Women at The Local Coordination Committees.. The Passive Voice!

Translated by Aishah Barazi

In a conversation lately with one of the Local Coordination Committees (LCC) activists, he expressed with sorrow that the committee’s reputation is not good in his area. “Many people are saying that LCC is led by women.” Which -in his perspective- weakens the status of the committees’ activists in their areas and in front of the residents!

In one hand, the committees are blessed that a group of talented women played a key role in its continuity and progress during the past two years of the revolution. Starting with my colleague Yasmeen Barazi, the coordinator of LCC’s media office, who spends 24 hours of her day with the activists in different offices. I salute her as much as she has given and still giving.

There is also Mrs. Laila AlSafadi, who carried the responsibility of preparing and editing LCC’s newsletter with very little supplies besides continuing her work; as a member of LCC and of its executive office; from the place where she resides in our beloved heights of Joulan. I also salute her as much as she has given and still giving.

I won’t list all their names instead I will go back to the above mentioned comment when the activist assumed that the existence of women in decision-making and accountability positions of this revolutionary organization weakens it; quite the contrary! Although in the same area where residents had said that, there are female media activists and aid workers for sure. So, where is the problem?

Moreover, it is true that women assumed pioneering roles at LCC yet only one committee out of dozens others is being led by a lady; of course we are here talking about the “Female Liberals of Darayya.”

While preparing this article, we have surveyed all committees about the numbers of females in their crews and the types of activities they are doing. Only one committee has fully completed the survey, and the results speak about itself, amongst all the other (16) committees, there are no female activists in key positions.

Committees which have more than four female activists in their crews are: Shahba, Jdedat Artouz, Hanano Movement, Mesyaf, United Hasaka and Inkhel.

Committees that have 2-4 female activists are: Areha, Atareb and Sanameen whereas those that have 1-2 females are: Kafrouma and Zabadany. The rest of the committees have zero females in their crews.

Even in those committees that have females, it was eye-catching what have been written about their roles by their “male” supervisors.

Women roles in Areha’s committee varied from printing flyers, writing banners and preparing reports for written media outlets. “The sense of women in these matters is different than that of men.” said the committee’s supervisor.

In Jdedat Artouz, women do “activities which men usually do not care about and those that need the female’s sense! Starting from drawing and other household arts, knitting flags to running activities for children” as stated by the committee’s supervisor.

In the United Hasaka committee, female activists were aid workers plus they distribute flyers, count demonstration points and do legal observation.

In Inkhel, women knit the revolution’s flags, write banners, rescue the injured, distribute food baskets and coke for the revolutionists.. They also do one extremely dangerous task; No one can forget the female liberals of Inkhel who have been detained since more than a year? Some women accommodate and secure those wanted by the regime and even help them to escape, they smuggle supplies to dissent soldiers, too.

In Kafrouma, the committee’s supervisor said that women effectively participated when the demonstrations were at peak; they stood between the army and the demonstrators to prevent the latter’s detention. Now, women plays the role of the “unknown soldier”; they coke for the revolutionists! do the households chores for them! and also participate in paramedic activities.

At any rate, I admit that during the past two years of the revolution and also of LCC’s start, I was not introduce to any of those female activists in the various committees. In other words, none of the “male” supervisors introduced them to me or gave them the chance to participate. LCC, in turn, never asked about them.

The supervisor of Hamouriyeh’s committee in Damascus Suburbs said that there isn’t any female activists in their committee yet “women played an important role in the revolutionary movement of the city but female activities are limited to be among medical or teaching staff and they are the best at it.” He continued saying: “As for the fact that women do not participate in the committee, it is due to the nature of Eastern Ghouta residents; they are very conservative.”

According to the supervisor of Sanameen’s committee, this is because of the socially dominating notion about women. Though women would like to participate with some of the committee’s activities; they are actually committing to a cause other than the burden of many other social commitments they already have. Therefore, it is absolutely a personal choice of a woman to join the committee.

In the town of Taseel, women are present in the movement as in demonstrations and coking for the revolutionists. The reason why women are not represented in the committee is the conservative manifest of the town and for protecting them of being detained by security forces.

It is surprising that the work of the committees themselves diversify between media, civil and aid work, which are the same fields where women are usually active -coking for the revolutionists is an exception- even in the most socially and religiously conservative areas. Aren’t preparations for any demonstration like writing banners and other things considered as participation in the revolutionary movement? Or is it ok for women to participate as long as it is not under an organized or officially recognized institute and definitely not in leadership positions.

In the end, Syrian women are active in aid-work, media, human rights as well as field work and the level of danger varies from coking for the revolutionists and providing supplies to accommodating those wanted by the regime. Additionally, they are doing all of that as being told to, remain in the shadow and their voices are rarely heard when receiving suggestions for new activities or during disputes in a committee or even any of the arguments we regularly have as activists in the various offices and committees! It is a unfortunate, at least a man cannot defeat a woman in a virtual dispute.

Nevertheless, it is an honor to LCC having women in decision-making positions. This does not make us an example to follow; not when there are hundreds of female activists risking everything they have for then to be excluded from all organizational frames; smallest to biggest; starting with committees to local councils. It is utterly strange how men can trust women to form human-barriers between them and the vicious security forces during demonstrations, secure the wanted and assist the injured but not to participate in forming and building Syria’s future.