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Sunday, December 1, 2013

Rape as a weapon of war: 6000 cases of women raped during Syrian conflict

Syrian students protesting rape. Photo by Katherine Chen, Creative Commons.

A new report compiled by the Euro-Mediterranean Human RightsNetwork (EMHRN) estimates 6000 cases of women being raped and sexually assaulted during the Syrian conflict. Sadly, that number is likely a low estimate since many cases go undocumented. 

Sema Nasar, a human rights defender, collected first-hand testimonies over the first six-months of 2013. Nasar works for the Syrian Network for Human Rights and provided the testimonies to EMHRN.  

The report is titled “Violence against Women, Bleeding the Wound in the Syrian Conflict” and it documents rapes that occurred during government-backed raids in rebel strongholds, rapes in detention facilities and it points a finger at atrocities committed by government and government-allied forces. The document claims that 70% of the abuses reported were committed by these groups. 

Many of the victims have ended up pregnant, found themselves in a world that attaches social stigma to sexual violence, and remain silent on the abuses they endured because of the difficulty in bringing forward charges against the people in charge. 

Lauren Wolfe, a journalist and director of Women Under Siege, confirmed the findings in the report. Her group has been mapping sexual violence against women in Syria over the past year. It has also documented 216 reports of hundreds of victims that were raped by more than one man. 

Several of the testimonies in the report are heart-wrenching. One woman, called Aida, reported being raped on two separate occasions. After the second rape her family was informed of her death. 

“On the fifth day, two members of the security unit came and raped me. I had never seen them in the first four days. When they approached me, I told them that I am not a virgin thinking that they will let go away (...). These two members took turn in raping me and after they finished I fainted and fell on the ground. Then, they moved me to a military police hospital in Damascus and contacted my family to tell them that I was dead,” the report reads. 

There are many other testimonies just as horrifying.  The use of rape as a weapon of war needs to stop.

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