Yasmine, a beautiful young Yemeni girl hugged me before I left Brussels this morning and told me with tears in her eyes, “I hope we meet again – You never know.” Perhaps one day we will meet in Syria or Yemen.
I spent the last few days in Brussels, where the European Union held a high-level dialogue, where Syrian and Yemeni women were able to collaborate with fellow civil society leaders. Yes, we speak the same language; yes, we all love to drink coffee, and give hugs and smile; but behind all this, we all have a broken heart over the war in our countries. Our destroyed cities and populations live under the poverty level, in orphanages, and have children with no schools.
Yasmine’s passion and inner beauty remind me of thousands of Syrian women I have met during the last seven years of war. Each of them facing all the horrors of war, death, tragedy, and crying over friends. Their family members are in prison, where they do not know if they are alive or dead.
In the two days of meeting, we focused on the role and needs of women, security, mediation, and peacebuilding. We discussed the importance of having women represented and genuinely contributing to the negotiating table, geopolitics, and exchanged ideas on how we can continue to push for an increase of women’s equality in politics.
Each one of the amazing women I met in Brussels is addressing big issues in their community. The concerns we discussed affect not only our needs as women, but that of our whole society. We talked about our inspirations and challenges, and the opportunity to share our dreams of living in a free, democratic country. We concluded that it was imperative to insist on accountability, because without accountability for rule of law, leaders will receive the message that it is okay to kill their own people if the people ever dare to request reform.
Mona from Yemen looked at us and said, “Today is a celebration for Yemen – the peace talks started and there is a light of the end of the tunnel.” Then she said with tears in her eyes, “All that I care about is not seeing any more children dying in Yemen.” I asked myself why she was not at the negotiating table. If Mona was in Sweden today with her women colleagues, I assure you that the peace agreement would include all oppressed people.
Yes, we talked about issues and challenges, but we also shared our recommendations and success stories in pursuing a political solution to end the wars destroying our homes and our souls. In Brussels, we were surrounded by empowered women encouraging each other. A European colleague expressed to me how wonderful it was to see that when women get together, important things happen.
Hind, a colleague who shares the same name, said to me, “Men are good at starting war, but women are the ones who will seek a sustainable, just peace.” As members of this dialogue, we insisted in all of the side meetings with EU representatives how critical it is to bring the voice of the voiceless to the negotiating table through representation, and passionately requested that the EU keep supporting education for our people. Our reasoning is simple: A generation without education is the best mechanism for dictatorships to oppress a population.
Yasmine hugged me to say goodbye. I hugged her back and she whispered in my ear, “We shall keep fighting the good fight.” I agreed that the path of freedom is long, but for the sake of her eight-year-old daughter and my twenty-eight-year-old daughter, it is worth the struggle.
This article was published on Medium by Tanenbaum Peacemaker in Action, Hind Kabawat, on December 13, 2018.