War rape: The forgotten pandemic sweeping Syria

Rape has become a weapon almost as common as any other. Unfortunately, and despite a lack of media interest, the current conflict in Syria is no exception

Share
Related Topics

Rape is “a significant and disturbing feature of the Syrian civil war” according to a report released by the International Rescue Committee (IRC), a US based NGO, last Monday. “These rapes, sometimes by multiple perpetrators, often occur in front of family members,” the report states.

Has anyone noticed the lack of media interest in war rape in Syria? How many people are aware that rape is a widespread and systematic practice in Syria? Are such heinous sex acts not newsworthy enough? Or is war rape unreported because war rape in Syria is not on the same level as mass rape during the 13-year civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where 40 women were raped everyday?

We might not know the full scale of the abuse in Syria but we do know that rape was the main reason for more than 600,000 Syrians fleeing their home country according to the IRC. The 600,000 are the lucky ones - millions remain trapped in a rape zone. One female physician in Damascus treated 2,000 girls and women raped in Syria alone.

While the IRC said it was impossible to give statistics, its report gives you an idea of the sheer scale of war rape. Many of the reports at this stage are anecdotal or second- or third-hand. With human rights investigators refused access to Syria it is impossible to verify rape claims and gather reliable data.

A major obstacle in gaining accurate data on war rape is that such acts are under-reported by Syrians. They fear reporting war rape due to the “dishonor” and “stigma” reporting could bring them and their families. Victims fear retribution from their own families and social ignominy. Meanwhile there is no accountable or uncorrupted police force in Syria to even take such reports seriously, let alone record sexual complaints.

Despite the challenges of gathering data in conflict there is enough evidence from the reports compiled to indicate that war rape in Syria is a major feature of the civil war. War rape is used predominantly but not exclusively against women. Women are targeted in Syria to oppress, persecute, enslave and torture.

Rape is used in Syria to conquer territory, expel the enemy, break their network links and spread disease, according to Amnesty International. The methods of persecution are beyond bloody and gory – they are abhorrent. Rapists have been known to insert rats and mice into women’s vaginas.

One woman described an assault on another prisoner, which she witnessed. "He pushed a rat in her vagina. She was screaming. Afterwards we saw blood on the floor. He told her: 'Is this good enough for you?' They were mocking her. It was obvious she was in agony. We could see her. After that she no longer moved."

The current level of humanitarian assistance for Syria is "drastically insufficient to address existing needs," the IRC said. There is a real lack of medical and counseling services. Recovery is therefore a long and slow process for victims. Victims’ progress is further hampered by the unsafe and uncertain conditions of refugee camps.

Human Rights Watch called upon the UN Security Council again to refer Syria to the International Criminal Court (ICC) and urged other countries to support a referral to the ICC. “Syrian security forces have used sexual violence… with complete impunity,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. Investigating and prosecuting those responsible for the greatest atrocities in Syria is only one small step towards achieving justice in the long term.

Women’s bodies, minds and souls are raped. Eventually the wounds will stop bleeding, tears will dry and the women of Syria will only be left with physical and psychological scars and a deplorable story to tell.

React Now

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Geography Teacher

£130 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Ilford: Secondary Geography Teacher Lo...

Do you want to work in Education?

£55 - £70 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: Are you a dynamic and energeti...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Group: SEN TAs, LSAs and Support Workers needed...

Private Client Senior Manager - Sheffield

£50000 - £60000 per annum: Pro-Recruitment Group: The Sheffield office of this...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Letter from the Arts Editor: The Great Character Actors of Football

David Lister
 

What I saw on the night my husband was hit by a car

Rebecca Armstrong
Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter: The man who could have been champion of the world - and the Bob Dylan song that immortalised him

The man who could have been champion of the world

Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter and the Bob Dylan song that immortalised him
Didn’t she do well?

Didn’t she do well?

Miranda Hart lined up for ‘Generation Game’ revival
The Middle East we must confront in the future will be a Mafiastan ruled by money

The Middle East we must confront in the future will be a Mafiastan ruled by money

In Iraq, mafiosi already run almost the entire oil output of the south of the country
Before they were famous

Before they were famous

Can you guess the celebrity from these British Pathe News clips?
Martin Freeman’s casting in Fargo is genius

Martin Freeman’s casting in Fargo is a stroke of genius

Series is brimming with characters and stories all its own
How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players