Back to top

Four Years After Syrian Uprising, Women’s Solutions — Not US Bombs — Will Bring Peace

This week marks four years since the Syrian people began an uprising for democracy and human rights. Today, they face government repression, civil war, the rise of extremist groups like the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), and the destruction of communities through violence and mass displacement.

To solve these crises, we must turn to women leaders, active and determined to build a democratic and rights-based society. And we must reject failed US military policies, including the airstrikes, that have already spread destruction and undermined peace.

Grassroots women’s organizations are mobilizing to provide humanitarian aid to communities under siege inside Syria and to the millions of far-flung refugees. They are sustaining hope and continuing the non-violent resistance that inspired the early days of the uprising. By meeting people’s immediate needs for food, water and other basics, they build local resilience and help staunch the spread of ISIS.

Syrian women are more than service providers. These leaders have advocated for women’s inclusion in peace talks. The US and other world leaders have apparently abandoned serious efforts to achieve a negotiated peace. Yet, women remain steadfast in their call to restart negotiations, with a clear and central role for women. They know from a preponderance of evidence that peace agreements without women do not work. They know that women’s voices are necessary to safeguard human rights and to reflect the needs of the most marginalized. And they know that ISIS will only be defeated by ending the war in which it thrives.

These approaches are spearheaded by the activists who were active in Syria’s uprising four years ago. Their strategies draw a blueprint for lasting peace in Syria: increase humanitarian aid, particularly through support of grassroots groups, and build pressure to restart peace negotiations.

But the Obama Administration seems to think it can end the war through more war. Since last August, the Obama Administration has engaged in a series of airstrikes, purportedly designed to “degrade and ultimately destroy” ISIS. But these actions have only deepened violence in the region and fueled ISIS recruitment, playing into ISIS’ narrative of confronting the West in an ideological battle.

The Obama Administration began the airstrikes against ISIS without Congressional authorization. Now, the Administration is asking Congress for an Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF). We say no. The AUMF permits the use of military force against ISIS or “associated persons or forces,” a potential cover for military action in places as distant from Syria as Nigeria or Libya. And the Obama Administration has refused to define the scale and duration of military action under the AUMF, pushing the world deeper into endless war.

Take Action: Contact your representative to reject US military intervention and demand support for peaceful solutions led by Syrian grassroots activists.

In the past four years, US policy has been dominated by the magical thinking that there can be a military solution to this crisis. Instead, US policy must promote the strategies that Syrian women are already leading: local organizing for peace, increased humanitarian aid for refugees and vulnerable people inside Syria, and a return to the negotiation table.

March 16, 2015  / Middle East / Syria / Building a Just Peace