Symposium; Victimization of Women by Extremist Groups

Symposium on the occasion of the International Day on the Elimination of Violence against Women (VAW)

Jointly organized by the Academic Council on the United Nations System (ACUNS), Vienna Liaison, and Webster Vienna

The symposium, hosted by Webster Vienna, brought together a considerable number of prominent speakers with diverse backgrounds: ambassadors, civil society representatives, academics and lawyers. The symposium consisted of two sessions: one analyzing the situation from various countries and regions and a second one addressing practical measures, which can be taken in order to tackle this problem.

Dr. Michael Platzer, ACUNS Vienna Representative, opened the discussion by reiterating some remarks from the statement released by the UN Special Rapporteur on VAW, Ms. Dubravka Simonovic, to commemorate that day, i.e. the need to establish a Femicide Watch, so that people can report on the deaths that have occurred in their respective countries.

H.E. Ambassador Angell-Hansen of Norway made an analysis of the current global situation regarding VAW and women’s rights, highlighting some existing gaps and ongoing challenges: we lack implementation of relevant resolutions and international legal instruments, a much stronger commitment is needed by governments to address these pressing  issues and lastly, offering gender-sensitive training to security officers and military personnel is of utmost importance.  

H.E. Ambassador Algayerová of Slovakia spoke about the role of women in peace and security, emphasizing that peace is inextricably linked with equality between men and women. Involving women in peace building efforts strongly increases the probability that violence will end. This also makes women less vulnerable to the impact of violent extremism. Therefore, women must be included in all areas of work, including counter terrorism strategies.

Ms. Amal Naggamy from Israel touched upon the situation of women in the Arab world, and emphasized that people are shocked because of the atrocities committed by the Islamic State (IS). The Arab world is against  the IS, furthermore this violent extremist group is spreading a politicized and fundamentalist version of Islam. Everyone needs to be aware of the need to separate Islam as a religion and from Islam as a political tool.

Ms. Barbara Spinelli, member of the ELDH Executive Committee, argued that patriarchy is an ancient form of oppression, used by dictators and extremist groups to maintain power and control, and resist to democratic change. Furthermore, providing protection and humanitarian assistance to refugees escaping from Daesh is crucial. Moreover, in order to provide adequate support to refugee women and girls, refugee camps should apply the gender protocol developed by UNHCR.

Dr. Samuel Schubert from Webster University pointed out that this discussion about women’s victimization should not ignore non-Muslim groups, such as the Lord’s Resistance army in Uganda and several animist groups that practice female genital mutilation. 

Lastly, it was emphasized that international politics consists of an array of moral dilemmas; hence, it is difficult to solve one without opening an array of others. The panellists reached the conclusion that the problem this panel discussion sought to address is broader than the victimization of women by extremist groups; it is a question of war, international law, money, capabilities, even morality.