These Syrian Women Rarely Left the House. Then the Men Disappeared.

In parts of Syria, women once stepped out of their homes only rarely — at least until war came. Now some are relishing a newfound independence.

Comments: 85

  1. Touching story. Beautiful photography!

  2. Reminds me of how women began working in this country. Usually due to war. I used to finish school and walk to the garment factory where my mother worked and wait for her to finish before we went home for the day. In small town in Illinois. At the time many of the women were also first generation European immigrants. Great experience for me. Gives me hope for Syria.

  3. @jv You’re right. During WWll my mother-in-law landed a job doing what she loved most - drawing and painting for Disney’s movie Fantasia. When the war was over, she was let go and replaced by a man. When I spoke to her over the years, I could sense the sadness in her voice as she recalled working there. She called it “the best time of her life.”

  4. I thought of sharing this article with some of the young Syrian women I know (former refugees who have settled in Canada) but I thought better of it. The author mostly or entirely spoke to women whose families supported the Assad regime. There are millions of refugee and internally displaced Syrians who, like the women I know, would probably be offended and not care much about the fate of the families of Assad supporters. I’ll say that tens of thousands Syrian women who came to Canada - women who would never have worked or traveled or done anything more than marry and keep house - have learned English, returned to school, and now work, drive, mix socially with unrelated men, follow current affairs, vote, travel for fun and are becoming engaged Canadians. Their ideas of who is a suitable husband are also changing. They have developed expectations of equality and are marrying men who they would never have met in their home towns.

  5. @BA “ The author mostly or entirely spoke to women whose families supported the Assad regime” About time. It was a brutal civil war and note that word “ war”. The war is normally described in the West as a one sided massacre, but there are a huge number of widows on both sides because men were killing each other. The Alawites fought for Assad because they feared genocide if Assad lost. Both sides were guilty of war crimes. The US contributed by arming rebels and what we did to Raqqa was similar to what Assad and the Russians did to East Aleppo.

  6. @Donald I defer to the language many Syrians use to describe what has occurred which is "revolution". Yes Alawites and other regime supporters justifiably feared retribution if the government fell but only after peaceful street protesters were mowed down. BTW many Alawites and people once connected to the regime early on chose to side with the rebels (I know a number of them).

  7. Sure, rural communities and smaller cities may be more conservative than pulsing cosmopolitan areas. But the contrast painted here between Damascus and even Aleppo is striking. The women profiled are nothing short of remarkable.

  8. My parents married in 1950. My mother worked one year outside the home, as a bookkeeper, while my father earned his Master's degree. Then she stopped and had 3 children. My younger brother was severely handicapped, and her life was limited by his 24/7 care during the 10 years he lived with us before my father, realizing she was dying of exhaustion and depression, found an institution that could take my brother. I was determined to be economically self-sufficient as an adult, and I always have been--even though my 38-year marriage was a good one, and I've never had to go it alone. Every person, man or woman, should be able to support themselves. Forced dependance is a recipe for poverty and abuse. I wish these women well as they work to support themselves and their families.

  9. @Katz "Forced dependance is a recipe for poverty and abuse. " Such a great sentence. I copied it and sent it to my young granddaughters. (18-22) Thank you for your words.

  10. It is hard to even remotely understand what these women and families have had to persevere through and still must. And I will never understand the differences between men and women in Muslim countries. For some reason I am stuck on this: "Ms. Rawass had fallen in love again, she said, but she dared not defy her father’s prohibition against remarrying; he believed a widow should devote herself to her children, and her children only. If she disobeyed, he could take them away."

  11. @Charlie A widow working to support her children, and her father could legally take her children away from her if she remarried. He clearly does not view her life as her own; it's his to control. That's both stunning and depressing.

  12. @Charlie Arabic culture is easy to understand. Simply take typical Western machismo and amplify and reinforce it a million times with religion and culture and voila - easy to understand.

  13. @Charlie There is no Islamic prohibiton in remarrying after widowhood or divorce. This unfortunate scenario is partly due to conservative culture and partly to needless (probably unconscious) cruelty on the part of her father.

  14. Women are generally so brave and resourceful, as this very touching story indicates. I read a global study about 10 years ago that had found women did approximately 75 per cent of all the work done in the world. Travel to almost any country outside Western Europe and North America, and you'll see the coffee and tea houses and/or the bars filled with men at any hour of the day. Women hold up a lot more than half the sky! If they had the financial resources and political power to match their worth as human beings and their abilities, can you imagine how different life would be on our planet?

