Give Syrian Women (and Peace) a Chance

Bedu_woman,_Tadmor,_SyriaPresident Obama got a short reprieve this week when Russia put forward a plan to avoid a military strike on Syria by sequestering Syria’s chemical weapons. Whether it will get beyond the talking stage or fall apart in a hail of missiles is anybody’s guess.

In the constant administration drumbeat for a U.S military strike on Syria, too many people have been saying the only other alternative is doing nothing – and that of course would be an abandonment of the world’s moral obligation to prevent genocide.

But there are other alternatives. Even as the Russian-U.S. talks are looking for a solution that avoids a U.S. attack, Syrian women are campaigning to reframe the options altogether. Supported by Donor Direct Action, the Syrian Women’s Forum for Peace is working for a democratic Syrian state through peaceful means. They want a political, not military, solution to stop the needless bloodshed and internal violence that is all too often aimed at women and children.

With help from women in other countries who have played a successful role in stopping armed conflict, Syrian mothers, wives and other women are building a coalition for peace that includes all factions. Although it is an opposition group, the Women’s Forum condemns human rights violations against Syrian civilians by government forces and armed opposition forces alike. That includes not only the use of chemical weapons, but also the torture, rape and murder committed by both sides.

The Syrian women have wisely warned that Afghanistan and Iraq show us that empowering the wrong people to bring about political transition determines what kind of democracy (or non-democracy) results. Too often the new governments continue to oppress women and use violence as a means of control.

Except as victims, women have been all but invisible in the continuing wars in the Middle East. And though they are the majority, no one includes them in talks about how to end the conflicts and bring true democracy that is more than words on paper.

Including the voices of Syrian women just might give us creative alternatives to consider as we debate a military solution. As the old saying goes: Give Peace a Chance. With the help of Syrian women, it just might succeed.

You can listen to Martha Burk’s radio commentary on Labor Day here.

In addition to hosting her radio show, guest contributor Martha Burk is the author of Your Voice, Your Vote: The Savvy Woman’s Guide to Power, Politics and the Change We Need! and Cult of Power: The Inside Story of the Fight to Open Augusta National Golf Club, and How It Exposed the Ingrained Corporate Sexism That Kept Women Down.

Image source: James Gordon via Wikimedia Commons.

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