AUWCL Promotes Justice in Syria through Initiative to Combat Sexual and Gender-Based Violence

August 28, 2019 

In 2018, American University Washington College of Law launched the Syrian Initiative to Combat Sexual and Gender-Based Violence. The Initiative works in partnership with Syrian civil society organizations based in and around Syria, combining a local focus with the technical capabilities and legal expertise needed to provide survivors and their communities with tools to help mitigate the devastating impact of sexual and gender-based violence (SBGV).

The Syrian Initiative to Combat Sexual and Gender-Based Violence organized a training on the art of rhetoric and social change in Istanbul, Turkey June 18-23.
The Syrian Initiative to Combat Sexual and Gender-Based Violence organized a training on the art of rhetoric and social change in Istanbul, Turkey June 18-23.

The Initiative seeks to launch targeted awareness raising campaigns regarding SGBV, and train a team of local advocates on new advocacy and rhetorical techniques to promote understanding of SGBV issues in their respective communities; develop a series of guidelines and complementary in person and online trainings addressing a variety of legal disciplines, including best documentation practices and strategic engagement with UN and other international justice mechanisms; create a manual to support the psychosocial well-being of service providers assisting SGBV survivors; and facilitate communication among SGBV service providers and create a space in which they can work collaboratively to address SGBV issues at national and international levels

Leading this Initiative is Deyaa Alrwishdi (LLM 2017), under the direction of Professor Padideh Ala’i, director of AUWCL’s International & Comparative Legal Studies Program and as part of AUWCL’s soon-to-be-launched Middle East and North African Initiative (MENA) and in collaboration with the AUWCL's Center for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law and the War Crimes Research Office.

“Through the Initiative, AUWCL places 123 years of legal knowledge and experience into the hands of leading Syrian experts and organizations, so they can enhance access to justice for those who have experienced SGBV during the Syrian conflict and establish a legal and societal culture in which SGBV is no longer tolerated and perpetrators are not beyond the reach of justice,” said Alrwishdi.  

Since the Initiative’s inception, staff has been actively engaged in different projects with the support and guidance of AUWCL’s faculty and alumni, and has built a network of organizations to combat SGBV at the national and international levels. In addition to forming an expert team of local lawyers to strategically engage with international justice mechanisms on Syria, it has engaged expert professors at AUWCL with decades of experience in international law in supporting these local initiatives and projects.

The Initiative provides additional Arabic-language resources that seek to improve SGBV intake and documentation practices, and enable local lawyers to represent survivors in local domestic disputes and prospective local and international justice mechanisms. Criminal law experts work with Syrians to minimize the occurrences of harmful interviewing and re-victimization of SGBV survivors, and promote the implementation of legally established documentation practices and techniques. Members of the AUWCL community continually travel to Turkey and other neighboring countries to lead these capacity building efforts.

In addition, the Initiative is a month away from launching the first online course for Arabic speakers entitled Introduction to International Law. This course aims to help lawyers and activists working on Syria to critically examine human rights frameworks to understand their limits and recognize their use, identify war crimes and human rights breaches and other legal violations, and evaluate the most effective venue for affected groups seeking remedies. It will be the first of three planned online courses for Syrian lawyers and activists. These online courses are a collaboration with AUWCL’s Office of Online Education, which provides the platform, training, and resources needed for a high-quality educational experience that is accessible to Syrians living around the world.

Learn more about the Syrian Initiative to Combat Sexual and Gender-Based Violence here.