This month marks a dark anniversary in the Syrian civil war as it enters its sixth year.
What started in March 2011 as a peaceful protest in the southern Syrian city of Deraa against President Assad’s regime has erupted into the one of the most bloody and complex conflicts in living memory.
All Syrians are affected by the ongoing fighting. Six years ago, relatively small groups of rebels were battling government forces. Now, hundreds of rebel organisations are involved, rival sects are fighting and regional and international forces make up a horrific war. To make matters worse, Daesh added an even more sinister aspect.
Millions of innocent women and children have been caught up in the conflicts.
The statistics make for horrifying reading: five million Syrian women are in desperate need of humanitarian assistance and 430,000 of those are pregnant. 1.2 million women and girls of reproductive age are in hard to reach and besieged locations. Around 100,000 of them are trapped. Children are being robbed of their childhoods and are missing out on years of education. Many have been orphaned. Some have only ever known war.
Peace talks are taking place, but it’s difficult.
Women of many faiths and sects are suffering. Daesh’s systematic and indiscriminate abuse of women is coming to light.
Numerous international and British charities are on the ground in Syria, working to provide emergency help to those in dire need. But they are also trying to bring hope to millions by launching back-to-school initiatives, opening women’s centres, establishing trauma and psychological care and helping widowed women get back on their feet.
The devastation in Syria is beyond what we might imagine but we have hope for a brighter future.
We understand that women need to find their voice. So many women have been beaten down by Daesh or through the unfathomable suffering they have experienced. At Strive, we work to enable Muslim women to have a voice in and outside their community. We want to inspire Muslim women to contribute and play an active part in wider society, be the advocates of change and take leadership roles.
This is something we do here in the UK, but women in Syria require exactly the same support, care and guidance.
As the conflict enters its sixth year, the only glimmer of hope is that so many organisations are working to rebuild the lives of women and children in Syria. It is a challenging task and something that will last a generation.
We send hope and prayers to the millions of women who are showing resilience and strength against all odds. We pray that an end to the war will come soon. We stand shoulder to shoulder with our Syrian sisters.