Syrian Women Organize for Security, One Tent at a Time



This article originally appeared at Waging Nonviolence.

Resistance takes many forms. It can be a sit-in outside Justice Palace, as happened in Damascus during the early days of the Syrian revolution. It happen in protests, marches, demonstrations, protest songs and graffiti — as we have seen throughout Syria for nearly three years. Civil disobedience was constant in December 2011, when Syrians went on strike, held sick-ins, wore only black or white on per-arranged days, and filled public fountains with red dye to symbolize the staggering violence of the repression that nonviolent resisters faced. At the time, around 30 activists were being killed each day.

In 2013, civil resistance in Syria takes on radically different forms. It is virtually impossible to stage a protest because of the looming threat of being hit by regime bullets, artillery and missiles. The regime has even targeted civilians waiting in bread lines — no act of disobedience there — with missiles, barrel bombs and cluster munitions. One can no longer organize a group of women to lie across a highway, not when there is the threat of a chemical weapons attack, or when rape is being used systematically as a tool of war. Today, the death toll has risen to approximately 150 per day, and rape houses are commonplace in major cities, such as Homs and Aleppo.

Despite the mounting death tolls, the escalating violence and the increase in tit-for-tat acts of barbarism, nonviolent civil resistance in Syria is still alive. Unsurprisingly, the voices of nonviolent activists are steadily being drowned out by competing domestic and foreign agendas, an ever-increasing proliferation of weapons, and the growing savagery that creates an environment where the oppressed sometimes behave just like the oppressor. Yet Syrians continue to take to the streets when they can.

At home and abroad, they continue to deliver relief to impoverished communities, sponsor orphans and distribute gifts during religious holidays. The Local Coordination Committees continue to set up elementary schools in converted garages, abandoned buildings and empty shops. All these efforts are purely voluntary, and they represent a struggle to reconstitute basic civil society. Women activists are conducting teach-ins for impoverished children who have not set foot in a proper classroom in more than two years. Women’s political organizations are being formed, and we are electing leaders. Meanwhile, charity drives raising funds for baby milk, diapers and basic health services continue to take place.

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