Dozens of local and international organizations called for the immediate release of women and children in the prisons of the Assad regime, stressing the importance of holding those involved in war crimes in Syria accountable as a prerequisite for transitional justice.
The calls were made at an international conference that was organized as part of "Conscience Movement" advocacy campaign in Istanbul on Wednesday. Dozens of international organizations, rights activists, MPs, and artists participated in the conference which was held under the title "The release of the last woman and child detained in Syria.”
The conference was attended by representatives from 55 countries, including most notably Baroness Paula Uddin, member of the UK House of Lords and grandson of the late South African leader Nelson Mandela Zwelivelile Mandlesizwe Mandela, and Ecuadorian MP Anna Beilin Marin Aguirre.
Yasser al-Farhan, head of the Syrian Coalition’s Commission on Detainees and Missing Persons, expressed his full support for the demands of the conference. He said that the conditions of detention in Assad's prisons cannot be found in the rest of the world, stressing that tens of thousands of detainees died under brutal torture.
Farhan pointed to the importance of holding to account those responsible for crimes against detainees, especially children and women. He stressed that accountability can contribute significantly to the comprehensive political solution that was set out in international resolutions on Syria.
Majd Sharbaji spoke about her experience in detention along with her children and her husband who died in the Assad regime's prisons. She noted that detention in Syria means enforced disappearance as nothing is known about the fate of the detainees.
"When entering the prisons of the Assad regime, we become mere numbers and forget our names so that no one knows us," Sharbaji said. Sharbaji described the situation in the Assad regime’s prisons as "terrible and unimaginable." She said that she was electrocuted and brutally beaten.
Sharbaji also expressed the hope that the goal of the conference will be achieved and all women and children detained in the regime's prisons will be released.
Yavuz Dede, spokesman for the Conscience Movement, said that the conference aims to draw international attention to the suffering of women who were imprisoned in Syria and subjected to torture and rape. He added that the Movement is an international initiative dedicated to the release of women and children who have been detained since 2011.
The campaign is supported by more than 2,000 NGOs and thousands of people from 110 countries.
Participants issued a statement saying that more than 13,500 Syrian women have been detained in Syria since March 2011, 7,000 of whom are still being held, tortured, raped and sexually abused. They stressed that the Assad regime used rape as a weapon of warfare.
The statement indicated that the Movement's priority will be to ensure the release of Syrian women and children from the prisons of the Assad regime.
The Conscience Movement advocacy campaign was launched last year to support Syrian female detainees. Back then, a humanitarian convoy brought together over of 2,000 women from around the world and travelled to the Bab al-Salama border crossing north of Aleppo to demonstrate solidarity with the Syrian people. (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department)