‘’The Voice of the Local Community in the Constitution’’ Project Women’s Rights in the constitution Workshop

Within the context of “The Voice of the Local Community in the Constitution” project, on 4 January 2020, the Stabilization Support Unit has held in the city of Azaz a workshop entitled ‘’Women’s Rights in the Constitution’’ in participation of Mrs. Alise Mofrej, member of the Syrian Negotiation Commission and the Constitutional Committee (the opposition list) via Skype and attendance of female representatives of local governmental institutions, female activists in public affairs, and female representatives of civil society organizations in Idlib and (western – northern – eastern) countryside of Aleppo.
Before the start of the workshop, there was a Stand in Solidarity with the people of Idlib countryside as its cities, villages, and people are being subjected to brutal military attacks, shelling and mass displacement.

The Objective of the Workshop
To talk about the importance of the constitution and how it is formed / redeveloped, women’s rights in the constitution, the constitutional committee, the four baskets of Staffan de Mistura, paths of the political solution in Syria and the role of the constitutional committee and mechanisms of participation of women in political tracks / paths; with aim of involving women inside Syria in the constitutional and political process.

The workshop consisted of three sections :
1- The first section: where a briefing and explanation about the political processes related to Syria took place from Geneva to the formation of the constitutional committee and comparison made between constitutional experiences of different countries.
2- The second section: a definition on the Constitutional Committee, its importance and work, the role of women in it and the political solution paths and women’s rights in the constitution.
3- The third section: questionnaires filled individually and in working groups to get the opinions and aspirations of the participants on what was mentioned about the constitutional committee, the constitution and the content of the constitution that the constitutional committee is working to form.
The first section:
Most of the Syrians that are living inside Syria are hearing about political processes inaccurately and do not know how and why we have come to form a constitutional committee. And they don’t know the importance of the constitution since the constitutions in Syria previously were formalities. Therefore, we saw the importance of explaining them (the political solution paths) extensively in the workshop before going into discussions about the constitution and the constitutional committee. A video produced by the Stabilization Support Unit about the constitution and its importance was presented/shown in this section.
Click the picture below to watch the video with English Subtitles:

Then explanation/talk took place about the previous constitutional experiences in Syria (from independence to the present), and how the Syrian political elites demonstrated the ability to form constitutions that represent the Syrian people, till the Baath Party came to power. And then the door opened for discussions, the participants showed great interaction regarding the discussion points and they expressed that such workshops are very important to educate and raise the awareness of the society in general and women in particular, about the constitution and its importance and the constitutional committee’s works. Because there is a lack of awareness in society due to the absence of such workshops and there is an urgent need for such workshops repetitively, especially at the present time after the formation of the Constitutional Committee.

After that, there were discussions/explanations about the constitutional experience in Tunisia (which gained the world’s admiration), how civil society, through its organizations, unions, and federations, managed to communicate the voice of society and participate in shaping up the constitution and regime of government in the country. And the Lebanese experience, the constitution that formed after the civil war, where the sectarian distribution of positions/powers was adopted, which in turn affected all aspects of life in Lebanon .
An explanation was provided on the political solution paths of Syria, starting from Geneva one in 2012 to the formation of the Constitutional Committee recently in 2019.
The second section:
Was about the constitution, its importance and the role of women in political solution paths and women’s rights in the constitution.
In these three sections, Mrs. Alise Mofrej – the member of the Syrian Negotiation Commission and the Constitutional Committee- has talked prolongedly to introduce the attendees to;

