This is a screenshot from a crowd-sourced map of Syria. The red dots are not representative of major towns or cities. Rather, the red dots indicate where the latest reports of sexual violence have come from, and the number of attacks reported. Women Under Siege, like other organizations, has dedicated itself to tracking the casualties of the civil war. It is a particularly difficult task in Syria, where NGOs, aid groups, journalists and health workers have limited access, but it is clear that violence against citizens, especially violence against women and children, is rampant in the ongoing conflict. It would appear that there are two battles raging: the fighting between the rebel groups and the Syrian military, and the quieter, but no less devastating war being waged on the country’s most vulnerable citizens.
Rape is tragically almost inevitable in war. Yet in Syria, as in Bosnia and Darfur, the mass rape of both women and men has been particularly widespread and vicious. The armed government forces are said to be responsible for the worst of the attacks, rather than rebels or citizens, making the government’s destruction of its people psychological as well as physical. Rape is used as a tool of intimidation and humiliation. Waves and waves of horrific stories are emerging from Syria. Soldiers who are mentally tortured by having their wives, sisters or mothers raped in front of them. Women detained to be kept as sex slaves. Soldiers forced to rape as part of duty. One 23 year old who identifies himself as Mohamed, describes what caused him to defect to the rebel side:
“The officers were mostly Alawite, and they would target the houses of [opposition] activists in Homs and gather the young girls and rape them,” Mohamed said. “After they’d finished they’d tell the soldiers outside to come in and rape the girls, too. The girls would generally be shot when everyone had finished. They wanted it to be known in the neighbourhoods that the girls had been raped, but they didn’t want the girls to survive and be able to identify them later.” (source: http://www.yalibnan.com/2012/08/13/syrian-army-accused-of-vicious-systematic-rape/)
The counts of human rights violations is Syria are mounting daily. While the rest of the world is becoming numb to the endless stream of news of carnage and causalities, it is incredibly difficult and incredibly important to remember that behind the skyrocketing figures are real women and children caught in the crossfire of Syria’s hellish civil war.
Violence map: https://syriatracker.crowdmap.com/reports/view/2720
Women Under Siege’s map: https://womenundersiegesyria.crowdmap.com/