Victory for Syrian women’s rights activists (as reported by detained hitchhiker Sarah Shourd)
Jess McCabe // 8 June 2010
Shane Bauer, Sarah Shourd and Josh Fattal have been in a Tehran prison for nearly a year, after straying accidentally into Iran from Iraqi Kurdistan during a hike.
A few days before their arrest, Sara Shourd filed a story with Women’s eNews about the victory of Syrian women’s rights activists in defeating a plan to strip women of many rights by revising personal status laws. Women’s eNews has managed to update the story and post this hopeful success story:
A 99-page draft version of the law–marked urgent–began popping up in the e-mails of nongovernmental advocacy groups and women’s rights activists all over Damascus.
Some of the opposition gathered strength online. A petition on Facebook, which is officially banned in Syria, garnered over 3,000 signatures. News of the opposition made it into dozens of newspapers, Web sites and radio stations throughout the Arab world.
By mid-July of 2009, the Ministry of Information announced that the law would be handed over to the Ministry of Justice, which put the revision on the shelf. No further efforts to revise the laws have been made since then.
Syrian blogger Yasser Sadeq expressed amazement at the success of the political opposition. “This kind of participation in politics is rare in Syria,” Sadeq said in 2009. “But this time they were stepping on everyone’s toes.”
The law would have made it easier for a man to divorce his wife and nearly impossible for her to do the same. It would have allowed Christian men to marry more than one woman. The law technically raised the marriage age for young women to 17 from 16, but it also allowed for some to marry at 13 if the young woman had reached puberty and had parental consent.
It would have denied a married woman the right to work or even travel without her husband’s approval.
But none of that came to pass.