STANBUL, Turkey: A prominent member of Syria’s opposition-in-exile has claimed there have been 7,500 confirmed cases of women being raped during the country’s 3-year-old conflict.
Noura al-Ameer, vice president of the Syrian National Coalition was speaking Friday in Istanbul during a news conference on women’s rights violations in Syria. Ameer said that the actual number was likely to be much higher since many cases went unreported.
“The experience that many women have lived is beyond imagination. They cannot even forget those things. The Syrian regime has endorsed a terrible tactic of torturing women and children,” Ameer said, citing a number of cases where detained women died as a result of sexual violence by regime officers.
She said the number of confirmed cases of women being raped was 7,500, claiming that number had been confirmed by the Coalition and various human rights associations.
Alaa Homsi, a human rights activist who was detained for six months in one military prison in Damascus, said there were obstacles to asking Syrian women whether or not they had been raped in prison: “That is a delicate issue.”
Homsi claimed to have been tortured systemically by Syrian regime officers: “I was electrified, hanged from the ceiling by hands and left in that position for hours and beaten.” She said women are hanged in this position without any clothes.
Asma Faraj, who was jailed for a year and a month at the same prison, said she heard the sounds of women being raped, adding that she knew of cases where officials at prison distributed birth control pills.
Faraj was detained because she had a satellite phone. The regime has blocked international calls and Internet access to restrict information going out from the country. “Investigators beat me every day. I was tortured systemically,” Faraj said.
She also noted that sick prisoners were denied treatment and taunted.
“Syrian guards yell at them: ‘Die, we don’t care’,” Faraj said, urging that Syria be referred to the International Criminal Court.
The court is intended to prosecute individuals for crimes against humanity and war crimes but U.N. Security Council permanent members Russia and China have blocked efforts to refer Syria to the ICC.
Alaa Tabbab, SNC media director and researcher, called on the international community to act against these violations, adding that workshops were being organized to raise awareness of rapes in the country.
“Some raped women were killed by their families because they consider that a shame on the families. So, women experience double suffering,” Tabbab said.