Dr. Maria Al Abdeh

Executive Director, Women Now for Development

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“These women who took a sidestep after the armed rebellion — including those who had been forcibly displaced — re-emerged, turning their efforts to civil society and new forms of activism. They believed in a peaceful movement and found nonviolent mechanisms to protest and demand freedom and justice and equality, regardless of the violent circumstances they experienced in reality. At Women Now for Development, we consider ourselves part of this movement and work toward reinforcing women’s visions for peace and justice.”

Maria’s activism:

Maria joined a group calling for peaceful protest in the earliest days of the Syrian revolution in 2011. As peaceful protest gave way to civil war, Maria worked with survivors of crimes committed by the Syrian regime and other perpetrators.

She has worked to deliver aid to women in communities besieged by violent conflict. Maria has also spoken extensively about Islamic Feminism, seeking to expand the role of Islamic women in their faith and bring about gender equality.

With Women Now for Development, Maria brings training and education to Syrian women and girls, works to protect them from violence and helps them recover from it, and increases women’s participation in politics and peacemaking.

“As soon as peaceful protesters took up arms, the regime found an excuse to bombard us, detain us, murder us, and wipe out our cities and villages.... We cannot take up arms against a powerful and ruthless regime; we'd be playing the regime's game and we would never be able to win at that. Our power is that we are a mass protest, and our ability to stay peaceful and united. Our goal was never to avenge; it was to build a free and fair society, and violence could never be the road to that.”

Women Now for Development works to organize Syrian women through local women’s centers in Syria,  and in refugee communities in Lebanon and Turkey to advance their rights and meet their needs.

Learn more about Women Now for Development

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