I was very clear when the war erupted in Syria: I don’t necessarily agree with all the policies of the Syrian government, especially on the internal level. Some of these undesired policies are related to the government’s handling of some social practices that I consider them backward and even poisonous. For example, Sharia laws are still one of the sources of legislation in Syria. It is not the main source but still, sharia comes on the fourth level of legislation. That’s why civil marriage is still illegal in Syria. For example, a Muslim man can marry a Christian woman, but a Christian man cannot marry a Muslim woman, which is absurd and the only thing that refrains Syrians from intermarriage is Sharia laws.
Another absurd law in Syria is the reduced penalty of honour killing. For example, if a man found his wife cheating or his daughter or sister is simply out with another man, he may kill her and escape the death penalty or 20-year sentence in jail. Although Sharia laws are clear and the man is required to catch his wife:
-having an affair with another man
-4 male witnesses
-and full intercourse
there were many honour killing cases which none of the conditions was met and the criminal took advantage of the reduced penalty of honour killing. The vast majority of Syrians don’t believe in honour killing and even if they do so, they don’t kill their daughter, sister or wife out of jealousy, but a minority of radicals do, and we need to stop them through deterrent laws.
I am confident that President Assad is personally against these laws but his courtesy of Islamic movements and fear of angering some segments of the Syrian society, have made him back down from furthering social and legislative reforms before the war.
However, only a few days ago, Assad sends a draft law to the Syrian People’s assembly that will scrap the reduction in punishment for men who murder their wives, sisters, daughters, or other female relatives out of jealousy or social pressure, the so-called “honour killings.”
Despite the undue delay, this is an important step and will open the doors for further reforms to boost the status of Syrian women. Next move, in my opinion, should be equal sharing of inheritance, full testimony of women before the courts, preventing polygamy and optional civil marriage for all.
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Kevork Almassian is an award-winning political commentator from Syria. He is the founder of Syriana Analysis and is known for his contribution to the literature on the Syrian war.