Participants at Syrian Women's Peace initiative during closing reception for three day conference, Cairo, Egypt, Thursday (Photo: Nada El-Kouny)
Forty-four Syrian women from different civil society organizations and young independent activists convened in Cairo on 30 October for three days to launch the Syrian Women’s Forum for Peace.
The closing reception was held on 1 November at a Cairo downtown hotel. Civil leaders from a number of Syrian towns including Damascus, rural Damascus, Aleppo, Homs, Tartous, Lattakia, Sweda, Daraa, and Hasekeh, and from outside the country gathered to create a strategic plan to engage key individuals and organizations to help the conflict in Syria arrive at a just and peaceful solution.
Alise Mofreg, head of the Syrian Women’s Organisation based in Damascus, explained that the main goal of the forum was to start forging a movement that strengthens the role of the Syrian woman in forging peace in Syria.
“The role of the woman is a central facet to ensure a truly peaceful transfer of power is achieved in our country,” Mogref asserted.
She added that while a direct rejection of violence and arms was the main goal of the participants, condemning the individual and structural forces at play in the conflict was not the incentive.
Instead, she explains, “Our main springboard is the suffering that the Syrian people, especially the Syrian women, have experienced. Syrian women have had to bear the heavy weight in this revolution, regardless of which side of the conflict she is on.”
Nesreen Hassan, Director of the Syrian Organisation of Women for Life and one of the founders of Syrian Women’s Coalition for Democracy, asserted that the “Syrian mother” is the main stakeholder in the conflict because she is the one that daily witnesses the loss of her loved ones, primarily her children.
“Syrian women need to organize themselves and say, 'No to bloodshed; no to the entry of arms into the country,' just simply no to violence,” Hassan stated.
The three-day forum was to work towards building a strong network and finding practical strategies to engage with civil society organizations and activists, given the difficulty of networking and communicating on the ground in Syria.
Hassan explained it is nearly impossible to find out what is happening in her neighboring town, as only state controlled media is being disseminated. Thus, she is working in one of the media centers currently being formed in Syria.
Tara Shomul, an independent activist working with internally displaced persons (IDP’s) from Homs, talked about some of the main points discussed in the meeting. She stressed networking and providing an action plan for future communication was a key point.
She explained the participants attempted to see what each could bring to the table and where they could benefit from each other to move forward, focusing on every participant’s point of strength.
“Through such efforts, working on capacity building within Syria, and continuing this debate amongst those outside of Syria, we aim towards a true national dialogue and build a society that is accepting of a peaceful solution to the conflict,” Shomul added.
"We have made a commitment to ourselves and to God to push this message of peace, shedding the arms in order to ensure a peaceful transfer of power in the country,” stated Amal Nasr, General Coordinator for the Syrian Women’s Coalition for Democracy.
As a non-political forum, Nasr stated that no political affiliations were brought on to the table, but she nevertheless stated that the only true opposition was the activists risking their lives daily in Syria.
Commenting on the Syrian National Council (SNC) based in Paris, pinned as the official voice of the Syrian opposition internationally, Nasr asserts the SNC is unrepresentative and supportive of foreign intervention in Syria that is “completely out of the question,” as opposed to attempting to work towards the civil nature of the post-Bashar Al-Assad country, building a new Syrian system.
“It is crucial for Syrians from inside and outside the country to be trained, equipped and ready to work towards a peaceful and progressive Syria,” stressed Hibaaq Osman, Head of the Karama organization and one of the main coordinators for the forum.