Sister Citizens: Women in Syrian Rebel Governance

Authored by: Victoria Gilbert

Categories: Statebuilding, Violent Conflict
Sub-Categories: Democratization and Political Participation, National Security Forces and Armed Groups
Country: Syria
Region: Middle East and North Africa
Year: 2020
Citation: Gilbert, Victoria. “Sister Citizens: Women in Syrian Rebel Governance.” Politics & Gender, 2020, 1–28.

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In the rich literature on women and conflict, many scholars have assumed that the outbreak of civil war suppresses women’s political involvement. However, during Syria’s civil war, there was significant subnational and temporal variation in the involvement of women in the institutions established by armed groups and civilians in rebel-held areas. Why were some Syrian women able to secure a place for themselves in insurgent governance? How were they able to influence the form of local institutions to secure a role for women? Bringing together the scholarship on social movements and rebel governance, this article argues that two factors determine whether women were able to mobilize politically during conflict: the organizational capacity of women and the strength and ideology of locally active armed groups. The article leverages data on local organizations and institutions in Syria, Syrian news sources, and correspondence with several women’s organizations operating in Syria in 2017. By doing so, this article strives to bring attention to the role of gender in the expanding literature on rebel governance. It also highlights the significance of armed groups’ ideologies, an aspect often dismissed in the literature in favor of a focus on material factors.