The sheer brutality of the ongoing Syrian civil war is often demonstrated by two figures: 70,000 killed people and over one million refugees since the conflict´s outburst in March 2011, after an angered crowd went on the streets to show their disgrace about the arrest and torture of teenage boys who were bold enough to spray anti-Bashar slogans on a city wall in Daraa. 

While these two figures need to be named when talking about the Syria-crisis, a third one is clearly missing: the use of rape as a systematic tool of warfare in the conflicted regions. Erika Feller, the assistant U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, alerted in February that the civil war in Syria is “increasingly marked by rape and sexual violence employed as a weapon of war to intimidate parties to the conflict destroying identity, dignity and the social fabrics of families and communities.”

This barbaric “weapon of war” has already been used countless times before, thinking about Bosnia, Sudan and the two most atrocious rape-related wars in the post-WWII world, Rwanda and eastern Congo, where up to 22% of men and 30% of women reported to be victimized by conflict-related sexual violence.

It would be a surprise if Assad´s henchmen (and its opponents) would not use this most bitter tool of humiliation to weaken the moral of its adversaries. A project named “Women under Siege Syria” tries to shed light on this dark and stigmatized topic by giving victims or witnesses the chance to report their ordeals on their website. For this, special software is used that creates land maps which can be modified via SMS, MMS, or mail, so that everyone who had to bear or witness sexual assaults can pinpoint the location of the incident on the map. In addition, everyone can submit a report about his or her experiences, while it is made sure that any identifying information will be stripped out before the report gets posted on the site´s server.

Assad’s henchmen and opponents alike use this tool of humiliation to weaken the moral

So far, 185 reports have been posted, and they indeed reveal the inhumanity of perpetrators and the martyrdom of its victims. Stories of mass raping, as well as atrocious fates of little girls, all being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Needles to say, verification is nearly impossible, but the “Women under Siege” project enables at least the possibility of truth in a war of lies – and break the silence of shame.

6 thoughts on “Rape and Sexual Violence in Syria’s Civil War

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