Posted by Joshua on Saturday, April 25th, 2009
Striding ahead without fear by hubha Singh [Thanks *Norman*]
Women Empowerment: Syria stands out as a leader in the Middle East when it comes to women power.
Syrian Women have won several rights not available to women in other Arab countries. An important one is the custody of children till the age of 15 years in case of marital disputes. Another hard-won right on the cards is the right to children of marriages between Syrian women and non-Syrian fathers to take the nationality of their mother. It is in actual fact a right given to children to be able to retain Syrian nationality, but has been a matter of concern to women in Syria…. [Josh L. Arab countries which have granted women the right to give their nationality to their children are Iraq, Algeria, Morocco and Tunis and Egypt. See Bassam AlKadi's article on this, 20 February 2009]
Syria has 86 per cent literacy. Women’s literacy levels went up from 33 per cent in 1980 to 79 per cent in 1999. Primary education is free and compulsory in Syria; over 51 per cent of university graduates in Syria are women. … Women are well represented in the judicial system, the General Prosecutor is a woman and there are 170 women judges and 250 assistant judges. Statistics are difficult to come by but the most favoured jobs for women are in teaching, medicine and healthcare. 57 per cent of teachers in Syria are women although fewer hold senior positions in higher education….
OTW – an SC commentator adds:
Syrian women are better off then many in the neighborhood. Compared to a North African countries, literacy among Syrian women, especially in the country side, is much higher. However, in 2004, Morocco made a giant step by enacting a new family code, which is to be applied without deference to religious affiliation (universal as opposed to sect based). In the new law, much of the offensive language against women was removed. It also established equal rights including the rights to initiate divorce, custody, and to share marriage assets were also established, along with significant improvement in inheritance, and strict controls on polygamy. Many of these are rights that Syrian women, particularly Muslim women, have yet to attain.
At the same time, a woman in Morocco still needs her husbands approval before she can get a job. And especially in rural areas, as I mentioned above, illiteracy continues to be a much bigger problem in Morocco than in Syria.
I am extremely proud of Syrian women and I do not have to look further than my own family to see reasons for such pride. Yet, I do believe that the road is still long and arduous, and with the recent increase in religiosity, it is becoming harder, especially regarding the enactment of modern universal personal status laws (including family laws), that are applicable to all Syrians independent of religion. Even Syrian penal code, continues to treat “honor crimes” with offensive leniency, opening the door for economically motivated murderers to hide behind it. This is not to mention the absurdity of the notion of “honor crime” in itself.
Alle – another commentator adds:
The article portrays Syria as if it was outstanding in the region, which it isn’t. It’s among the top five Arab countries or so, but by any global standard, it’s still in a poor place. One should be realistic about that, but the article completely avoids all the downsides to these issues (eg. family law being run on sectarian grounds by religious courts).
Read: “Some Observations about Syrian Women” by Damascus Dreams
No one in Damascus wears traditional Arab clothing (the colorful abayas and jilbabs you see in the souq). Everyone wears Western clothing, i.e., long skirts (denim is really in), pants, jeans etc. …. Most women here wear hijab, and many also wear the monteau. Monteaus are basically chic coats, similar to the kind women wear in the U.S. over a suit or a dress, but they are ankle length, and worn over normal clothes when a woman goes outside of her home. It’s like a jilbab, but it’s not loose or flowy, but more fitted. The typical Syrian hijab is tucked in, tight around the face, and not flowy or big. Women almost always wear high-heeled shoes, and a coordinating purse. The overall effect is a look that’s “smart” in the British sense of the word: Women always look well-dressed, neat, ironed, and well-groomed, with nothing shabby or untidy.
Dr. George Jabbour, “Syrian Women and Human Rights.” Paper presented at the “Woman in Syria Today” conference, Rida Said Hall, Damascus University, 25-26 June 2006.
Article 7 prohibits the subjection of anybody to torture. Sometimes, there are references to torture in Syria. There are those who claim that some cases of torture have ended in death. At any rate, I know of no woman who has been tortured, or died as a result of torture. It is worth mentioning that Syria has recently joined the International Agreement against torture.
The first paragraph of Article 8 provides that it is prohibited to enslave anybody, and that slavery and slave-trade are banned in all forms.” Syria, of course is committed to this prohibition. Yet, an issue relevant to this paragraph should be discussed. In the past, there used to be cases of young girls hired to serve in the houses of the rich; in some cases all contact between the girl and her parents was cut off for ever. Now, was this hiring a form of slavery? These cases are receding; but have they ended completely?…..
Article 12 & 13, about the freedom of movement and the right of departure raises some questions. The rules of departure constrain a wife’s right, since she cannot leave Syria without permission from her husband…. The advocates of women’s rights in Syria are actively trying to abrogate this restriction, whose implications become more complex when the wife is of non-Syrian nationality or ethnicity. The attempts of non-Syrian wives of Syrians to run away with their children from Syria are not rare….
