‘Rape is being used as a weapon of war’

It was an emotional time for representatives of the Muslim Judicial Council’s (MJC’s) Women’s Forum, when they shared their experience of being part of 10000 women calling for the release of Syrian women being held in prisons there, facing rape, torture and sexual abuse.

The forum formed part of the South African delegation who travelled to the Turkish province of Hatay, near the Syrian border, to be part of the Conscience Convoy’s International Women’s Day event (which was on Thursday March 8).

The Conscience Convoy is a grassroots umbrella organisation supported by a wide range of non-government organisations (NGOs), civil society, community organisations and individuals from across the world.

On Thursday March 15, the MJCWF hosted a presentation at Darul Islam Mosque in Surrey Estate to give feedback on this human rights mission they undertook. They were among 10000 women from 55 countries who filled 60 buses and travelled 1200km from Istanbul to Hatay to be part of this rally. They arrived back in Cape Town on Monday March 12.

They had no hotel stays – instead, all those who participated had to sleep on the floor of a mosque and community halls.

Khadija Patel Allie, the head of the MJCWF, said: “Just imagine if this was your own mother, sister or daughter, who is being repeatedly raped or tortured. Mothers and their children are exposed to this kind of atrocities. This leaves one forever violated and changed. This event was to tell the world that our silence is a travesty. Imagine if we were the ones in prison. We had to do something to shift the international community to understand what is happening in Syria. Official figures say there are 6000 women in Syrian prisons, but this number can be much higher. Rape is being used as a weapon of war – as a means to break this nation. May Allah preserve the honour of the women. This action of solidarity is a movement with a domino effect.

“For us as women from the Western Cape, this was such a humbling journey. As South Africans we came through an era of apartheid, but it was nothing compared to Syria and Palestine. We are free now, but they have to go through extremely dehumanising treatment. Women across the globe formed part of this sisterhood – where we have each other’s backs – first in duah (prayers), and in other ways. The one goal of this initiative is to liberate our sisters who are incarcerated.”

Majidah Emandien, the MJCWF’s secretary general, said it had been a “humbling, exhausting and rewarding experience”.

Mualima Fatima Abrahams challenged worshippers to come out of their comfort zones.

“If each one of us do something small – like adding an extra tin of tuna to your monthly grocery shopping, and donating it to Syria, it can make a big impact,” Ms Abrahams said.