A new report
by Human Rights Watch
(“HRW”) shows that Syrian soldiers, shabiha
militia members, and pro-government forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad are systematically using sexual violence in detention facilities and during raids. Loyalist forces are using sexual assault to torture detainees and are raping civilian women and children as young as 12 during neighborhood raids.
It is difficult to accurately assess the extent of the sexual violence. Due to the stigma associated with rape, many victims do not come forward. Furthermore, the Syrian government prohibits investigative journalists and researchers from openly gathering data from within Syria. Because of these obstacles, human rights organizations like HRW and Women Under Siege
must base their findings on creative data-collection methods such as crowd-mapping
or interviews with opposition members, family of victims, and defectors.
Interviews reveal that forms of sexual violence used to torture both female and male detainees include penetration with objects, rape, prolonged forced nudity, and electric shocks or physical beatings to the genital region. During home raids and ground operations in residential neighborhoods, troops and security forces are raping with impunity. There are reports of women and children being gang raped or taken to remote locations for sexual assault.
Although there is no evidence that high-level officers are ordering the use of sexual violence, the government is not investigating or punishing those who participate in the assaults, and victims have little to no access to quality medical or psychological treatment programs.