MIDDLE EAST

All-women convoy continues journey for Syrian women

ALL-WOMEN CONVOY CONTINUES JOURNEY FOR SYRIAN WOMEN

An all-women international convoy on Wednesday left the Turkish capital and continued its three-day journey to the Syrian border to raise awareness for women imprisoned by the Bashar al-Assad regime.

More than 2,500 participants from over 50 countries of the Conscience Convoy, which set off from Istanbul on Tuesday, spent the night at Akseki Mosque in Ankara. They plan to reach Hatay province, which borders Syria, on March 8, World Women's Day, after making stops in the Turkish cities of Izmit, Sakarya, Ankara, and Adana.

On Wednesday, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and First Lady Emine Erdoğan received 20 participants for a closed meeting at the presidential complex.

Women from Turkey, East Turkestan, Bosnia, Syria, Pakistan, France, Afghanistan, England, Qatar, Malaysia, Kuwait, South Africa, Chile and Ukraine represented the convoy during the meeting.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Hawa Bibi Khan from South Africa said she had joined the convoy to stand in solidarity with the women and children in Syria and other war-torn parts of the world.

"It is important to meet women, to hear what they have to share, to connect, and to see how we can collectively use our voices, our resources, and whatever else that we have to go back and make a difference," she said.

Khan represents a human rights center in Cape Town and the Johannesburg-based Teddy Bear Clinic which works with children who have lived under oppression and are subjected to sexual violence.

Munaza Hassan, a Pakistani parliamentarian, called the convoy a "tremendous effort".

"We are here for International Women's Day and we are going to mark this day with the Syrian women who were abused and tortured by the Syrian regime," she said.

"I want to pay tribute to the Turkish government and people of Turkey who have shown hospitality towards Syrians," she added.

She said after her return to Pakistan she would raise the issue in parliament and urge the government to contribute to it in some way.

Patricia Amina Ivanez from Chile said she left her five children at home "and just took the airplane, something brought me here."

She said she would share her experiences with people in Chile and spread awareness about the issue.

Currently, over 6,700 women -- over 400 of them young girls -- are still living in prisons run by the regime forces, according to a statement by the Conscience Convoy.

Syria has been locked in a devastating civil war since March 2011, when the Bashar al-Assad regime cracked down on pro-democracy protests with unexpected ferocity.

While UN officials say hundreds of thousands of people have been killed in the conflict, Syrian regime officials say the death toll is closer to 10,000.

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