Article 18 invites some meditation. It concerns the freedom of creed and the freedom of every individual to embrace any religion he/she may choose. Here there are factors suspected of contributing to the change of religion without real conviction of the newly-adopted religion. How? In Syria, a Muslim man may marry a non-Muslim wife, often Christian; but a non-Muslim man (a Christian) cannot marry a Muslim woman. A non-Muslim wife has full freedom to retain her religion. But the inheritance system prevents inheritance when the religions are different. So, a Christian woman will lose her natural right to inherit her husband if she keeps her religion. Thus, there is a factor to convince her to embrace Islam, even if she is not convinced of it….
VI Concluding Remarks
Women in Syria enjoy their rights more than in most Arab and Islamic countries. This has been the result of a large scale of opening-up to contemporary civilization at an early stage in which only Egypt and Lebanon have preceded Syria. The government in Syria is keen to empower women; it is capable of doing so, and practices what it preaches…..
I conclude with something that happened several years ago. I was teaching the subject of human rights in a course of the high police command (of colonels nominated to be promoted to the rank of brigadier). I found it difficult to convince them to accept the ideas of Fatema Al-Mernissi about women or to take her ideas seriously. The colonels vied with each other in speaking against the principle of equality between men and women. That was years ago; but I think the situation has already undergone a radical change since then.
Syrian Women’s Rights Activist Bassam Al-Qadhi: “Because Of Articles 548 And 192 of the Penal Code, [A Man Who Perpetrates An Honor Killing] Gets Only Three Months to Three Years in Jail”…
Some facts about Syrian Women:
- Women first entered the diplomatic corps in 1953. In 2004 women made up 15% of the corps. The first lady ambassador was appointed in 1998 in Syria’s mission to Belgium. Mrs. Seba Nasser.
- Currently Syria has four women ambassadors in Athens, Paris, Kuala Lumpur and Bragh.
- The percentage of women in the Syrian parliament is 14% which is the highest in the region, 3.4% on average in other Arab states.
- Syria has 170 women judges, 250 assistant judges.
- Syria appointed the 1st woman minister in the Arab world in 1976. Since, women have been ministers of culture, expatriate affairs, social affairs, labor, and higher education.
In Syria, decree 121 specifically bans organisations working for women’s rights, but many women’s groups and associations have met informally in private places for years. In this podcast, women from four different organisations based in Damascus speak to Jane Gabriel about their efforts to improve the status of women through research, campaigning and education. Some are working with social surveys of public opinion; others are in dialogue with moderate religious leaders. All of them are trying to get the personal status and punishment codes reformed. As activist Mouna Ghanem says “it is very very discriminatory….for example the punishment of rape, whereby if the man rapes a woman and decides to marry her he will not be punished, they don’t really ask the women if she wants to marry this man or not, she just has to marry him because he raped her, so she is the victim twice”.
Women’s labour input is disproportional to their control of agricultural resources. An FAO study in Syria found the following pattern of ownership among women:
- land: only 5%
- animals: about 7%-8%, but with variation according to the type of livestock and the area of the country (males own about 97% of sheep, 93% of cows, 96% of goats and even 98% of chickens); and
- agricultural machinery: 1%.
The agrarian reform of the late seventies redistributed land to all farmers, and Shari’s law recognizes the right of women to inherit. But practice has not yet caught up with the law. Most Syrian women are apparently culturally pressured to waive their right to land inheritance in favour of their brothers or sons.
Socio-demographic correlates of psychiatric morbidity among low-income women in Aleppo, Syria, by Wasim Maziak, Taghrid Asfarb, Fawaz Mzayekc, Fouad M Fouadd and Nael Kilziehe….
Women generally suffer more than men from common mental disorders, and discrimination against women adds to their mental sufferings….Predictors of women’s mental health in the logistic regression analysis were; physical abuse, women’s education, polygamy, residence, age and age of marriage. Among these predictors, women’s illiteracy, polygamy and physical abuse were the strongest determinants of mental distress leading to the worse outcomes….
Why most women in Syria do not smoke,” by Wasim Maziak, Taghrid Asfara, and Jeremiah Mock, Syrian Center for Tobacco Studies.
Beliefs and attitudes related to narghile (waterpipe) smoking among university students in Syria
Conclusions: The rise in narghile smoking as a trendy social habit appears to be occurring despite considerable appreciation of its potential health risks. Permissiveness of adult family members towards narghile use by young female members, especially in the presence of a strong taboo against female cigarette smoking may contribute to the continuous spread of narghile smoking among women in Syria.
Upper class Syrian women speak to ABC