On the occasion of International Women’s Day, demonstrators across Turkey gathered to urge the international community to take immediate action to secure the release of women and children still languishing in Syrian prisons.
Friday’s demonstrations were organized by the International Conscience Movement, Istanbul-based IHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation, and several other rights groups and organizations who demand the release of women and children from the jails of Syria’s Assad regime.
During the demonstrations held simultaneously in 110 countries around the world, representatives of organizations issued a joint news conference titled “We are getting together for the freedom of captive women and children in Syria”.
According to the Conscience Movement, more than 13,500 women have been incarcerated since the Syrian conflict began in 2011, while more than 7,000 women remain in detention where they are reportedly subjected to torture, rape and sexual violence.
Bulent Yildirim, head of IHH, said at the conference in Istanbul that Muslim countries must be “ashamed” of not doing enough for women and children held in Syrian prisons.
“We must not persecute anyone no matter what their language, religion or race is,” Yildirim said.
He stressed women and children in Syrian prisons face all kinds of hardships.
Seymaros Baris, a member of Conscience Movement said in eastern Bitlis province: “We will continue our struggle until the last woman and child in the Syrian dungeons is free.”
Nevin Ertay, IHH’s head of women’s branch in eastern Elazig province said the Conscience Movement is an international initiative for the protection of all oppressed children and women in the world regardless of religion, language, belief and race.
“Women and children should be protected, not to be held captive in any way; parties in any way should not make them a matter or subject of negotiation,” said Sumeyye Dikici, IHH’s head of women’s branch in southeastern Diyarbakir province.
IHH’s Hatay province representative Ismail Dokmeci said: “We speak to the Syrian regime and its partners. Stop using rape as a weapon of war. Stop the brutal torture against women. Release our Syrian sisters.”
The Conscience Movement was founded last year after an all-woman international convoy made global headlines by raising awareness about the abuses suffered by female prisoners of the Assad regime.
In March of last year, the 55-bus convoy made a three-day journey from Istanbul to Turkey’s southern Hatay province near the Syrian border, where 10,000 women staged a massive rally marking International Women’s Day.
Syria has only just begun to emerge from a devastating conflict that began in early 2011 when the Assad regime cracked down on demonstrators with unexpected ferocity.
Hundreds of thousands of civilians have been killed or displaced by the conflict, mainly by regime airstrikes in opposition-held areas.
*Servet Tasdemir from Bitlis, Ismail Sen from Mardin, Sukru Gunduz from Batman, Izzeddin Nazlı from Hatay contributed to this story.
*Writing by Erdogan Cagatay Zontur