As the president and Congress debate about the alleged use of chemical weapons by the Syrian Government and any US response, a far more widespread method of torture goes under-reported in Syria. According to Women Under Siege, “rape has been reportedly used widely as a tool of control, intimidation, and humiliation throughout the conflict.” The problem is widespread and affects entire families, women and men, adults and children. Soldiers of the regime have been reported to enter homes, tie up the men of the family, and rape the women in front of them. Women and girls are reportedly pulled aside and raped at checkpoints on a regular basis.
Lauren Wolfe, Director of Women Under Siege, writes that rape has become a common tool of war. During the Syrian conflict, they estimate that over 20% of women are killed after the rape to cover up evidence of the war crime. Women Under Siege keeps a live, crowd-sourced map documenting the reports of sexualized violence in the region. Currently, they have collected 215 witnessed accounts on their map of this chronically under-reported crime.
The culture of shame surrounding rape survivors is so severe that girls who have been raped may kill themselves or be killed by their family. It is no coincidence that rape is being used as a tool to shame and subjugate the Syrians caught up in this conflict. Personal honor is held in high regard, and victims of sexualized violence are viewed as dishonored for life. Husbands have been known to abandon their wives if they learn that they are victims of sexual assault.
How You Can Help
Women Under Siege is a journalism project that reports on the use of rape and sexualized violence during conflicts all over the world. Stay informed on the causes of rape and tools of prevention by visiting their website and clicking on the “Join Us” link at the top of the page. You can sign up to receive action alerts and breaking news.
Other organizations like Women Under Siege have put together campaigns to help end rape and gender violence across the globe.
Take the pledge to stop rape in conflict at The International Campaign to Stop Rape and Gender Violence in Conflict. They provide example tweets and posts for you to use to spread the word in your community. They also give you information on how to write to your elected officials to encourage them to take action.
Amnesty International is dedicated to end human rights abuses. You can join them by registering on their website and becoming a volunteer. At their Activism Centre on their website, you can view current petitions and sign the ones that resonate with you. They let you know in real time which appeals are doing well and which are in need of your support.
Become an advocate for women’s rights at the Nobel Women’s Initiative. There are a number of campaigns listed on their website where you can get involved. Community organizers will find inspirational stories and a list of actions they can take to help their cause.
The International Rescue Committee has 22 offices across the United States where volunteers can assist with their work responding to the world’s humanitarian crises and providing care to uprooted refugees. If you aren’t located near one of their offices, they also have information on how to start an online fundraising campaign.
Of course, you can also donate to any of these organizations as well. With global attention and involvement, much can be done to address the issue of war rape in Syria and elsewhere.
Written By: Danyelle C. Overbo