The Syrian government has once again confirmed its policy, which we have been saying all along denies women government support in its clarifications issued by the Minister of Local Administration and published in the Syrian newspaper “al Watan”. However, the idea of government support is laughable to begin with - since only those on the brink of starvation qualify.

The first clause makes things absolutely clear with the following: A divorced woman who does not have a father, mother, or unmarried brothers and does not have a family card (a form of identification that proves identities of members of a family) for her father is not entitled [to government assistance].

The meaning is clear. If a divorced woman has anyone in her family still living, she does not qualify for support, even if she has her father’s family card. A divorced woman will benefit from support only if she is the sole member of her family (by birth or through the death of family members) and is in possession of the family card. As for all other cases, the divorced woman is deprived of “government support.”

The third section of the clarifications states: “A widow who does not carry a family card, even if she has permanent residence in Syria is not entitled [to support].” While this clause is quite clear, it’s worth asking: Who are these widows who do not have family cards? For the most part, they are Syrian woman who are in the clutches of polygynous marriages and their fates have made them not the last wife. The family card remains with the last wife to have married this shared husband. Basically, all the wives in this arrangement with the exception of the last one will be completely deprived of government support because they don’t have this obligatory card. Of course, it means nothing to the Syrian government that these women are already victims of sanctioned violence – polygynous marriage –sanctioned legally when they can be “justified” to the courts. It means nothing to the Syrian government that these women are Syrian citizens who take part in electing members of parliament and in the referendum for the president or that the vice president is a woman as is a minister, and officers in the army and police, as well as the many women who serve as directors, factory workers, and farmers etc. All of these women pay the government and the Ministry of Local Administration part of their income in the form of taxes. It seems a woman is a citizen only when she pays. However, when it comes to needing support, it’s a different story entirely and one that can only be described as a farce and an embarrassment.

The fifth clause says: “A divorced woman without a father or mother, who does not have the family card is not entitled to government support.” Basically, any divorced woman is screwed; if she has a father, mother, or single brother, then she is not entitled to support and if she doesn’t have a mother or father and does not have the family card, then she also is not entitled. So, who qualifies for government support? How many women will be prevented on these grounds from obtaining government assistance? All divorced women, all widows, and all women who are married to non-Syrians (including all women married to Syrian Kurds who do not have Syrian citizenship) will not qualify for government support. In short, all Syrian women. The only case in which a Syrian woman will be able to get government support is if she possesses the family card that belonged to her deceased husband.

The Syrian government has done nothing to stop this flagrant violation of the Syrian constitution, which in item V of article 25 states: “All citizens are equal before the law in rights and duties.” And, in article 45 states: “the state guarantees to women all opportunities that enable them to participate fully and effectively in political, social, cultural and economic life, working to remove restrictions that prevent development and participation in building a socialist Arab society.” Instead, the government persists in passing economic measures in which words like “development” and “humanity” and “citizen” no longer have any meaning except when it suits the interests of the treasury. This is all too obvious in the explanations in the third clause: “minors who are not in possession of the family card and whose parents are deceased are not entitled since the conditions do not apply.”

Thus, without hesitation, the Syrian government excludes all Syrian orphans who happen not to be registered for one reason or another on a family card. All Syrian children who happen to be born to Syrian mothers (and who are Syrian despite the discriminatory citizenship law) and to fathers who are not Syrian are excluded from benefits, as are all Syrian children whom the law calls “foundlings” or of “unknown parentage.” All of these children are unrecognized by the Syrian government and are thrown to the street without the least bit of conscience. This also represents a flagrant violation of the Syrian constitution, which states in item II of Article 44: “The State protects and encourages marriage and works to remove material and social obstacles that constrain it and works to protect maternity and childhood and to provide for children and young adults, offering them conditions suitable for the development of their abilities.”

We should have known that the Syrian government was going to decide to exclude Syrian women from “citizenship” and has de facto stated that they are nothing more than objects belonging to men. This exclusion is simply what has been demonstrated and continues to be made manifest daily. Beginning with the obscurant copy of the draft personal status law and continuing with the stubborn refusal to amend the citizenship law and the right of a mother with sole custody to obtain child support and ending, certainly not least of all, with the fact that women are not entitled for government support at all it is clear women are not full citizens, as we have seen above.

Through these explanations, the Syrian government has decided that it does not recognize women as citizens, or as people. The government does recognize a woman’s existence except when it takes her income in the name of never ending taxes, or when it forces her to work at night in factories spinning and weaving, or when she dies for the safety of nation as a soldier or police officer. Other than that, there is no place for women in an institution that only recognizes men.

We reject these explanations and consider them a violation of the Syrian constitution, as well as discrimination against women and we stress that Syrian women have every right to government support, no matter how trivial. If there is justification for directing support to families, rather than to individuals, then there should also be the right for women who do not have families to get support, regardless of the bureaucratic games related to the family cards. Syrian children, both those registered and unregistered (for whatever reason), have a right to government support, since the Syrian government is committed to the constitution, which is sovereign over all its decisions. The government also has a commitment to international agreements it has signed, such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which states in Article III, Section I: “In all actions concerning children, whether undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration.” In addition, Syria has made a commitment to following the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), which states in Article V, item (d): The same opportunities [for women] to benefit from scholarships and other study grants.

We call on the Syrian government to back down from its continual violation of the rights of women and children, which is also a violation of the Syrian constitution and a violation of Syria’s obligation to ratified international conventions and protocols.

Bassam AlKadi, 20/2/2010, (The Syrian Government Violates the Constitution and Denies Women, Children and Orphans Rights All in One Go)

Translated by Liz Broadwin

Source (Arabic)..