Statement by H.E. Mr. Feridun H. Sinirlioğlu, Permanent Representative of Turkey to the UN, on Forced Displacement in Syria and the Need for Gender Sensitive Accountability

Feridun H. Sinirlioğlu 10.07.2018
Let me warmly welcome Ms. Novin Hotary, M.Alise Mofrej and Ms.Dima Moussa and thank the Syrian Women’s Political Movement for convening this timely meeting.

Their first hand experiences and testimonies on displacement and what it means for Syrian women and girls are striking.

I would like to talk about the broader implications of war for Syrian women and the need for accountability.

Seven years after the breakout of mass protests demanding freedom and justice, Syrian civilians continue to be the first target of hostilities and constitute the majority of victims.

We see the latest example of this in Daraa, where hundreds of thousands have been forced to flee their homes and scores have been killed in intensive air and ground strikes.

Throughout the conflict, the repressive practices and armed violence have impacted Syrian women disproportionately.

Syrian women lost their homes, family members and sense of security with systematic targeting of civilians and collapse of the rule of law.

After losing husbands, fathers, brothers and sons, they have become the sole breadwinners overnight.

With men largely engaged in fighting or prevented from leaving conflict zones, the majority of displaced Syrians are also women.

Fleeing the war does not mean that they managed to escape violence and degradation.

Displaced women are more vulnerable to sexual exploitation and gender-based violence, harassment, trafficking, forced prostitution and kidnapping.

Where the regime has failed to defeat the opposition militarily, they have instead abducted its opponents’ female relatives as a means to blackmail them into surrendering.

As a vulnerable group, women have been the target of detention and systematic torture throughout the conflict.

They have also been deliberately targeted because the women movement always played an important role in the opposition against Assad.

The regime sees detention, torture and sexual abuse of women as a war tool.

No one knows exactly how many women are imprisoned in Syria.

Syrian Network for Human Rights estimates this number to be over 7.000. This can unfortunately be an understatement.

The documented evidence of crimes committed in Syria is overwhelming. Stephen Rapp, who served as prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone before, stated that it is the biggest volume of documents since Nuremberg trials.

We must never allow these crimes to go unpunished.

For the survivors, the experience of gross injustice will not just go away, it cannot be buried.

In order to pave the way for true reconciliation and a lasting peace, we need to reinstate Syrians’ belief in the rule of law and justice.

There will be no lasting peace without accountability and transitional justice.

Accountability is not merely about punishment.

Indeed the victims need justice and closure.

But accountability is more than that.

It is a primary guarantee for preventing the re-occurrence of such crimes in the future.

The Commission of Inquiry and the International Impartial and Independent Mechanism have a vital role in ensuring that impunity does not take root in a post-conflict Syria.

In documenting violations of international humanitarian law and human rights and gathering evidence in view of future legal action, we call on them to adopt gender-sensitive approaches.

There are other areas where more gender-responsive action is needed.

We must ensure equal participation and full involvement of Syrian women in the political process.

Enhancing the role of women in decision-making with regard to conflict prevention and resolution should be a primary objective.

We cannot build or sustain peace by leaving half of the population out.

Before concluding, I would like to touch upon the Law No.10.

This law which seeks to confiscate the properties of millions of displaced Syrians is part of the regime’s comprehensive policy to alter the social, economic and political landscape of Syria.

The law aims to legitimize the expropriation practices that have followed mass forced displacements we witnessed in Aleppo, Ghouta, Daraa and many other places.

This law is a clear violation of international laws and contradicts the UNSC Resolution 2254.

It should be repealed without further delay. We urge the international community to also raise its voice against it.

Let me conclude by reiterating our strong determination to continue to address the plight of the Syrian people and to actively support a solution to the conflict that will meet their legitimate aspirations.

Thank you.