  15. @Samsara HUMAN nature is tolerant of those who feel familiar, and intolerant of those who "live life wrong." A world dominated by women would be a matriarchy as inflexible of all the ways to be human as patriarchies are. (Think of the archetype of the overbearing grandmother who criticizes and interferes in the lives of their grandchildren.)

  16. Thank you for writing this beautiful piece. It's a simple illustration of how important it is for all lives to have the power of self-determination in their own hands. Women & Men need to work to experience the self-confidence and strength that comes from knowing that you can take care of yourself. Yes, the circumstances are sad for all the lives lost in war...and I hope as societies' governments are filled with men AND women, we will move away from ideologies that destroy life instead of promote it. Because women with their unique experiences of giving and nurturing life understand how HARD it is to sustain life, and so, how very important is peace!

  17. Syria was - even under the Assad dictatorship - one of the most open, if not the most open societies in the Middle East, where women could drive, get an education, go to university and take up professions, like becoming a doctor, or a lawyer. That all changed with the (legitimate) mass discontent in 2011, which (with the help of foreigners, primarily the United States and its Arab allies) was turned into n (illegitimate) civil war, giving a boost to the growth of ISIS, the defeat of which is now painted as the principal goal of those who helped it.

  18. The U.S. is not a major player in the Syrian civil war, and most Americans have no interest in getting involved, for good reason.

  19. @CJT Not true. U.S. Special Forces and the CIA were in Syria long before 2011 with the intent of overthrowing the Assad regime. In fact, Senator McCain was criticized for meeting with al-Qaeda offshoot rebels in Syria in 2010 to see how "the preparations" were going. You are right that the U.S. should have no involvement with rhe Syrian civil war, but it attached to the hip with its bestie Saudi Arabia which is a major player in this fiasco. Why not bring the troops home?

  20. The reason I dislike these sorts of pieces is because they are primarily written from an American context. The world is a complex place. As I write, the top rated article is by a commenter who says they have “traveled extensively in West Africa and the men sit under trees and drink beer”. West Africa has a population larger than the United States. We have had female presidents elected several times. When the US catches up with us, let us know.

  21. Oh come on. West Africa doesn’t have the #1 economy in the world. It’s not even close.

  22. @AR He never mentioned the economy. He was talking about electing a woman president.

  23. Thank you for this story. It's a great reminder of how wonderful our lives are for many of us living here in the U.S. and how women are struggling around the world just to survive. War, what is it good for? Absolutely nothing.

  24. @Julie Make sure you vote the democratic ticket and encourage all of your friends in other states to do the same. Get people to the polls if you really believe your words. It is our responsibility to maintain our democracy . Three years of insanity is more enough

  25. Oh sure. Democrats have been so great at calming down the Middle Easy.

  26. Outstanding coverage. This sort of roll-up-your-sleeves and drill-down-into real people's real lives, is what makes The Times, and good journalism in general, absolutely vital and essential to a functioning free world. And I am certain that it was not entirely a safe effort for Vivian Yee and Hwaida Saad to conduct the research needed to write this piece. Hence the absolute necessity of the complete cessation of the dangerous rhetoric being put out there that "the media is the enemy of the people." And equally important is it for such talented investigative journalists as these fine writers to keep up the great work they so obviously do each time the Times sends them out in the dangerous field.

  27. These days, uninformed writers have started to write reports and commentaries without having a sense of history or sociopolitical context. Syria, like Iraq, Lebanon, and Egypt had active participation of women at the workplace. If one visited Syria between 1950s and 1990s ,she/he would see that women are actively engaged in political and economic affairs. Wearing scarf, or hijab in these countries has been induced by a waves of Wahhabism which has been facilitated by Washington, Paris, and London. Furthermore, Washington elites by invading Iraq and inducing conflict and unrest in Syria, has encouraged religious organizations to flourish and intentionally weakened central governments in the region.

  28. I often forget this, thank you for the important reminder.

  29. Thank you for this post. The emphasis of obedience in Islam and the many Hadiths all work to induce women to defer to male authority and to fear public spaces. I work with a Muslim family of legal refugees from Somalia. Four adult women with a female toddler in the Boston area who never leave the house except to do factory jobs or to grocery shop. It’s dispiriting to see how ingrained the wish to conceal themselves and to avoid contact with men hobbles these otherwise bright and likeable women. In these circumstances, education and curiosity become a threat. The only window to the outside world is TV. 

