are now displaced refugees of Syria. 1 million of them are children.

    We have developed a plan to provide Education without Borders so that the Syrian refugee children in Lebanon can go to school within a few weeks.

    • Wow bloggingella that’s a fantastic programme. Thanks for sharing. Marybeth – Girls Globe is registered in Sweden but the bloggers are all based in different countries. And I agree 100% we must keep hope alive! 🙂

  5. Pingback: Sexual Violence in Conflict | Girls' Globe

  6. Pingback: Women in the World: #HopeforSyria | Girls' Globe

  7. Hi there this is somewhat of off topic but
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    manually code with HTML. I’m starting a blog soon but have no coding experience so
    I wanted to get advice from someone with experience. Any help would be
    enormously appreciated!

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