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Is it possible, in the midst of war, to mobilize for peace and demand women’s participation? Asking questions about what may come after the tragedy seems vain, even inappropriate during times of raging war in Syria. Looking to the future while the most horrendous atrocities are taking place is strenuous. But against all odds Syrian women want to mobilize for peace and demand that women are represented in a future peace process.

The family I am visiting has rented a mini bus so that everyone can join us for the excursion. We are driving through the countryside in northwestern Syria, in a time when I could not in my wildest imagination picture the devastation and horrors that Syria would come to face. We are frolicking, sitting closely together and it is a relief stopping for a pancake-like breakfast at the side of the road.

We are walking over fields of spring flowers and stop to look at an old ruin. This family belongs to the influential minority group Alawites, but at the time I am unaware of their ethnic-religious group, and no one bothers to tell me. Naturally, the Syrians know, but it does not seem important at that time. Today however, through acquaintances’ stories, I learn that group belonging is crucial, even a matter of life and death. Their stories tell me about the fear among the young men who desert from the Government army, fleeing to Turkey. I learn about the misery in the camps where everyday life has turned brutal, and about the conditions for women living as refugees in Lebanon and Jordan, where prostitution has become a common way to survive.

Ability to look forward

Today, most international attention is paid to emergency aid to Syria and surrounding refugee countries. Humanitarian aid to refugee camps is meant to relieve the most acute distress. Syrian civil society and its work for democracy and human rights receive little attention. To ask questions about reconciliation and what may come next, after this disaster, seems meager and even disrespectful in times of furious war. Who can look forward when the most horrendous atrocities against humanity are taking place?

It appears that Syrian women can. They dare to look forward. Syrian women ask for support in order to mobilize for a future peace. UN Security Council Resolution 1325 is precisely what Syrian women needs, according to a peace activist in Syria. She wants to look forward, in order to be prepared for a coming peace process. Women then will be mobilized and claim their right to influence the process. Women’s experience must be taken into consideration when Syria is in the process of reconciliation. Women’s roles as both victims and actors need to be recognized. Women’s needs must be at the core of rebuilding the country. Women’s security must be placed high on the agenda.

Resolution 1325 grants women the right to take part in decision-making about security on the local, national and international level. Only Syrian women know how to prioritize their demands in a future peace process. If resolution 1325 can inject any hope in Syria, we will assist in the process of injecting that hope.

Disa Kammars Larsson
Project Manager, Operation 1325