  30. A fine article, excellent stories, suggests that much of the Middle East will have to evolve into a region where single mothers will be in the majority. We now need a parallel article reporting with data and graphs on the number of children whose biological father was killed in any of the many different ways Middle Eastern men can now be killed. I have read excellent articles that touch upon the transformation of society in the ME, notably in excellent articles about the Kurds who were so important in reducing the strength of Daesh. But I have not seen the data. Give that to us. Only-NeverInSweden.blogspot.com Citizen US SE

  31. Women. Mopping up after men’s wars for centuries. Once the women take over politically, the wars will lessen. Assuming there is anything left by then.

  32. They won’t. As soon as the men are able to get their hands back around the throat of society the “natural” order of that part of the world will be reimposed. Until Islam has the long awaited reformation and their societies implement secular, tolerant democracy with a clear separation of church and state, the old ways will hold sway.

  33. This makes me want to help these women. They are so strong. Like German women after WWII, they pick up the pieces and put them back together. They have my greatest admiration.

  34. Ms Rawass' story is heart rending and her courage absolutely astounding. The cultures of war and religion have inflicted so much hardship on her and other's in this narrative, but unflinchingly she struggles on with an astounding level of optimism, even while the culture she was born into keeps her a widow with no hope of a 2nd marriage. To my western mind that seems unforgivably cruel. Part of this is the difference in very stable village culture compared to more urban or mobile cultures where people don't have to obsess on the opinions of their neighbors or religious leaders. The one good thing about this tragedy may be that the women of Syria will gain significant and permanent power. The more male the hierarchy the more anti-egalitarian and violent seems the universal rule. A global feminist revolution may be human kinds only salvation.

  35. @alan haigh "... more urban or mobile cultures where people don't have to obsess on the opinions of their neighbors or religious leaders ..." Anonymity breeds distrust of strangers (a primary motivation for surveillance culture), and rootlessness is fine as long as lifestyle options seem limitless (American physical and social mobility in the post-WWII prosperity). Now, we have a growing epidemic of lonely shut-ins, who embrace radical politics as a means of feeling potent.

  36. @Len Arends "Now, we have a growing epidemic of lonely shut-ins, who embrace radical politics as a means of feeling potent." In village culture one cannot choose their community and deflect the force of local public opinion. What you are saying seems untrue because some of the most radical politics in this country come via rural survivalists groups and such. All over the globe nationalism tinged with fascism is springing from the more rural regions. The problem with suburban and urban culture are many but not the hatching of radical politics, IMO.

  37. This article is poignant on the plight of women and how matter of factly they are about life and will to carry on. Much power to them and hope they will be the beacon of hope and progress in this country. Compare this to so many uninspiring women in western countries who I feel are so lucky to have their freedom and safety and yet waste away their potential over trivial careers related to looking good o media. Women in western worlds can take some inspiration from this and come to power and start leading.

  38. @Darrie So are you saying that the GOP women are wasting there times on TV especially Fox news and the infamous appointed GOP representative of Arizona who cant answer a question without putting her bile into the answer because I would agree with you. If you are making a statement about women who work long hours in the west and do not make a fraction of what their white male counterpoints make, I say step a foot back and look in the mirror. and read about Harvey Weinstein and the power he controlled. didn't matter if you were talented or not. Wall Street keeps women down and I don't know any woman doesnt matter who, doesn't work hard and try to be an over achiever. Why because we have pride in ourselves and our work However I see a great deal of white men who do nothing but saps the energy of this country and they are pathetic GOP husband who like the Middle East want to keep women down. Its about time these women stand up for themselves and throw off the shackles of these backward men who beat them and keep them pregnant when they have no food for a healthy pregnancies'. . Women of all colors rock and they need to be encouraged to stand up and fight back from the backwards of men who are exploiting the work of women and their bodies

  39. I wish these women the best of futures, but I fear that, once peace finally comes, the men will try to put the women back in the box. Other wars have offered women unusual opportunities, if often under less extreme conditions than those now in Syria, and afterwards the men have always wanted to make everything "normal" again. The women of Syria have many struggles ahead of them. Good luck to them all.