  • The Constitutional Committee and the extent of its importance as a legal document that the Transitional Governing Body will be formed on its basis. The Transitional Governing Body will work to establish a safe and neutral environment for the Syrians to enable them to participate in the
    constitution referendum. This is what the regime knows well so it seeks to thwart the work of the Constitutional Committee.
  • That the Syrian women are represented in the opposition rows and have an active role. Mrs. Alise Mofrej spoke about the necessity of participation of women and the activation of her role and referred to the disasters suffered by women and the price paid by them in the areas of the regime and others. She said ‘’This necessitates the importance of the woman’s participation to demand their rights and raise their voices regarding the future of their country that for which they (the women) sacrificed and paid the bill like others’’.
  • She also said ‘’their participation should not be a formality or secondary and here lies the importance of their (your) participation in such (this) workshop’’.
  • She as well talked about the detainees (men and women), as she is also responsible for the detainees file, she said ‘’there is no point in linking the constitutional process with the detainees
    file’’, and referred to that the detainees file is one of the most important topics of the safe and neutral environment.
  • that Women have rights that are usually mentioned in constitutions, and Syrian women have privacy after years of struggle, sacrifice, displacement and diaspora. Here, Mrs. Alise Mofrej mentioned the
    most important points that could be constitutional contents dedicated to women’s rights in the constitution, such as: women’s right to grant citizenship to their children – Abolishing any quota that could restrict political representation / participation of women – prevention of violence and discrimination against women – prevention of honor crimes and some points related to CEDAW

Then the door was opened for discussion, questions and inquiries of the participants of the workshop.
The questions from the participants were as follows;

  • How women will participate in the constitutional contents and how will they affect the constitution / the constitutional contents?
  • Is there any possibility of withdrawal from the Constitutional Committee to put pressure on the regime to stop its attack on Idlib?
  • Is the regime having any chances to pass decisions in its favor?
  • Is there a timeline for the constitutional committee’s work?
    Mrs. Alise Mofrej said that the women through attending such (this) workshop or participating in women gatherings/assemblies can agree on some constitutional contents and transfer them to the constitutional committee which in turn can demand them. Regarding the withdrawal from the constitutional committee, she said ‘’the withdrawal from the Constitutional Committee is possible, but it does not serve our interests, because the regime aspires to do so to stop the political process’’. She as well confirmed that the regime cannot pass any decisions in its favor because it needs the approval of 75% of the constitutional committee members, which is a very difficult percentage to achieve.

The third section
In this section a survey which contains six open-ended questions distributed to the attendees, the questions were first answered individually, and then answered through six working groups.
Here are the six questions:
1- What are your concerns, remarks, recommendations on the work of the Constitutional Committee (formation, mechanism of work and procedures, etc.)
2- Do you have any hopes, aspirations, from the work of the Constitutional Committee?
3- What do you think, how should the regime in Syria be?
4- In your opinion, how should the presidency be in Syria? (Sex – Nationalism – Religion and Doctrine – Duration of Mandate – Powers … etc)
5- What are the merits that we must adhere to/stick to in the upcoming constitution of Syria?
6- If the Constitutional Committee agreed on a draft constitution, (and conditions allowed for participation) would you participate in the constitutional referendum process?
These questions were asked previously and will be asked to several more groups later to be analyzed and considered as a sample (of people opinions) that can be relied upon by the Constitutional Committee.

Attendees were divided into 7 working and focused discussion groups, and the members of each group held focused consultations/discussions among themselves to answer the questions as a group. The ideas and responses of the groups were different regarding some points and were similar regarding some other points.
Regarding the concerns, remarks, recommendations on the work of the Constitutional Committee; most of the groups agreed on the lack of communication channels between the constitutional committee and the Syrian people. The participants as well referred to necessity of such workshops, which significantly changed their point of views regarding the work of the Constitutional Committee.
Regarding the hopes from the constitution and the constitutional committee; most of the groups referred to that they have hopes from the work of the constitutional committee especially regarding preserving the four baskets of Staffan de Mistura and that there should be a real representation of women and their rights in the constitution. Some other groups stated that their hopes are to achieve transitional justice, to achieve the demands of the Syrian people and the effective participation of women in political life.
Regarding the merits that we must adhere to/stick to in the upcoming constitution of Syria; most of the participants referred to the human rights in general and the women rights in particular, transitional justice, the prosecution of war criminals, separation of powers, the inclusion of women’s rights in the constitution, the achievement of justice and the preservation of the file of reconstruction. Some participants referred to activation of the political role of women by assuming leadership positions (alongside the men) and participating in decision-making.

Most of the groups stressed the willingness to participate in the constitutional referendum in case there is a safe and neutral environment and supervision of the United Nations
Later, we will share the results of the analysis of the questionnaires of this workshop and the general results of the questionnaires of all the workshops.
Click the picture below to watch the video with English Subtitles

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