On Saturday 28 February, while walking through Istiklal Avenue that leads to Taksim Square in Istanbul, a group of young men and women carrying placards caught my attention. Despite my humble Turkish skills I was able to understand that they were preparing themselves for a large celebration on International Women’s Day on 8 March. This caused me joy and unbearable sadness at the same time.
I am filled with joy at the fact that Turkey, this up-and-coming country, has come a long way in terms of human rights in general and women's rights in particular. In fact, the Turks do not have a women's issue. Turkish laws ensures complete parity, and please focus on the word "complete", between men and women, which means in inheritance, ownership and testimony in court.
If a man asks a girl's father for her hand in marriage, the father does not have a right to agree, or to beat on his chest in oath, or to hold his moustache in a gesture to mean "you have a man's word". A judge will not care about the opinion of the girl's father, or the opinion of her uncles or grandparents for that matter. They will not register a marriage without the explicit and personal approval of the girl who has signed the marriage certificate in person. Furthermore, a girl cannot deputize her father or guardian to conduct her marriage, as Turkish law does not recognize any guardianship over women in the first place.
|The Syrian woman used to be oppressed at home by her father and brother, and then by her husband and his family.|
Despite the fact that the Islamist-influenced Justice and Development party has been ruling Turkey since 2002, no attempts or demands have been made by any political, popular or other group to strip Turkish women of the amazing rights they enjoy, or to marginalise them and turn them into an accessary in the kingdom of men. It should also be noted that Turkish law allows non-married women to practice cohabitation.
Before the Syrian revolution, Syrian women used to enjoy some rights and Syrian judges used to be strict if presented with cases of forced marriage, such as the marriage of a younger girl to an older man, trading a sister for a daughter or the second marriage of a man without the permission of his first wife.
However, the bride and groom's families would usually disregard the most senior judge or law professor and seek the services of a self appointed sheikh, who would write whatever they wanted for the marriage to take place.
The Syrian woman used to be oppressed at home by her father and brother, and then by her husband and his family. The Syrian woman's inheritance was usually lost without her being able to complain, and if she complained she would find that there were no laws to protect her. Should she rebel, she would be forced back into submission. Even the allies of women have nothing to offer them except for words encouraging patience.
When the Syrian revolution started, it carried the slogan of freedom under which many peaceful female activists took part along with their male counterparts. The regime did not have mercy on those women who endured the same brutality that was dished out against men, in addition to the very specific brutalisation against women that is rape.
Four years have passed since the Syrian revolution began, and the world conspired against this revolution. In the areas which escaped the regime, Syrian society fell under the mercy of extremists from al-Qaeda, the Islamic State group (IS, formerly Isis), al-Nusra and other factions. Syrian women soon became a valuable target for which warlords competed to degrade. Each faction is armed with a personal group of muftis and each one of them finds more creative ways to humiliate women: stoning, shooting, flogging and taking a second, third or fourth wife, while they impose black veils on young girls and forbid them from attaining an education.
There is no greater tragedy than the picture with which I will end the article: some families who have heard that their daughters have been raped in the Assad regime's cells eagerly wait for their girls to be released so they can kill them to wipe away the shame.
Is there a greater shame?
This article is an edited translated from our Arabic version.