  40. The picture tells the story. Muslim women forced to sheathe their hair and bodies, sometimes their faces, while the men parade around in spandex pants and tank tops. The Middle East was evolving into a modern culture, albeit often ruled by tyrants, until the Arab Spring destroyed the social order and ushered in ISIS and competing fundamentalist militias who stifled modernization at gunpoint. Sometimes corrupt dictators are preferable to religious fanatic gangsters.

  41. Aleppo has always been a place where you can find extreme conservatism and more open liberal views of women side by side. This article may give the impression that men keeping their women at home was normal in Aleppo, which is untrue. Women are everywhere in Aleppo and often in high management positions. East Aleppo was religiously conservative perhaps that is why the former al-Qaeda aligned militia al-Nusra was based there. Importantly, these women are finding more opportunities for themselves in West Aleppo. What isn't mentioned is how these women are trying to support themselves and their families under America's brutal sanctions that is hurting the people more than the regime.

  42. Rosie the riveter. Hard to put the genie back in the bottle.

  43. While relating some of the problems faced by these women in a society with few men, the article is basically upbeat. For a more realistic view see Zvi Bar'el, the Middle east columnist for (left-wing) Ha-Aretz: https://www.haaretz.com/middle-east-news/syria/.premium-sex-for-food-women-of-syria-s-aleppo-face-exploitation-by-aid-workers-1.5891231 The present article in the NYT shows one picture of Aleppo destroyed. One might get the impression that the rest of the city was not like this. Aleppo suffered massive destruction at the hands of the forces of Bashar al-Assad, president of Syria, who slaughtered his own citizens. Mr. Bar'el in Ha-Aretz describes the plight of those women who could not open hair salons: "The situation of single mothers is good compared to that of the women who have to sell their bodies to obtain aid from charity groups. Aid is distributed by local workers, who exploit their position to demand sexual favors in exchange for food. One such woman said that an organization employee proposed a “temporary marriage” to her in exchange for the promise of a continuing supply of food. When she refused, he told her she would no longer receive aid. Other women reported that they avoid the distribution centers out of fear of harassment, humiliation or even rape."

  44. Fewer men is the best thing that can happen to the women of Syria and the Middle East in general.

  45. @winteca Good idea! How about bringing the U.S. troops home. What has this predominantly male force done but create havoc for women and men in the Middle East? Wouldn't they be better off Stateside to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure? Yes, fewer men (and women) U.S. troops would be the best thing that can happen to the women of Syria and the Middle East in general.

  46. “Now you have to cook, wash, clean and take care of the kids, plus work,” she said. “Before you leave the house, you have to clean it. After work, you go home and cook.” For a second there I thought she was describing the reality of many (if not most) American women, and we don't live in a war zone.

  47. Articles like this are why I pay for the NYT ! Thank you

  48. “When you work, you don’t have to ask anyone for anything,” she said. “Women who need things can be taken advantage of.” This is feminism.

  49. This is how it always works in an overbearing paternalistic society.Women are smarter and more resourceful than men. Men are absolutely afraid of women, which is why they always try to keep them down, with threats, fear, and muscle, even religion.

  50. This meant so much after I watched "For Sama"

  51. Most people do not know that Najah Al-Attar a women is Assad’s Vice President. Syria under Assad is a secular government where he is a Shia but Sunni and Christians also live. The US started a $1 billion operation called Timber Sycamore to overthrow Assad with the help of the Saudis who are Sunni and the largest financiers of al Qaeda, ISIS and other terrorist groups. The US claimed it was arming moderate rebels, but were really al Qaeda offshoots. The US has to ask itself why we are arming terrorists in the Middle East on behalf of the Saudi? We are even the weapons supplier and Air Force for al Qaeda in the Saudi war on Yemen - the worst humanitarian disaster in the world. Why are we friends with the brutal dictatorship of Saudi Arabia where they treat women as animals, yet enemies with Syria? Quick hint - to control their oil because of the Petrodollar and agreement was made with Saudis to trade oil in dollars in Nixon era - called PetroDollar - in exchange we would be their military. Also to create chaos so military industry and other people can steal a lot of money.

  52. Unfortunately, everyone sees what they want to see, and liberal journalists are no exception to that rule. The story of brave, strong women taking control of a society is one that probably resonates with the readers of the New York Times. It's doubtful that too many of the residents of the Muslim Middle East feel the same way, men or women. The Rosie the Riveter narrative may work in America, but it's unlikely to be accepted in places like Syria, Iraq, or Yemen. Check back in three hundred years, and maybe the narrative will find more support in those places. Maybe not, too.

