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Syria News Wire now on Frontline

April 24th, 2009 · 7 Comments · Syria News Wire

Welcome to the axis of evil” is my first article for Frontline.

“It’s a devastating critique. Syria is being kept in the dark ages because of a lack of American culture, and poor access to the internet argues a Gulf-based journalist.”

You can read the rest of it here.

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7 responses so far ↓

  • 1 majdal // Apr 24, 2009 at 3.08 pm

    Interesting stats on information access in Syria. Any idea on how those numbers change in governorates other than Damascus?

  • 2 Sasa // Apr 24, 2009 at 3.27 pm

    Those figures from the ITU cover the whole of Syria. I don’t have any breakdown by governorate unfortunately. And credit to Jillian York for finding those ITU figs!!

  • 3 Jillian C. York // Apr 24, 2009 at 4.35 pm

    Majdal,

    Ping me; I’m happy to provide you with all the stats I’ve compiled.

    -Jillian

  • 4 norman // Apr 25, 2009 at 4.17 am

    This should make us proud,

    Deccan Herald » She » Detailed Story

    Striding ahead without fear

    Women Empowerment: Syria stands out as a leader in the Middle East when it comes to women power. Though a country that takes pride in its conservative religious traditions, women in Syria are confident, educated and work in varied professions, reports Shubha Singh

    At a recent summit in the Gulf region, the wife of one of the Arab leaders referred to the women police officers who had recently been inducted in the prestigious presidential guards in her country. It was talked of with pride as a measure of how high women could aspire till the Syrians pointed out that they had a woman Vice President, Dr Najah al-Attar, since 2006. In her mid-70s, Dr al-Attar had been a minister in the government for over 25 years before becoming Vice President. The position of women in Syrian society is a matter of pride for them.

    Syria has a young population; over 60 per cent of Syrians are under the age of 25 years. The young population is immediately discernable on the streets of Syrian towns — in the groups of school children on their way to and back from school, in the gangs of young men lounging at the street corners and girls in their own groups out for the day. The young people like to meet in the multitude of restaurants or just gather in the parks and street corners. The streets of Damascus display a full range of female fashion from an all-encompassing black abaya to blue jeans to long, flowing gold-streaked dresses.

    Rabiya explains the intricacies of the dress code in Damascus; “women of the modernised, upper class do not cover their hair,” she says “while middle class women wear Western clothes and a headscarf. The totally Westernised looking women are Christian, Palestinians, Lebanese and Iraqi.” Damascus has a substantial population of Palestinian and Iraqi refugees. But there is a wide variation in the styles of dress. Conservative chic in Damascus is a cream coloured scarf tied tightly round the head to cover the ears and the neck region, worn with the tightest of jeans. Modern young girls have shed the headscarf and wear short t-shirts that provide an occasional glimpse of the midriff. Dress is a matter of personal choice, though it is sometimes dictated by the family milieu. Rabiya works as a translator, and belongs to a conservative family. She began wearing the hijab (headscarf) as a young girl, and leaves her hair uncovered only in the presence of her father, brother and uncles.
    As she prepares to get married later this year, she plans to continue wearing the headscarf even though her husband’s family is more modern and does not want her to cover up. “I believe it is right to wear the headscarf. I plan to continue wearing it,” she explained. “It is part of my lifestyle. There is no discomfort, I feel good wearing it,” she added.

    Night clubs, pubs, boutique hotels and restaurants have opened up in the aging mansions of the old city where young and older women can be seen enjoying the ‘sheesha’ (hookah). The fruit flavoured (apple, mint are the preferred flavours) sheesha smoke emanating from the painted glass hubble-bubble is said to have a soothing effect. Damascus is reputed to be a safe city with low crime rates where women can walk safely at any time. And clearly there is an innate courtesy and politeness among the people in Syria so that there is little of that intrusive staring at a group of Indian women walking down the streets.

    Equal rights, equal wages

    Women in Syria got the right to vote as early as 1953 and women now constitute about 12 per cent of the membership of its National Assembly, but many young women believe that it is not enough. The issues facing women in Syria are the same as in India. These are questions such as equal rights and equal wages for women and why there aren’t more women in the political parties.

    Vice President Najah al-Attar said that nothing forbids women from taking part in different spheres of the country’s life. The doors were opened for development of women by the late President Assad, who wanted women to be able to reach their goals. There are now women writers, poets, journalists and businesswomen in Syria and women are able to enter new professions. Women now have a choice. Dr al Attar said that Islam lays great emphasis on the importance of learning. One of the Haadiths (sayings of The Prophet) said — “seek knowledge even if it be in China”, she said. “It is only the ignorant in religion who want to ban learning.”

    Women have won several rights not available to women in other Arab countries. An important one is the custody of children till the age of 15 years in case of marital disputes. Another hard-won right on the cards is the right to children of marriages between Syrian women and non-Syrian fathers to take the nationality of their mother. It is in actual fact a right given to children to be able to retain Syrian nationality, but has been a matter of concern to women in Syria.

    Syria has 86 per cent literacy, women’s literacy levels went up from 33 per cent in 1980 to 79 per cent in 1999. Primary education is free and compulsory in Syria, now over 51 per cent of university graduates in Syria are women. Though Syria is a Muslim majority country, which has a strong religious tradition, women have been entering the workforce in larger numbers. Women are well represented in the judicial system, the General Prosecutor is a woman and there are 170 women judges and 250 assistant judges.

    Statistics are difficult to come by but the most favoured jobs for women are in teaching, medicine and healthcare. Roughly about 57 per cent of teachers in Syria are women though there are fewer numbers of women holding senior positions in higher education.

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  • 5 pamela // Apr 25, 2009 at 7.10 am

    Good article Norman, the wearing of hijab is definately used for many reasons beside religion . For example, potential mothers in law can tell where a girl is from , what sect of Islam she belongs to (shia women wear their scarfs in a certain fashion)
    there are many muslim girls who wear modern clothes without the hijab , and this can get confusing , as you cant tell if they are Christian , or from another Islamic sect where they dont wear hijab , anyway it makes for a very interesting picture!

  • 6 Shanaz Din // Apr 28, 2009 at 12.37 pm

    It is interesting reading how women have much more input in Syria and more educated, but how can this be when a british mother of 4 Maryam Kallis, is being held by the Syrian authorities for the last 6 weeks without charge. Her children have been traumatised seeing there mother being taking away infront of there eyes.

  • 7 Sasa // Apr 29, 2009 at 12.36 am

    Held for 6 weeks without charge on suspicion of extremism. That would never happen in Britain would it?

    Oh no, they’d be shot in the arm too!!

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