(Trigger Warning: Rape, Sexual Violence)
Let’s make this clear — violence in any form is NOT normal and must ALWAYS be condemned. That, however, does not seem to be represented by the media’s almost nonexistent coverage of women in Syria. The media has covered the deaths and uses of military weapons extensively. Yet most people don’t know that rape is actually commonly accepted by civil war militants and ISIS alike. The rape crisis has become the primary reason for numerous families attempting to escape their battle-worn country.
So, where are the stories of the civilians and sexually abused women affected by the same war? Why don’t we see them in the media as much as we see images of masculine soldiers marching through the destruction and grief-stricken streets of Syria? We cannot let the accounts of these women become lost in the middle of fear-mongering politics.
War is rape. When a country/non-state actor takes over a country, its military often shows its aggression and dominance by killing whole villages and raping their women. The ideology that men have to sexually abuse their victims to prove some masochistic power dynamic is, quite truthfully, terrifying. Reporting statistics on sexual abuse cases is very difficult due to the stigma associated with victims opening up about their experiences, but the Women Under Siege project estimates that the majority of rapes are perpetrated by Syrian government employees.
What could be scarier than knowing that the government in addition to the Islamic State is now open to raping its citizens? The thought that no one will ever know or care. The idea of justice is far from the minds of any of the thousands of women violated every day in Syria and Middle Eastern countries engaged in warfare. Refugee Esaaf Al-Ahmed advises all other women to stay away from the civil war “rather than go to Syria and face arrest, torture, or even death”.
Additionally, women activists within the battleground are too often forgotten. Women have zero rights to wear what they like and are constantly criticized and endangered for their choices to become educated, find jobs, demonstrate at rallies, serve as medics, and tend to the wounded. “It’s not just men fighting the war in Syria; it is women, too, and they feel forgotten,” said documentary filmmaker Zaina Erham from Syria.
Is There a Solution?
There will never be a concrete solution that will retain the dignity of many of the victims or erase the devastating and traumatizing memories from their minds. Yes, you should donate to humanitarian organizations that are working to support the victims. Yes, you should send care packages. But the public can choose to make a conscious effort to remember. Remember their stories. Remember them when politicians talk about them. Remember them during history class. Remember them during that rally outside your house or in DC. The more you remember, the more real their stories become. The longer you remember, the more immortalized in history they will become.
Demand more media coverage on this subject. The press is controlled by the free market and supply and demand systems — the public has to want to provide victims with an outlet and opportunity to vocalize their experiences. And perhaps, one day the future will look back and hang their heads for what their ancestors have done to create a nation of traumatized survivors. Never let this become “normal”.
[Image Attribute: lordtyler]