  53. We have so many misconceptions about women in Syria. Damascus one of the most ancient cities in the entire world. Syrian culture has always been a mixed of the people crossing on the way to other destinations. Syrian women are impressive, smart, fighters, mothers, professionals, daughters, sisters. Extremely painful to see Americans mingle in their business, always thinking having the best solutions for the rest. America has destroyed many cultures and countries. Fortunately they are surviving and America is not perceived as it used to be “the beacon of light”

  54. @RBR Women in non-Islamic-dominated countries don't have to wear smothering, humiliating bags on their heads to avoid systemic, malicious, and violent religious punishment for "tempting" men. Other than that, well, it's your call on who's got more "freedom."

  55. Thanks, NYTimes for this report on the realities of war and it’s necessitating change in the lives of these women. Nicely juxtaposed next to the article on Newnan, Georgia, where a large-scale portrait of two Islamic women, wearing only the more moderate headscarves, caused a backlash against the entire religion. Scarves, encompassing abayas, and the extreme niqab- at least the abayas here allow women to actually see the world. And the men in these photos- on motorcycles, revealing T-shirts. In front of the wedding display, a casual pose outlining a trim body. Freedom for half the population, side-by-side with - those they demand be unseen. As with your recent article on the Saudi coffee shops, hopeful gives way to sadness, and yes, anger. We have women running for our highest office, another Women’s March, the MeToo movement- and not a word said about millions of women captive to extreme interpretations of religion. Yet pictures of moderate Islamic scarves, a moderate version of modesty- condemned. Uh, literally, what’s wrong with this picture? And as an aside, the government of Syria hasn’t retaken it’s country, Russia, Iran has. Evil Easterners.

  56. A similar thing happened in the US and Europe during WWII, which changed the landscape for women: disrupting social norms and creating job opportunities and need that forced change. Once you gain the confidence that comes with independence, once you see that you could do so evev much more than the opportunity you are being given, it hard stuff that in a box again. Good change can come from great tragedy, because sometimes it takes a war to tear down so much of what we know that we have no choice but to rebuild it differently.

  57. This article is a striking revelation of what constitutes life for women in a country that is a theocracy. An environment where social interactions are defined within the confines of religious doctrine. Here in Syria it applies to Islam, a male dominated society where women are oppressed and physically restricted to the home. It’s taken political upheaval and the death and destruction of war to intrude into and upend customary primitive patterns. What is in and of itself a tragedy is that it’s taken war to restructure Syrian life. Brought about by the practical requirements of carrying forward daily life, something imposed not generated by enlightened thinking.

  58. @Rose Bashar al-Assad's government may be a dictatorship but it is highly secular. His main enemies include ISIS and many fundamentalist groups backed by Saudi Arabia and the U.S. It is true that the Syrian government may be backed by he formerly communist Russia and theocratic Iran, but geopolitics makes for strange bedfellows. So while it is true that much of Syrian society is highly conservative, it is not the goverment's doing. If Assad had his way, no woman would wear a hijab and most would be in the workforce. In the past, his family had required both men and women to perform military service.

  59. @Rose I think this is the problem with discussions of gender in the Middle East. Americans think everywhere is Iran is we talk about oppression of women. These women lived in the most conservative part of Aleppo and have moved to a more liberal part of Aleppo (that houses a lot of Christians and minorities). And the secular Syrian government as a nation has a pretty good record on women's rights compared to its neighbors. Now when it comes to human rights in Syria, that's another matter.

  60. @Arif Right on ! Others who comment have no idea of the real problem. Also the population explosion of the non Assad tribe.

  61. Women and girls need rights under the law - the right to marry who they choose, the right to divorce, the right to remarry, the right to parent their children as they see fit, the right to birth control, and the right to move about their country/world at will. Yes, these women are to be admired. They are persistent, smart, and resilient beyond measure. Yet, without fundamental rights to their own personhood, they are still under the thumb of the men in their lives. A story as old as time.

  62. I visited in Syria in 2008, and during the last 9 years, I always wondered about the people who crossed my path, both Christians and Muslims, if they survived, were able to flee the country for a new life, or died, or were jailed. I'm so happy to read about these women rising up against the horror of war and use their courage to re-build their lives. I hope the balance of male-dominated power in that region of the world shifts to women and eventually leads them into government. As this article relays that after losing so many male casualties to war and immigration to play, society will have to, or should, rely on the women an important role in the new Syria.

