TURKEY

All-women convoy ends journey near Syrian border

ALL-WOMEN CONVOY ENDS JOURNEY NEAR SYRIAN BORDER

An all-women international convoy made its final stop at southern Hatay province on Thursday to raise awareness for women imprisoned by the Bashar al-Assad regime.

The International Conscience Convoy which calls itself the "voice of oppressed women in Syria" started its three-day journey with 55 buses from Istanbul's Yenikapi Sqaure on Tuesday.

They held a final rally to mark International Women's Day in Hatay, which borders Syria, after making stops in the Turkish cities of Izmit, Sakarya, Ankara, and Adana.

Women from over 50 countries, including Syria, Chile, Palestine,Iraq, England, East Turkestan, Brazil, Malaysia, Pakistan, Kuwait and Qatar addressed a large crowd at a fairground in Antakya district.

Among the speakers where Homaira Ayoubi, an Afghan parliamentarian, Olga Bogomolets, a Ukrainian deputy, Sana Beltagi, mother of teenager Asma Beltagi who was killed by Egyptian soldiers in Cairo for demonstrating against a military coup, and Rayne Rose Mandela-Perry, daughter-in-law of South Africa's anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela.

The participants called on the international community to take action for the immediate release of Syrian women and girls who are subjected to torture and rape in regime prisons.

Majid Shorbaci, who was tortured for seven months in a regime prison, addressed the crowd on behalf of thousands of Syrian women who have suffered the same fate.

She said she was detained along with her husband and three children.

"The last time I saw my husband his whole body was covered in blood as a result of endless torture [by regime soldiers]," she said.

Her husband did not survive the torture and died.

Gulden Sonmez, organizer of the convoy and human rights lawyer, said: "We will continue to pursue our cause until every single sister is freed."

She said the convoy was only the beginning of a long and persistent campaign.

The participants, which independent observers said exceeded several thousand, marked three minutes of silence to show solidarity with the imprisoned women.

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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