On 24 February 2017, The Geneva Centre for Security Policy (GCSP) held a public discussion entitled, “Breaking Free, Releasing Joy: Detention and Disappearance during the Syrian Conflict”. The event, co-hosted by the Gender & Diversity Hub of the Maison de la paix and the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) brought together three courageous speakers, who are all living with the anguish of not knowing where their loved ones are. They had three key messages for which they seek support from the international community: the right to know where their loved ones are detained or buried, independent monitoring of conditions of detention, and fair trials.
Aided by interpreters, the three Syrian women, Fadwa, Noura and Bayan – all activists even before the war, were in Geneva to represent all families affected by the conflict, regardless of their political affiliation. Dawalaty, The Syrian Campaign, and Women Now for Development organised the visit to coincide with the Syrian Peace Talks that resumed this week at the United Nations.
Since the start of the current conflict in Syria, more than 115,000 civilians have been detained or have disappeared by all parties to the conflict. Families, women’s groups, and other civil society organizations have stressed that addressing the issues of detention and disappearance is fundamental to bringing about peace and justice to Syrian society. However, it has received limited attention to date.
Moderated by GCSP’s Gender Security Cluster Leader, Ms. Fleur Heyworth, the event gave the women an opportunity to tell their stories and discuss how enforced disappearance and arbitrary detention needs to be addressed in order for there to be any transitional justice in Syria in the future.
“It was truly humbling to hear the testimonies of such courageous women,” said GCSP’s Ms. Heyworth. “There are now a few women sitting at the negotiation table during the Geneva Talks and hopefully by giving these women a safe place to speak out, the international community will hear them and implement concrete actions that enable an inclusive process towards peace.”