Rowaida Kanaan

General Secretary, Women's Political Movement

I am Ruwaida Kanaan, a Syrian refugee living in France and an elected member of the General Secretary of the Women’s Political Movement, which includes members and members in various regions of Syria, neighbouring countries, Europe, America, Canada, and other countries.

In the first hours after earthquake, the Movement realized the extent of the new danger and challenges that exist in a country that has become exhausted over the past 12 years. Especially since we looked into the corrupt authority in Damascus, which lives off disasters to continue its war against its own people. We also knew and looked into the failure of the international community to find a solution to many crises in the world; what they considered a mistake, we considered human lives that could survive.

As I was in the General Secretary of the Political Movement, and given that our role is political, we issued a statement in the early hours after the earthquake. We sent messages to representatives of Arab and European countries at the United Nations, asking them to help save lives in various Syrian regions affected by the earthquake. We also organized multiple bilateral meetings with ambassadors at the United Nations to explain the delay the Movement’s members are suffering from to receive assistance in the affected areas in Syria and Turkey. We also stressed that the Syrian people are the ones who need to survive and be reintegrated, not the Syrian regime.

For me and the women around me, the earthquake brought back the bad memories that we had lived for 12 years. Many of my friends and members of the Movement saw their homes destroyed or cracked and had to leave their cities.

One of the Movement’s members had the initiative to provide psychological support sessions. I noticed that the earthquake left its psychological impact on everyone, particularly on those outside Turkey and Syria, as a result of their feeling incapable of providing what was needed. Especially as the needs in the affected areas exceed the energies of individuals and organizations, even though we, as individuals, donate and collect donations in our new cities.

Over the past few days, we have focused on the following priorities and recommendations:

  • As General Secretary of the Feminist Political Movement, and in the Movement at large, we are greatly concerned about the possibility of the Syrian regime to insert itself as an integral actor by controlling the aid provided to the Syrian people.
  • We ask that aid related to accommodation, health and humanitarian services, and the needs of women be increased and provided to all affected areas in Syria, especially North and Northwest Syria as these are the most affected and isolated areas. This should be done whilst also creating monitoring mechanisms that prevent the regime from funnelling this aid to itself.
  • The necessity of international supervision of the aid provided to ensure that it reaches its beneficiaries in all regions. Perhaps this international supervision would help us to start down the path of serious negotiations leading to a political solution and ending the suffering of Syrians.
  • We affirm that the response should take into account sexual considerations, by providing support to feminist and women’s organizations, support for women’s health, including motherhood and childbirth health, and promoting immediate psychological and social support for women and children. This should be carried out alongside support for women’s initiatives to respond to the earthquake and the implementation of policies preventing sexual harassment.

In the end, we hope that this day will come and each of the arrival of urgent aid to Syria, especially Northwest Syria, will be held accountable.