1,500 women raped in prison, details one woman’s sexual torture

Um Zaher, an activist coordinating care for Syrian rape victims in Jordan, told Al-Jazeera that she is aiding girls and women of all ages who have been sexually violated. She said that an unspecified international organization interviewed many of the women in the hopes that they would be able to use their stories as evidence in international criminal courts. Al-Jazeera also quotes an opposition group known as the Syrian Revolution Coordinating Committee as saying that 1,500 women have been raped in Syrian prisons.

One of the Syrian women Um Zaher is aiding with psychological and physical care, “Noor,” 30, told Al-Jazeera she was abducted and raped. In late December 2011, she said, she was at a checkpoint in Bab Draib, Homs, when her 13-year-old boy was arrested. Noor said that she and another woman tried to help her son by arguing with the checkpoint security officers, but subsequently the two women were also arrested and taken to “an apartment guarded by many men.”

Fifteen other girls were already inside the apartment, Noor said, being supervised by a woman who was responsible for getting the women ready as “gifts” for security officers. The women had all been raped, she said.

“I resisted this woman and encouraged the other girls to do the same,” Noor said of the guardian. “She demanded that they take me somewhere else.”

Noor said she was then moved to a military security center known as the Palestine Branch in Damascus, where she suffered further torture.

“All the women there were in their underwear only, despite the bitter cold,” Noor said. “We were beaten, tortured with electric shocks, and raped. This became our daily routine. The shock would burn our bodies and paralyze our ability to resist before the rapes.”

Noor said that military officers and their subordinates raped her many times.

“When someone said he cannot do it because he had sisters or daughters, he was told that he should obey since this was a military order, a command,” she said.

She reported other forms of torture as well. Although she felt unable to go into detail, she said that cats and rats were used in an unspecified way during the rapes. She said she is also unable to eat bread now because it reminds her of torture in the prison.

“They would give us old stale bread to eat,” Noor said. “But it was so hard and when we complained, they urinated on it and forced us to eat it.”

Noor implicates a man named as a war criminal by numerous international organizations, according to Al-Jazeera, in the rapes and torture.

In February 2012, Noor arrived in Jordan, but she said she was not comfortable giving details about her escape. Her younger brother in Lebanon “refused to help when he found out about her rape,” according to the story.

As a result of her torture, Noor said, she has intestinal adhesions and motor weaknesses that will require rehabilitation.

Another Syrian expatriate physician now in Jordan told Al-Jazeera about the difficulties female rape victims endure, including being rejected by their families, pregnancy, and being forced to make decisions around abortion. She said the Syrian Expatriate Medical Association, which works mainly in the Gulf region, has developed a program to support these women, “including using Skype and email to encourage the victims to come forward, tell their stories and get the help they need.”

The dates of the reported rapes and assaults are unknown. Because Syrian government officials currently refuse to allow access to journalists, researchers, and aid workers, Women Under Siege cannot independently verify this report of sexualized violence in Syria.

Source: Women Under Siege

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