Women under siege: The use of rape as a weapon of war in Syria
Furthermore, over the course of the Syrian crisis there has also been horrendous reports of gender based violence.
Last week the organisation Human Rights Watch reported that Syrian government forces have been using sexual violence to facilitate torture of both men and women detainees. In addition, the organisation has also heard testimonies from civilians who have also suffered violence of a sexual nature in their own homes.
Sickeningly, sexualised violence is all too frequently used as a weapon of war in conflict situations, such as had been the case in Rwanda and Darfur.
Director of Women under Siege, Lauren Wolfe explains:
“The World Health Organization and the UN Security Council have identified that there remains a crucial lack of analysis about how rape is used as a weapon of war: Its methods, its applications, its fallout are just not easily seen, and therefore not easily fixed”.
However, Wolfe explains that by having a crowd map, where one can report crimes of sexual violence anonymously allows them to “literally put women’s stories of suffering on the map, something that has never been done during a live conflict”.
Although they are not able to independently verify reports, the information has been quite horrifying, she explains:
“One of the things we’ve found at Women Under Siege is that rape in conflict appears to require men to utterly dehumanize the women they rape. It’s a way of conquering the enemy that is so extreme and so base that it allows perpetrators to stop viewing these women as fellow humans, and instead see them as an enemy to be destroyed”.
Looking at the map, with the date and location makes the events seem somewhat more vivid, more real.
One instance recently described is that of the two sisters, 12 and 14 who were beaten and gang-raped by shabiha and Syrian security in their home and was witnessed by their mother and two brothers.
They are also hearing of sexual enslavement and women injected with a substance that renders them paralyzed for the duration of the rape, a gross loss of autonomy.
Wolfe explains that aside from documenting the cases they have also been able to confirm patterns consistent with other human rights organisations such as the rape of women at checkpoints, rape of the male detainees themselves and mass rapes after army shelling.
In the midst of such disgusting and degrading reports of sexualised violence it could be all too easy to be resigned to despondency, but Wolfe remains resolute and unwavering:
“My hope is that Women Under Siege helps us better understand the means, patterns, and motivations behind these mass atrocities. Until we realize that this is a global public health crisis—and a human rights issue for all of us—we’re not going to see the end of it.”Tagged in: human rights, rape, sexual violence, syria, un, weapons of war, WHO, Women under Siege
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