28,405 Females Have Been Killed in Syria Since March 2011, 91 of Them by Torture, with 8,764 More Forcibly Disappeared
(Link below to download full report)
The Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) today issued its ninth annual report on violations against females in Syria. The report, issued to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, reveals that at least 28,405 females have been killed in Syria since March 2011, 91 of them by torture, with 8,764 more forcibly disappeared.
The 38-page report notes that women have different needs from men and are more susceptible to marginalization, discrimination and poverty in armed conflicts, noting that international humanitarian law grants women particularly wide-ranging protections, with the parties to the conflict failing to respect or apply these articles. The report further notes that the Syrian regime has far exceeded all other parties, individually or collectively, in terms of the amount of crimes perpetrated by the regime in a regular and systematic manner, in particular those crimes violating the inherent right to life and survival, as well as the prohibition of torture, enforced disappearance and sexual violence, which amount to crimes against humanity. Indeed, despite the ruling authority governing the Syrian state being the party with primary responsibility for protecting its citizens, it is the one primarily responsible for killing, torturing and displacing them.
Fadel Abdul Ghany, Chairman of the Syrian Network for Human Rights, says:
“We face exceptionally severe challenges in documenting the many types of violations perpetrated against Syrian women during nearly a decade of armed conflict. The various controlling authorities strenuously resist any disclosure of these violations in every way possible, meaning we cannot provide even an approximate assessment of their full extent, which has led to many of these violations and the resulting suffering sustained by Syrian women remaining unaddressed. This suffering also includes the hundreds of children born as a result of forced marriage/ rape by individuals affiliated with extremist groups designated as terrorists who subsequently disappeared; this is only one of the many types of violations which have been unaddressed, with the contents of this report representing only the tip of the iceberg. Syrian society cannot recover and become stable without starting by acknowledging the various violations against women and working diligently to end these, prevent their recurrence, and mitigate their intense and continuous repercussions.”
The report, which focuses particularly on broader, more harmful violations, is based on the SNHR’s daily monitoring and documentation of violations since March 2011, including extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrest, enforced disappearance, torture, conscription, sexual violence, and attacks with various types of weapons. The report also draws on the accounts and interviews we conducted with female victims and survivors, and with victims’ relatives, or witnesses of incidents, and includes 11 of their personal accounts. The report also outlines the record of the most notable violations against females by the parties to the conflict and the controlling forces in Syria between March 2011 and November 25, 2020.
The report documents the deaths of 28,405 females at the hands of the parties to the conflict and the controlling forces in Syria between March 2011 and November 25, 2020, including 21,943 females killed at the hands of Syrian Regime forces, 1,579 at the hand of Russian forces, 980 at the hands of ISIS, and 82 at the hands of Hay’at Tahrir al Sham (HTS). The report further reveals that the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have killed 254 females, while the Armed Opposition/ the Syrian National Army killed 1,313 females. A further 960 females were killed as a result of attacks by the US-led coalition forces, and 1,294 females were killed at the hands of other parties.
As the report notes, the Syrian regime’s military operations do not distinguish between civilians and combatants or between civilian and military targets. Rather, the vast majority of attacks have concentrated on civilian areas whose populations include women and children, meaning that the occurrence of victims among them is inevitable. Females make up around 10 percent of the total civilian death toll since 2011, which is a high percentage and clearly shows the Syrian regime’s deliberate targeting of civilians, as the report notes.
In terms of arrest/ detention, enforced disappearance, and torture, the report reveals that at least 10,556 females are still arrested/ detained or forcibly disappeared by the parties to the conflict and the controlling forces in Syria, including 8,474 at the hands of Syrian Regime forces, 44 at the hands of Hay’at Tahrir al Sham, 866 at the hands of Syrian Democratic Forces, and 896 at the hands of the Armed Opposition/ the Syrian National Army. The report adds that 276 of these females were arrested by ISIS before its retreat and are still forcibly disappeared, as of November 25, 2020.
As the report further reveals, 91 females have been killed under torture in Syria since March 2011, including 73 in the Syrian regime’s detention centers, while 14 females died under torture in the detention centers of ISIS, two in the detention centers of Syrian Democratic Forces, and one in the detention centers of the Armed Opposition/ the Syrian National Army, while one female died due to torture at the hands of other parties.
