Mandela women vow to continue support for Syrian women


Two family members of South Africa's anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela have vowed to raise their voices for Syrian women imprisoned by the Bashar al-Assad regime.

Thousands of Syrian women continue to languish in prisons in regime-controlled areas, suffering torture, including rape.

In an exclusive interview with Anadolu Agency, Rayne Rose Mandela-Perry and Nodiyala Mandela, Nelson Mandela's daughter-in-law and granddaughter-in-law, spoke about their experiences in an all-women convoy which set off from Istanbul on Tuesday to protest human rights abuses of these imprisoned women.

Mandela-Perry said: "My message for Syrian women is that they must stay strong and hope the best will happen.

"When Mr. Mandela was in prison he was just positive and telling himself: 'I am going to go out of here'. Whatever you think, and when you are strong, and you believe in what you are saying, it happens.

"We must continue this convoy and keep on."

Mandela, South Africa's first black president, spent 27 years in prison.

The International Conscience Convoy finished its three-day journey with a final rally on Thursday to mark International Women's Day in southeastern Hatay province, which borders Syria.

The convoy, which saw the participation of women from 50 countries, made stops in the Turkish cities of Izmit, Sakarya, Ankara and Adana.

Mandela-Perry said the convoy symbolized that Syrian women are neither alone nor forgotten.

She said the story of a Syrian woman who had suffered at one such prison affected her.

"She was arrested together with her husband and she was tortured while her husband was tortured next to her.

"That is the worst pain; to have someone that is very close to you [be tortured], you feel you want to help but [at] that time you are also helpless," she said.

If Mandela was alive he would have told these women, she said: "Stay strong, nothing is impossible, it will happen, you will be released."

Nodiyala Mandela said she will continue to support the convoy's cause.

"Anything that brings together the whole world is powerful and I think that after the convoy this campaign is a huge success. We just hope and we pray every single day that it will make an impact.

"We will make the loudest noise we will roar we will scream until those women are freed from jails, because they suffer every single day different types of oppression whether it is emotional abuse, physical abuse, psychological abuse," she said.

Currently, over 6,700 women -- more than 400 of them young girls -- are held 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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