Detention of Women in Syria: A weapon of war and terror

Report, Syria, Women's Rights and Gender Equality

Read in:  Arabic 

Detention of Women in Syria: a Weapon of War and Terror (PDF)

This report documents violations against Syrian women who are arbitrarily detained and imprisoned in Syria, at a time of escalation of the armed conflict involving the Syrian government, extremist organizations and armed opposition groups. The report consists of an analysis of the patterns of detention of women and a second narrative part containing the full testimonies of ten women previously or currently detained in Syria.

By documenting and describing violations committed by the Syrian regime, it aims at keeping the world’s attention to the fact that, despite the horrid reports of violations against Syrian women committed by Da’esh/Islamic State and other armed groups, the Syrian regime is responsible for a number of grave and systematic violations against women that are committed in the framework of a deliberate military strategy targeting entire communities.

In its analytical part, the report outlines the gradual and increasing targeting of women by the Syrian regime in its campaigns of arbitrary detention and enforced disappearances. It shows how women are increasingly used as bargaining chip in hostage exchanges between governmental and anti-government armed groups, while the government extracts false confessions that are later used to publicly slander these groups. It also outlines the gross violations of fair trial procedures.

The report continues into detailing the abuses women are subjected to in official as well as secret detention facilities. These include various forms of deprivation, threats, solitary confinement, as well as different forms of torture, including rape, threats of rape and sexual harassment. The report also outlines the social, economic, and psychological impact of the arrest on the lives of women after their detention,  including arbitrary dismissal from work or education, divorce and rejection by their families and communities. Thus, the detention of women targets not only the women themselves, but also induces deep trauma within communities. Consequently, it has long lasting effects on the social fabric of Syrian society and seriously contributes to sustaining the conflict.

Finally, the report addresses the failure of the international community to act on the prevailing culture of impunity in Syria; a key factor contributing to the persistence of violations against detained women in the country as well as to the increasing refugee flows to Europe and Syria’s neighbouring countries. It also points out, that protection and rehabilitation mechanisms are critically missing to properly address the unprecedented magnitude of violations faced by women in the context of the Syrian conflict.