In Solidarity with Women, Girls, and Gender Minorities with Disabilities in Turkey and Syria

Women Enabled International (WEI) extends our solidarity to the people of Turkey and Syria in the face of the devastating earthquakes that have impacted both countries. WEI expresses particular concern for the situation of women, girls, and gender-diverse people with disabilities in the aftermath of this natural disaster, particularly those who were already experiencing a heightened risk of human rights violations under armed conflict and displacement, as this emergency poses new threats to their rights, safety, and wellbeing.

In Syria, 28% of the population has a disability. In Turkey, there are about 5 million people with disabilities, 57 % of whom are women. Natural disasters, such as the earthquakes that affected these countries this week, can impact the rights and well-being of women, girls, and gender-diverse people with disabilities.  In particular, existing research indicates that, during situations of risk and humanitarian emergencies, women, girls, and gender-diverse persons with disabilities experience higher risks of violence than do other women and other persons with disabilities, face increased barriers to GBV and health services, including sexual and reproductive healthcare and gender-based violence services. They also experience greater difficulty meeting their basic needs. These risks chiefly arise due to preexisting patterns of discrimination, stigma, stereotypes, and prejudices at the intersection of gender and disability, among other statuses. 

Within this context, States must promote and protect the rights of women, girls, and gender minorities with disabilities during humanitarian emergencies like this. Under article 11 of the Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD),  State Parties have a specific obligation to take all necessary measures to ensure the protection and safety of persons with disabilities in situations of risk, including situations of armed conflict, humanitarian emergencies and the occurrence of natural disasters. Article 6 of the CRPD affirms that States must take specific steps to ensure the rights and safety of women and girls with disabilities.

With these obligations in mind, we call on governments and other stakeholders providing essential assistance in  Syria and Turkey to make sure that women and gender-diverse people with disabilities are included in response efforts. This includes: 

  • Ensuring the prompt, accessible, and safe evacuation and/or relocation of women, girls, and gender-diverse persons with disabilities from regions most severely impacted by the earthquake.
  • Ensuring that women, girls, and gender-diverse persons with disabilities are provided direct access to food, water, medical supplies, healthcare, accessible transportation, safe and accessible shelters, and other measures to reduce the impact of the emergency on their lives without discrimination based on their gender, disability and other statuses.
  • Preventing and redressing sexual and gender-based violence against women, girls, and gender minorities with disabilities, including by evacuating them, making humanitarian assistance directly available to them, and ensuring that evacuation shelters are fully accessible and do not expose them to heightened risks of gender-based violence. 
  • Providing information about humanitarian assistance and about the response to gender-based violence and sexual and reproductive health during and in the aftermath of the emergency in accessible formats, such as sign language, braille, Easy Read, and plain language, and make such information available in places where women, girls, and gender-diverse people with disabilities can access it.
  • Adopting a twin-track approach to respond to the needs of women, girls, and gender minorities with disabilities in all disaster response and recovery efforts, policies, and programming. Involve women with disabilities and their representative organizations in the design, implementation, and monitoring of such efforts, policies, and programs.


Further resources on gender, disability, and humanitarian emergencies :

Women Enabled International, Rights Violations in Conflict and Humanitarian Emergencies Factsheet (2020).

Inter-Agency Standing Committee, Guidelines: Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in Humanitarian Action (2019).