Sister Citizens: Women’s Identities and Roles in Syria’s Conflict

By Victoria Gilbert
Submitted to Session P4975 (Women and Contemporary Politics, 2017 Annual Meeting
Pol Science
Gender/Women's Studies;
LCD Projector without Audio;
Violent conflicts provide important transformative moments for identities as episodes of collective trauma can shake our understandings of ourselves in profound and dramatic ways. Even the identities that we understand as stable experience shifts and changes in the wake of violent conflicts. Understandings of what it means to be female and, as a result, what roles women may “appropriately” adopt often change as a result of violent conflict. However, there has been little attention paid to the mechanisms through which conflict alters social definitions of womanhood. Those works that do exist tend to focus on the general strategies available to women in conflict zones or specifically on the role of gendered violence, such as instances of rape against women in civil war. This paper will consider variations in the depiction of women’s roles and the characterization of what constitutes appropriate political behavior for women in the Syrian uprising across time and space. In particular, it will highlight the tensions that have emerged as some women try to assert themselves politically in a context which has been increasingly characterized by conservative religious armed groups. This paper will attempt to explain variations in the levels and forms of women’s political participation in rebel-held areas of Syria by considering the activities of non-governmental organizations in some parts of the country as well as the varying ability of armed groups to impose conservative understandings of women’s identities. In summary, this expands existing literature by understanding the ways roles morph and change across time and space through violent conflict.