Since March 8, 1857 when 129 female textile workers lost their lives during a protest for women's rights, Women's Day has been a day dedicated to women still struggling for basic rights, not a simple celebration for consumption societies. More recently, March 8 has also become a symbolic date for the rights of Syrian women suffering in the turmoil of their country, a struggle that inspired a new major aid campaign in Turkey.
The Conscience Convoy from Istanbul to Hatay, located near the Syrian border, was initiated to draw attention to the oppression of Syrian women. The three-day convoy consisted of thousands of women from 55 countries united to defend the rights of Syrian women for the sake of oppressed women around the world.
Srebrenica mothers as well as women from Uyghur Turks, Kuwait, Syria and even South Africa participated alongside relatives of the late human rights defender Nelson Mandela as the voices of the silenced, suffering women facing rape, torture and even death in Syria, particularly in Syrian jails.
Receiving representatives of the convoy at the Presidential Complex in Ankara, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan expressed his support for the idea of forming a group to defend the rights of Syrian women. The humanitarian campaign may be defined as the only hope for ending the torture of women in Syria.
Since civil war broke out in Syria, more than 6,500 women have been imprisoned in Syrian jails. This effort is very important for the future of Syria in terms of promoting peace for the people of the region, particularly women.
The idea for the convoy came from prominent Turkish human rights activist Gülden Sönmez, who succeeded in gathering women from 55 countries and even received support from European parliamentarians. Sönmez said the convoy's mission is not complete, and it will continue its activities until the Syrian women are released from jail.
"Our main aim was to increase awareness in the international community about the suffering of Syrian women, and we have achieved that goal. News about the Conscience Convoy was reported in 150 countries. We will form a delegation and reach out to the United Nations to push for the release of women from Syrian prisons," Sönmez said.
Expressing the point of their convoy, she said: "And in general, we think women become the first targets in wars, as rape and torture have become common punishments in conflicts in different regions, ranging from Iraq to Arakan. To motivate the international community to take the necessary preventative measures, we will continue our work."
This action by women lends a voice to the silent screams of suffering women in an attempt force deaf ears to listen and act against the terrifying conditions in Syria.