  63. The Middle East will never be free from war and strife as long as the women there are treated as subhumans without rights or a means to acquire the same level of freedom and education as their male counterparts . The Yin and Yang is so out of balance in these countries that they can’t help but attract that which they hate and fear most - more war, more fighting, more killing.

  64. @C. Pierson How do you figure that they "hate and fear" it? The evidence of 1400 years largely supports the contrary position. You could easily apply this principle across continents and cultures, actually.

  65. Encouraging; but things could be so much better, especially for women, had only Operation Timber Sycamore succeeded and the Arabic Islamists had gained control of Syria which they almost did ( to the delight of HRC, Kerry, Albright.....) by 2015 when the Ruskies got involved. Before 2011, Syria was a country of 22 million people of different faiths coexisting and thriving economically, socially, culturally, educationally. Then the "International Community" - I really miss the way HRC used to say this phrase often - decided that Syria could use some democracy.

  66. @point-blank As a dual Syrian-American citizen, I can attest that your underlying point is spot-on. Every so-called "progressive" reader of the NYT should read it, and subsequently understand, that Operation Timber Sycamore didn't exactly push the needle toward women's rights/secularism, like Vivian Yee and Hwaida Saad subtly prod toward their readers.

  67. These women are so brave. They forge on and find liberties denied them for ages. They survive under the cloud of Assad, the world's most despicable war criminal.

  68. Bashar Assad was installed into the government of Syria by his father who made a coup so it’s ironic and hypocritical that Assad is against coups by moderate rebels like the FSA etc. We detest Bashar because we are mostly Sunnis in Syria and he is an Alawite Shiite who is using Russia and Iran to usurp the will of the people that he be removed from power for his corruption and war crimes. “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” When Putin kept getting away with killing his political opponents without serious ramifications it paved the way for him to send troops into - Eastern Ukraine - Crimea - Syria - Libya Not to mention interfering in the elections of other countries. Killing Boris Nemtsov should’ve been warning enough that he is capable of spilling innocent blood to attain what he seeks.

  69. Actually. the FSA are now like a mercenary army. Erdogan is dispatching them to Libya where they will do his bidding.

  70. If THERE is one good thing to come out of the genocide of the Syrian people,teleguided by ASSAD with the support of the IRANIANS, it is the liberation of women, unheard of before the conflict in Syria, now in its ninth year, began. Excellent, well written reporting, and I know it's a cliche, and I am against the use of cliches, but the role of these brave women shows how resilient the human spirit is, how determined people who have been victims of warfare by superpowers continue to struggle on: Truly heroic!God bless them and if there were a way to support them financially, count Alexander Harrison in.

  71. @Alexander Harrison Alexander Harrison needs to read more, see more and understand more about the world. Syria, even under the Assads was (and still is) miles, no generations ahead of other Middle Eastern countries, fiefdoms and protectorates, whatever you call them, as far as women are concerned. Unlike Saudi Arabia, where the right to drive is like the second coming of Christ (or Mohammed, the prophet). Unlike Israel, where special buses and trams operate for men only (the list is much longer).

  72. I am little confused about what makes women in a country prosper and enjoy more freedom once a significant number of men in the country are eliminated in wars, mainly civil war. Some countries in traditionally very conservative and poor developing countries like Liberia, Rwanda, and now Syria seem to doing great. But many other countries where civil war became a continuous and consistent fact of life killing vast majority of men are still keeping its women very much a 3rd class citizens with almost no rights and in indoor. Afghanistan is a great example. One probable reason might be the quality of the men who rule the country and thier personal conviction about role of women in a society. It does not matter if those rulers in the country are dictators or not. And religion and religious fundamentalism among those men have a significant role in that. Paul Kigame (of Rwanda), Saad of Syria and other male sociopolitical elites in those countries are not that religious as compared to the similar people in Afghanistan. Keeping women indoor is mostly imposed by religion- every religion, only the extent varies. Women would prosper if influence of religion among its traditional male sodiopolitical elites and in the Govt is less or, better, not present. Otherwise, presence or absence of men would not make much difference. Also, having more women as national head doesn't guarantee improvement of lives of women in the country. Unfortunately, women are more religious everywhere.

  73. It is so strange that wars made by men in countries where patriarchy reigns heavily, ( and supported by other foreign aid ) the result is that men disappear in numbers, and women end, whichever side we are talking, by taking charge, and empower themselves. So much courage. Thank you so much for this article.

