Syrian women suffer inside their country and out
By Oliver Holmes
BEIRUT (Reuters) - Some Syrians say outrage over the sentencing of a teenage girl was a spark that started the country's two-and-a-half year revolt.
A month before protests started in March 2011, Tal al-Mallohi - a 19-year-old who blogged about wanting to shape her country's future - was sentenced to five years in jail on charges of spying.
Having already been imprisoned for over a year, Mallohi was brought to the court chained and blindfolded. Her mother, who was waiting in the courtyard, burst into tears.
A Syrian court granted Mallohi amnesty last month as part of a three-way hostage swap. When she emerges from prison, she will find her country radically changed.
Women in Syria have been targeted by Syrian security forces during the revolt and civil war, rights groups say. Thousands have survived rape and torture and Syrian jails have filled with women and girls.
But forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad are not the only enemy to women in Syria - hard-line Islamists are stripping them of their rights, too. Outside Syria, refugees say desperation is forcing some to marry off their daughters as child brides and aid workers report an emerging sex trade in camps.
Syria ranked 19th out of 22 Arab states in a Thomson Reuters Foundation poll on women's rights (poll2013.trust.org), slightly better than Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Egypt.
The survey of gender experts carried out in August and September was based on key provisions of a U.N. convention against gender discrimination that almost all Arab states, including Syria, have signed. Continued...