Seminar in Homs on violence against women

Women’s rights campaigners and activists have gathered to attend a series of seminars in the town of Talbisah in the northern areas of Homs Province. The seminars, organised by the Homs Women’s League and titled “Violence Against Women”, conclude a two-week period of women’s rights activism that began with the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on November 25th.

The seminars in Talbisah took a historical approach, analysing the status of women across society throughout the ages and discussing how things changed, both positively and negatively. The seminars involved debates on societal oppression of women and how the resultant suffering can be alleviated and challenged. The seminars here in Talbisa were coordinated with similar seminars in Houla and Ghantu.

These seminars take place against a backdrop of adversity. Talbisa, like much of the northern Homs countryside, remains under a state of extended siege by the Syrian Government’s forces. Although the region remains relatively peaceful compared to other besieged locales such as Ghouta, the signs of war are visible even in the school halls where the seminar was held.

Indeed, against such a backdrop, some may question whether women’s rights activism is really the best use of resources. However, it should be kept in mind that women have particularly borne the brunt of Syria’s war. Sexualised violence and rape has been employed by all sides of the conflict while a culture of impunity and victim-shaming has prevented many victims from coming forward.

The widely-publicised and horrific acts of violence perpetrated by ISIS militants against women was an extreme example, but they were hardly unique. As women in Syria take increasingly more proactive roles to help their communities and defend their loved ones, the need to talk about such issues becomes evermore pressing.

The Syrians here are not alone in their efforts. Seminars and workshops to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women were held in Iraq as well, with the organisers there choosing Mosul due to the city’s status as ISIS’ former capital. Indeed, much of the Middle East has witnessed events to mark the occasion and to change a culture that they believe has been entrenched for far too long.