SOHR exclusive | Syrian women struggle with obsolete traditions and endure inhumane treatment in prisons
As the bloody war is still raging in Syria, causing significant destruction, ordeals and psychological traumas to most of the Syrian people, Syrian women have endured unprecedented cruelty in a society that has respected morality and societal values for decades.
For decades, the Syrian regime has been pretending that it has respected gender equality and justice. However, most of the Syrian women have endured physical and verbal abuse and extortion under the rule of the regime of Al-Assad’s family, both Hafez and Bashar, as well as exclusion from many political, economical and social activities. This futile policy was the first spark of massacres and atrocities which mainly affected Syrian women.
In 2018, the United Nations General Assembly issued a report highlighting the sexual-based violence which Syrian women had endured before the outbreak of the Syrian Revolution, which was manifested in rape, domestic violence, sexual harassment, spraying of acid materials on women’s faces with the aim of deforming them, forcible marriage, reproductive coercion without putting women’s health and safety into consideration, selective abortion because of sexual relationships outside marriage, infanticide and “honour killings.”
That report also showed that perpetrators of these crimes remained at large enjoying “freedom” and were not held accountable by the government. As soon as the Syrian Revolution had ignited, Syrian society experienced new types of crimes and violence practiced against Syrian women.
For years, after the onset of the Syrian Revolution, several incidents have been reported about mass rape of women by the warring powers. Sadly, many of these women have been raped by officials and military personnel, as well as being forced into prostitution. Moreover, many Syrian women were lashed, stoned and forced into temporary marriage which has been publicly widespread, violating morals and all social and religious values.
Since the beginning of the Syrian Revolution on March 15, 2011, until March 1, 2021, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) has documented the death of 13,843 women over the age of 18 by all warring powers.
On the other hand, Syrian women have been struggling with arbitrary arrests and forcible disappearance, as SOHR documented the arrests of 15,502 women and girls between March 2011 and September 2021. The largest yearly toll ever of women arrested by military forces was documented in 2013 which was the most tragic year for Syrian women, as it witnessed the peak of the rebel factions’ engagement in battles, along with the expansion of battles between regime forces and other bodies.
Since the beginning of the Syrian Revolution, SOHR has documented the death of 67 women by names among 105,000 people who died under torture in regime prisons.
SOHR repeatedly highlighted and warned against the demolishing repercussions of indiscriminate and arbitrary arrests and brutal torture in prisons which left too many women suffering from disabilities and mental and physical effects. Logically, such practices are attributed to the fact that the ruling authorities aim at keeping Syrian women away from any political and human rights activities, as well as deterring any activities, by both women and men, opposing the Syrian regime’s policy by depending on pressure and intimidation of the “oriental” Syrian society which respects and honours women.
In prisons, Syrian women, who were arrested arbitrarily, were tortured by beating and electrocution. On several occasions, women were held with men in the same cells, many of whom therefore were raped daily. Also, women have witnessed the death of many detainees under torture.
According to SOHR statistics, over 15,000 Syrian women have been arrested by all warring players since 2013, mostly remain in prisons.
History tells the heinous massacres and atrocities committed against Syrian women, and considerable achievements by Syrian women, such as the great writer May Ziadeh and the Syrian women’s rights activist Nazik Al-Abid, can never be denied, no matter how hard criminals have tried to obliterate the Syrian women’s identity.
We, at the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, have been all along calling to stop involving women and children in conflicts, as they are the weakest element of any military conflict, especially since statistics set by SOHR and other human rights organisations prove that women have been targeted and badly impacted the most since the beginning of Syria’s war.