I am a Syrian feminist and rights activist, focusing on women’s and minority rights, particularly religious, ethnic, and gender minorities. I live in Gaziantep, Turkey, and am the Executive Director of the feminist organisation Equity & Empowerment.
After the earthquake, I had to make sure team in Syria and Turkey were safe and able to evacuate safely, even though we didn’t have any budget. I contacted several parties working in human rights to secure a budget for evacuating the team and moving them to safety.
Suddenly, I found myself playing many roles at once, some completely new, others that already formed the core of my work.
The new roles included relief work, collecting donations, and buying blankets, food, pads, and infant formula for those affected in Salqin, Harem, and Jandires.
I have continued my advocacy work to mobilize “dead” public opinion in relation to this humanitarian catastrophe and to push for a gender-sensitive response. I have also been reaching out to aid organizations to include women’s needs in emergency responses. I individually transferred a number of women who had recently given birth to shelters and provided transportation for women in similar situations within Syria.
There are many effects, both tangible and otherwise. I lost a number of my friends and their families. My friends lost their relatives and homes, becoming homeless. In addition to loss and displacement, many women suffer from childbed fever as a result of being in cold gardens for days.
I do not know how to talk about the psychological effects. All Syrian women suffer from trauma, loss of safety, and racism in Turkey. We saw firsthand the verbal abuse feminists and women defenders of women’s rights suffer in shelters.
Many women felt let down by Track 1 women, who didn’t even issue a statement of condolence! The one thing the Women’s Advisory Council did was extended brief condolences to their colleague, Raifa Samee, as if the rest of the lives lost were unimportant. The depth of this rift between Tracks 1 and 3 is even greater.
We, as Syrian feminists, also felt let down by the rest of the feminists in the Middle East. They did nothing!
The priorities at the moment are too many, especially for women. I can mention the following main points:
- The first, second, and third responses to the Syrians in Turkey are to secure safe housing, especially for women and children who have no source of family income. There are many Syrian initiatives and organizations working to shelter these children. They must be supported, and the issues of adoption/care/inclusion must be advocated for.
- Securing women’s needs and providing them with secluded housing to protect them from harassment.
- Documenting dead bodies so as not to enable organ trafficking.
- I don’t know what this recommendation could be, but I hope from my heart that the Track 1 women listen to all women, that they do something, anything, to make women feel that there are women who can make their voices heard.