Women’s associations in northwestern Syria between 2017 and 2019

Women in northern Syria struggled to create organizations and associations demanding their rights.

The Women Commission for Supporting Women and Children was one of the largest associations established to support women’s rights, urge them to emancipate, and play an active role in a very conservative society. The Commission was like a small women’s body politic

For women at that time it was a great achievement to be able to hold such a meeting in 21 January 2017 in the city of Idlib, about two years after an alliance of jihadist and rebel factions took over the city in northwestern Syria.

The Commission began its work in Idlib by inviting children with their mother to small parties to entertain the children. The children were mostly orphans and they were very happy with these activities (photo date 16 February 2017)

Many women in the region lost their husbands during the war or because of detention in Syrian intelligence prisons during the Syrian revolution that broke out since 2011 against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

These women live in a major humanitarian crisis, as they cannot work in a conservative society to support themselves and their children.

After that, the Commission began inviting women alone to awareness sessions, informing them of their rights in society, and urging them to try to work and reject stereotypes of them in society. (photos date 11 March 2017)

The Commission’s work did not last long, as it was no longer accepted in society and was seen as turning women towards emancipation. It has also become very difficult for women to join the sessions and courses run by the association

Women who join the committee have become seen as immoral, which is a great stigma in society that may even affect the future of their female relatives.

Usually in conservative societies in Syria, the chances of women getting married after the age of 24 are very few, and very rare if the woman is not a virgin, such as being divorced, widowed, or especially if she has children.

In other parts of the city, Basamat For Devlopment in Syria, a Syrian non-governmental organization, was making great efforts in the same context. (Photo date 31 January 2017 + 4 March 2017)

They were organising language courses, cooking and human rights courses and small parties for children.

For Islamic militants and conservative families, they viewed the saturated activities as satanic actions that do not please God and lead to bringing curse on the region and its destruction.

Basamat Organization was also running a successful school in the city of Saraqib, in western Idlib province (Photos date 10 May 2017)

The The Educated Women’s Association was the most able to work in Idlib. They define themselves as an independent Islamic women’s organization and say that their goal is to build an Islamic society and raise women’s awareness. (Photo date 15 September 2017 + 17 May 2017)

The association often trained women in handicrafts and held children’s parties.

The Association periodically holds exhibitions of handicrafts for women after several training courses. This helps women to sell some products and earn some money. (Photos date 4 March 2019)

Idlib Province is a very simple province where it is still often not popular to take pictures of women and their activities. There are no women in the region without headscarves at all, and it is extremely rare to find women in administrative positions.

Conditions are a little better for the residents of the northern Syrian city of Aleppo, where there are not many restrictions on women. (Photos date 29 September 2017)

Women from the city of Aleppo, who work for an organization called the Syrian Breezes Union, are organizing an exhibition of handicrafts in western Idlib province, after they became displaced in the area.

The Syrian-Russian-Iranian alliance took control of the city of Aleppo from the moderate rebels in late 2016, expelling civilians and fighters unwilling to settle to northern Syria.

Later, the Syrian Breezes Union moved to work in the Afrin region west of Aleppo province after the Turkish-backed rebels took control of it. They began to organise small meetings and activities for women and children’s parties. (Photos date 7 December 2018)

Many widowed women in Idlib province who lost their husbands and relatives during the war had no other choice, so they joined their last refuge in a camp known as the Camps for Widows in northern Idlib, after they had struggled for years to secure food for their children.

Women and children living in Camps for Widows face chronic and elevated levels of violence and depression, with some women being forced into “survival sex”, according to a report released in April 2022 by World Vision, a NGO based in U.K. and U.S.A.

About 34% of children said they experienced one or more forms of violence and 2% said they married at a young age. Child labor is a significant problem with 58% of boys and 49% of girls aged 11 or over being forced to work. the guardian said

The camp is run by the Turkish-based Syrian Interim Government and the Salvation Government, which is backed by the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham group, the former Syrian branch of al-Qaeda that controls Idlib province.