Monday, February 18, 2013

Rape is now defining Syria's conflict

(TDS) When Syrian soldiers burst into a home and found no trace of the young men they had come to recruit by force, they raped their sister instead. Helpless, her father watched in horror as his daughter was defiled in his own living room, he later told a United Nations relief worker in Jordan.Another Syrian man, blinded by fear and the shame of risking his family’s honor, shot his own daughter to prevent approaching Syrian soldiers from gang raping her. One Syrian father opted for the unbearable, heart wrenching choice of giving up his youngest girl to armed troops lusting after her at a military checkpoint. They had threatened to mow down all family members in the car with him under a hail of bullets unless he complied with their commander’s request.

“Sophie’s Choice,” the World War II story of a Polish mother bullied by a German Nazi soldier to choose between who, her daughter or son, would be carted off to the death camp at Auschwitz, pales in comparison. The 1979 novel by American writer William Styron was adapted into a film. What is happening now in Syria is ghastly and unthinkable. And it is real.

Syria’s embattled regime once boasted that it championed causes of Arab honor, dignity and valor. They were its claim to Arab leadership and the twisted rationale for heavy-handed actions. How that bogus image has foundered.

Sexual violence against women and, in some cases, young boys, documented and aggregated in reports by Human Rights Watch , the International Rescue Committee and the New York-based Media Center initiative known as Women under Siege, have shattered all pretenses, shredding all fake veneers of social propriety in war-lacerated Syria. Assumptions about Arab family cohesion and paternal protection shielding women folk against predators and rape have been turned inside out. [...]

[...] Syria is inching toward replacing the Congo as the world’s rape capital. The U.S.-based IRC designated rape as a primary factor in the exodus of women and children refugees to neighboring Lebanon and Jordan.

“Many women and girls relayed accounts of being attacked in public or in their homes, primarily by armed men. These rapes, sometimes by multiple perpetrators, often occur in front of family members,” the IRC said. The findings, based on 240 interviews, indicate that rape has become a “significant and disturbing” feature of Syria’s war.

Women and girls told of being kidnapped, raped and tortured. At military checkpoints, they have become targets of opportunity. Later, some victims are killed or married off.