Syrian women activists speak of country’s plight at summit

‘The future is dead’ in Syria, one women activist said

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As top women gathered in an annual summit in York Friday to discuss the situation of women’s rights around the world, two Syrian women took the stage to highlight the plight of the Syrian people ravaged by a three-year civil war.

Hiba Sawan, one of the Syrian women activists at the summit, described being among those targeted by a chemical bomb.


“We had been hearing missiles and bombs but we didn’t recognize that the bombing was different,” said Sawan at a panel discussion at the Women in the World Summit in New York on Thursday night, which was attended by former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Christine Lagarde, head of the International Monetary Fund, among other prominent figures.

“Our eyes were burning… I saw dozens of corpses in the streets, many of them were women and children.”

In her account of the attack, Sawan then described going to a hospital to help out, washing and removing the clothing of victims. For a week after the bombing, she said that she was unable to see.

Another panelist, Rania Kisar, who is a founder of the Syrian Womens’ Revolution Committee, described witnessing a barrel bombing which destroyed two buildings.

Dead future

“The future is dead. I have read about the situation in Kosovo and the Holocaust,” said Kisar. “But all of that is happening at the same time in Syria.”

Also joining the panel was David Miliband, a former British politician who heads the International Rescue Committee.

While Syria is the worst humanitarian crisis of this era, humanitarian groups have failed to deliver help effectively – in part due to the fact that the Syrian civil war has not held people’s attention, he said.

“Humanitarian aid can stop the dying, but it takes politics to stop the killing,” said Miliband, warning against politicizing aid. “But rather than politicizing the humanitarian movement, put humanity in politics.”

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