Protection of Women in Armed Conflict
Delivered to the Security Council by Ambassador Ron Prosor on 30 January 2015
One of the founding fathers of this institution, President Franklin Roosevelt, envisioned a world committed to four freedoms - freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear. As the UN prepares to celebrate its 70th anniversary, this vision should guide our efforts – particularly when it comes to women.
Far too many women, from Syria to Sudan to the Central African Republic are living without freedoms and in great fear. They are often intentionally targeted by extremist groups, caught in the crossfire between rival factions, and driven from their homes where they face new threats such as being sold into slavery, raped or killed.
Extremist groups like the Taliban, Boko Haram, Al-Qaeda, and ISIS deny women their most basic rights - the right to get an education, to earn a living, to choose a marriage partner, and even to walk down the street unaccompanied. It isn’t just extremist groups subjugating women.
In the most repressive nations, there is no sympathetic police force to investigate crimes against a woman, no honest judiciary to hear her case, no independent media to give voice to her plight, and no free and fair elections for give her hope.
Growing up in Iran, Reyhaneh Jabbari faced every one of these injustices. Reyhaneh was just 19 when she was arrested for killing a man she said was trying to drug and rape her. Reyhaneh was placed in solitary confinement, denied access to a lawyer, and tortured mercilessly. There was no proper investigation, no due process, and no fair trial. Reyhaneh became another victim of an unjust system. She was sentenced to death and hanged in Tehran.
Reyhaneh’s story is a familiar one in the Middle East. Tyrants and extremists believe that by silencing women, they can silence modernization and civilization. We must do everything in our power to oppose the extremists who want to drag us back to the dark ages. Every time they try to take away a woman’s voice, we must give that woman a voice.
We must be the voice for Arwa, a 15 year-old Yazidi girl who was captured and raped by ISIS fighters, and whose sisters are still in the hands of the Islamic State.
We must be the voice for Laila, a woman from Myanmar who was dragged through the streets and then beheaded in Saudi Arabia.
And we must be the voice for Noora from Yemen, who was just 11 when she was forced to marry a much older man who raped and abused her.
These women need our attention, they need the attention of our governments, and they need the attention of the United Nations. Not tomorrow, today. We must send the message that we will no longer tolerate these barbaric crimes, not now and not ever.
As a father who raised his daughter, Oren, in Israel, I can tell you that I can’t imagine raising my daughter in any other Middle Eastern country. Israel understands that when women participate as equal partners in the decision-making process, society as a whole benefits.
Gender equality is enshrined in our 1948 Declaration of Independence. More than forty years ago when Golda Meir was elected Prime Minister, Israel was the third country in the world to elect a woman to its highest office. Today, Israel is the only country in the Middle East where women have presided over each of the three branches of government.
The opportunities and freedoms afforded to Israeli women transcend religion or ethnicity. An Arab woman living in Israel enjoys more rights and freedoms than a woman living anywhere else in the Middle East. They are elected to our parliament; they are leading physicians, respected academics, renowned lawyers, successful CEOs, and esteemed scientists. They haven’t just broken the glass ceiling, they have shattered it.
The protection of women is an issue that is close to my heart. I have a mother and a wife and a daughter and a sister and I am expecting my first granddaughter to arrive in a few weeks. I want them to live in a world where every nation and every person respects their intelligence and their abilities.
I want to live in a world where there is zero tolerance for the oppression and persecution of women. I want to live in a world where the perpetrators of violence against women are brought to justice. And I want to live in a world where women are afforded the dignity and respect they deserve. We are the ones who can create that world.
President Franklin Roosevelt said, “We have always held to the hope, the belief, the conviction that there is a better life, a better world, beyond the horizon.” I know that there is a better world beyond the horizon and together we must make it a reality.
Thank you, Mr. President