Saving Syria: Sexual and Gender-Based Violence in the Syrian Civil War
Hello, my name is Russell Hathaway. I am a student at the University of Chicago and an intern at the Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office (UU-UNO), studying sexual and gender-based violence in the Syrian Civil War in coordination with our office program: Women: Security and Peacebuilding. The program aims to encourage strong voices and actions of women in the peacebuilding process through targeted education, active participation of women in peacekeeping efforts, and ratification of key legislation and international agreements such as the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). This report documents one of the most deleterious effects of armed conflict on women: accompanying crimes of sexual and gender-based violence.
The current human rights crisis in Syria is massive. As of 25 July 2013, the Syrian Civil War has claimed the lives of 100,000 people. Within the country, upwards of 4.25 million are displaced and 6.8 million are in dire need of aid. Countries bordering Syria are taking in numbers of refugees far beyond their capacities; an estimated 1.9 million refugees from the conflict have fled Syria and have settled in host communities or refugee camps across the border.
In any large humanitarian crisis, however, there are aspects that slip under the radar. In January, the International Rescue Committee released a report on Syria that cited rape and sexual violence as a "significant and disturbing feature of the Syrian Civil War." This report and others like it included accounts from Syrian refugees who cited sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) as their primary reason for leaving the country. This testimony prompted me to extensively research SGBV in Syria and compile a report that documents this under-reported and insidious aspect of the Syrian Civil War.
This report compiles and synthesizes testimony from survivors of SGBV in refugee camps, bringing together the evidence to unveil multifaceted trends of rape and sexual violence in the Syrian Civil War. A thorough analysis of wartime sexual and gender-based violence informs my suggestions to better address the needs of SGBV survivors in refugee camps and host communities across the Syrian border. Refugees are not only subject to continuous crimes of SGBV within Syria in brutal detention centers and during house raids. Refugees across the border are also plagued by a human rights crisis in which inadequate SGBV-related care and complex "cultures of honor" place them at further risk of emotional and bodily harm.
The report can be read here. The opinions expressed are my own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the UU-UNO or the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA).