Why the U.S. Must Keep Syrian Women in Mind

A recent Pew Research poll found that only 29% of Americans support military intervention in Syria. Despite this, with new evidence that Syrian forces used chemical weapons against citizens, President Obama is urging action. Americans remember the travesty that is Iraq — a botched conflict that lasted 10 years. If we do proceed in Syria, military action must take a careful, humanitarian approach that empowers the next generation of global citizens.

Core to that mission is a focus on Syrian women. Women bear and provide for the well being of future leaders. American intervention must view the physical and mental health of Syrian women as the highest priority because the future of the country depends on it.

The best place to start is with Syrian rape victims.

This January, the International Refugee Committee released a report detailing how rampant rape is in Syria, and how it's fueling a surge of refugees. CNN reports that two million Syrians fled the country (up from 230,000 just last year), and among them are many victims of sexual violence.

Rape used as a war tool is the most disgraceful and traumatic experience a woman can endure. She is victimized not only during the actual act but afterwards, when she is shunned by her community. In many fundamentalist communities, the victim is perceived as at fault.

American intervention must ensure that female rape victims are given individualized and comprehensive treatment that focuses on physical needs (STD and HIV testing and treatment, OB-GYN services, etc.), mental needs (counseling services and support groups), and religious needs.

Next, American engagement must foster global connections for Syrian women through regional social entrepreneurship and international organizations. The Syrian situation is not insular; it involves Iran, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, among others. If the problem has global elements, so should its solutions.

Social entrepreneurship is the humanitarian answer to capitalism. Social entrepreneurs seek moderate profit with cultural, societal, and religious sustainability in mind. These for-profit schemes financially empower the poor. American military intervention should include social entrepreneurial factors.

Obviously, social entrepreneurship is difficult to implement during times of strife. However, social media can help ultimately connect businesswomen in the region; and international organizations can work as allies to promote small businesses while — down the line — international consumers can work together to buy goods for a humanitarian cause.

Putting Syrian women first will serves America. Public opinion on intervention might be more favorable with a clear action plan that supports women, as Americans are more inclined to support invasion with humanitarian motives. On the world stage, America’s public image would also benefit from these efforts — potentially reversing the hard fall we've experienced as a nation in the international eye since beginning our protracted conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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Arielle Newton

Arielle Newton is currently a legal assistant whose work has been featured on Thought Catalog and Black Girl Nerds. A community organizer, she recently received a congressional award from Congressman Gregory Meeks. A proud member of the Ravenclaw House, she is from and based in NYC.

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