  74. I am little confused about what makes women in a country prosper and enjoy more freedom once a significant number of men in the country are eliminated in wars, mainly civil war. Some countries in traditionally very conservative and poor developing countries like Liberia, Rwanda, and now Syria seem to doing great. But many other countries where civil war became a continuous and consistent fact of life killing vast majority of men are still keeping its women very much a 3rd class citizens with almost no rights and in indoor. Afghanistan is a great example.

  75. @Bonku I suppose the short and brutal answer for your Afghanistan example is "Not enough men are dead." Afghanistan has not yet reached the tipping point where women can reject religious indoctrination without fear of immediate, public torture and death.

  76. Somehow Syria was always somewhat different than its neighbors with regards to women and work. My mother was born in Syria in 1930. She was a very beautiful woman who became a degreed midwife (attending university in Lebanon) and during the mid to late 1950’s, delivered over 2000 babies in the city of Aleppo. She worked both in the hospital and privately. Syrian women in general had a more cosmopolitan outlook, regardless of their Muslim persuasion. My mother was Christian and yet her interactions with the many Syrian Muslim women was as women interacting with women and not as “you are Christian and I am Muslim”. They respected her and sought her out for because of her excellence of care and reputation. As an Armenian, I also do not forget the fact that the Syrians of Aleppo made room for my family as they fled from the atrocities perpetrated against them from the Turks who savagely murdered so many of my family members. No one should live under the conditions that these individuals have endured. Bravo to these women who are bravely striving to make a new life for themselves.

  77. Humans still cannot survive without males and females if only for reproductive purposes. But when men relegate women to subservience and reproduction, we also cannot survive. After the horrors inflicted upon Syrian society by men, one of the consequences, the death of mostly males to war, women have filled the voids and vacuums because they are, "part survivors, part mourners, part mop-up crew." And they are so much more.

  78. Thank you for this journalism about the women of Syria. I often wonder how the families are coping over there during what seems to be an endless war and so much destruction. Such very resilient woman finding and learning their way to careers for the first time in their lives after losing their husbands to war and now having to support their children. Perhaps a little glimmer of hope for change regarding the rights of oppressed women in this area of the world. Like Rosie the Riviter who worked in the USA while the men went to war- Women surviving, being self efficient and successful.

  79. People are resistant to being kept down somehow. What these people have been through cannot be imagined. Wringing our hands isn't enough. We must continue to write our public servants and instruct them to right the wrongs, and stop the policies that inflame various parts of the world. Somehow removing the profit from these injustices maybe would help stop the injustices. I look for a day when we don't have 100,000 charities begging for money to clean up the messes left by moronic politicians. Being born in the usa to decent parents, never knew one hungry night, nor suffered lack of decent clothing, housing, medical care. After reading this article I am once again reminded that even if I never win some lottery jackpot, I've already won a life lottery.

  80. In a culture that treats women as baby-making machines..it's indeed a new high.

  81. @Albela Shaitan - If we let down our guard this situation could manifest right here in the states. We're already witnessing a weakening of choice for women. Even as churches purchase hospitals and clinics and "opt out" of providing even birth control pills we see a shrinking space for women to exercise reproductive rights. Look out. IF we get just enough religious extremists in public service we will de-evolve into mere baby making machines right here. Those thinking it can't happen here? Do a little research into some mid-east countries. A few generations ago they were thriving places. Now they're back to stone age practices with women trapped in houses coming out sacked in black and escorted by angry male relatives.

  82. Once the war is over, and men either return or grow up, these women will be expected to stay at home and behave as nothing changed. It's hardly progress when the women now have two jobs, one at home and another out of the home, yet are still second class citizens, "being permitted" to work. That said, once cat is out of the bag...

  83. “ forbidden “ to Work, but when the Men can’t, it’s suddenly acceptable. I’ve known Women in this Country, whose Husbands “ let “ them Work, because the Husbands can’t get Work. The Wife works, especially for the Healthcare Insurance, and her Husband mostly sits around and goes out with his Buddies. Somehow, they can never find a Job suitable for 5heir abilities and interests. The Wife, of course, has no problem accepting anything. As for those in this Story : Necessity is the mother of invention. And greater freedom. Best Wishes.

  84. War in every country it seems. Vicious murderers, violent protests, children dying. Our planet is failing because we won't take care of it. I never like to think this is the beginning of the end. We are way past that now. Sad.