Syria: Violence against Women Remains Persistent but Underreported Feature of Conflict
Thursday, June 13, 2013 3:50 PM

A report by the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies in partnership with the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network and other human rights organizations, calls attention to the systematic and grave violations of women’s rights in the context of the Syrian conflict. As reported to the UN Human Rights Council on April 6, 2013, abuses against women have included arbitrary detention, forced disappearances, torture, sexual violence, kidnappings, and summary executions. The report identifies the Syrian security forces and their auxiliary militias as primary perpetrators of the violations against women, but recognizes that opposition armed groups have also committed abuse.
Syrian women have played an important role in providing support to victims and participating in protests, but their participation has exposed them to government retaliation and arrest.  Sexual harassment and rape have been used as a tool to intimidate others from joining the movement. The International Rescue Committee relays accounts of women being attacked in their homes and in public, primarily by armed men, and often in front of family members. Because of the stigma around rape, very few women report sexual violence. “The reality is that they have much to lose and little to gain by doing so at this point in time,” says former UN investigator Erin Gallagher. Of the 226 cases of sexual violence reported by the Women’s Media Center from March 2011 to March 2013, 80% of victims were female, age 7 to 46, and 85% of those victims reported rape.
In its June 4, 2013, report on the inquiry on Syria, the UN Human Rights Council recognized sexual violence as a persistent feature of the conflict and a driving motivation for families fleeing the violence. But, as reported by the Council, gender-based violence does not stop at the border. Women in refugee camps remain vulnerable to rape, forced marriage, and sexual exploitation.  
Compiled from: Joint Statement, Grave and Ongoing Violations of Women’s Rights in the Context of the Conflict in Syria,” Cairo Institute for Human Rights (10 May 2013); IRC Commission on Syrian Refugees, Syria: A Regional Crisis,” IRC (January 2013); Wolfe, Lauren, Syria has a Massive Rape Crisis,” Women’s Media Center (3 April 2013); Human Rights Council, Report of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, UN Doc. A/HRC/23/58 (4 June 2013).