Welcome to “Women Around the World: This Week,” a series that highlights noteworthy news related to women and U.S. foreign policy. This week’s post, covering from December 11 to December 19, was compiled with support from Becky Allen, Anne Connell, and Lauren Hoffman.
Civilians face horrors in Aleppo
Tens of thousands of civilians face grave danger as forces supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad attempt to take decisive control of the city of Aleppo, which has been a battleground in the fight between the regime and armed opposition groups. The months-long siege on the city has limited access to food and water, cut off electric generators, and damaged hospitals, decimating emergency maternal and infant health care services. As of Monday, after days of sporadic violence, around 20,000 people had been evacuated from eastern Aleppo. At the United Nations (UN), outgoing Secretary General Ban Ki-moon confirmed credible reports of atrocities, including extrajudicial killings, committed against “a large number of civilians” prior to evacuations. Other officials cited reports that pro-government forces summarily executed at least eleven women and thirteen children, and expressed concerns over the possibility for widespread sexual violence after the city falls. Over a quarter of a million people have been killed since the conflict began in 2011.
Boko Haram deploys children suicide bombers
Two young girls were allegedly used by the militant Islamist Boko Haram group as suicide bombers in a bustling market in northeast Nigeria last week. The girls, thought to be seven or eight years old, killed themselves and one other person and wounded eighteen individuals in the detonations. Just days before, another pair of female suicide bombers killed at least forty-five people in a similar market attack. This follows yet another incident in October in which a female suicide bomber detonated explosives near a camp for internally displaced people. The series of attacks illustrate Boko Haram’s increasing reliance on women and children as suicide bombers: since 2014, nearly one-fifth of all suicide bombers used by Boko Haram have been children, of which 75 percent have been girls. The trend has led to increased suspicion of displaced girls, who are themselves often victims of Boko Haram violence and coercion. Ayo Obe, vice chairperson of the International Crisis Group board of trustees, argues that the Nigerian government should increase efforts to support isolated women and girls through gender-sensitive programming and access to schooling.
Women in the U.S. Selective Service
President Obama announced his support for women’s registration for the Selective Service, reversing his administration’s previous neutrality on the issue. Current requirements stipulate that only male U.S. citizens and immigrants between the ages of 18 and 25 must register. Obama is the first president since Jimmy Carter to endorse universal draft registration. A Pentagon spokesperson confirmed the Defense Department’s support for the proposition, characterizing universal draft registration as a logical extension of the military’s recent decision to open combat positions to women, which Defense Secretary Ashton Carter suggested would help to address 21st century security challenges. Last week, however, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller said that the Pentagon’s move to integrate women into combat positions may be reviewed and possibly repealed if requested by the president-elect.