In their detention of females in the security branches’ detention centers, Syrian regime forces do not take into account any considerations of female detainees’ nature or needs, and subject them to the same conditions of detention suffered by their male counterparts. Female detainees are also subjected to all the same forms and methods of torture inflicted on men. The report notes that, in many cases, women are arrested with their children, or arrested while they are pregnant, and are deprived of all their physical or psychological needs and of the necessary healthcare and medical care for them and their children, who are subjected to the same conditions imposed on their mothers throughout the period of their detention. In this context, the report documents between March 2011 and November 25, 2020, at least 143 cases of children being detained along with their mothers, and at least 87 births in detention centers, with all these babies suffering from a complete lack of post-natal health care and a total absence of any provision of their needs, resulting in the deaths of seven of the babies.
The report further notes that the detained women are routinely subjected to sexual violence and, in some cases, sexual extortion on the basis of barter. The report estimates that at least 8,021 incidents of sexual violence have been committed by Syrian regime forces, including approximately 879 incidents in detention centers and at least 443 cases of sexual violence against girls under the age of 18. The report adds that there is a well-founded fear that the Syrian regime continues to use sexual violence against female detainees in its detention centers.
The report reveals that, in addition to extrajudicial killings, Syrian Democratic Forces have carried out detentions of females. During their detention in SDF detention centers, females endure extremely poor conditions, and are subjected to various methods of torture. They are often mistreated on the basis of their ethnicity, denied healthcare and food, and also held without facing any specific charges and without any trial being held until long after their original detention, which can last for periods of several months or years.
The report adds that SDF has continued to carry out forced conscription in a widespread manner in areas under their control, targeting both female adults and children, forcing them to join the SDF’s ranks, which has deprived these female children of education.
The SDF has practiced many types of sexual violence against females, both in the group’s detention centers and in the camps managed and administered by the group.
The report documents at least 11 incidents of sexual violence committed by SDF personnel as of November 25, 2019.
Regarding the violations by Hay’at Tahrir al Sham, the report notes that HTS has carried out detentions of females, adding that these detentions are not carried out according to judicial standards, with women imprisoned in HTS detention centers being subjected to harsh conditions of detention, as well as being subjected to severe psychological and physical torture.
The report adds that Hay’at Tahrir al Sham has forced women in the areas under its control to submit to a number of proscriptions and has imposed rules regarding clothing. With many of these rules, women have been specifically targeted, which is blatant discrimination against women, and constitutes a violation of a large number of rules of international human rights law.
The report also details the most notable violations committed by the Armed Opposition/ the Syrian National Army, noting that females have been targeted for detention/ kidnapping either because of their activities, due to their objection to these forces’ practices in areas under their control, and in many cases due to their ethnicity, with most of these incidents taking place without any judicial warrant, with no clear charges against those detained, and without the participation of the police, who are the administrative body officially authorized by the judiciary to conduct arrests and detentions.
During their detention in the detention centers belonging to the Armed Opposition/ Syrian National Army, female detainees are routinely subjected to various methods of torture, and are also deprived of healthcare, food and other essential requirements, in addition to being deprived of their children if they are arrested with them.
The report concludes that despite the legal arsenal, including UN Security Council resolutions that stipulate respect for the rights of women and children, including female children, the Syrian regime controlling the Syrian state was the first party to violate laws, and has been the only party to commit crimes against humanity. The other parties to the conflict followed in its footsteps, and indeed committed violations that were not practiced by the Syrian regime itself, such as forced marriage, restrictions on clothing, freedom of movement and forced conscription, some of which amount to war crimes. International law has been violated in a comprehensive manner in the Syrian conflict that has spanned nearly a decade to date. The report stresses that the crimes perpetrated against Syrian women will not end without a political transition towards a democratic system that respects human rights, in particular the rights of women, and extends over the entire Syrian territory.
The report stresses that the crimes included in it have been practiced by the Syrian regime in the form of widespread and systematic attacks which constitute crimes against humanity, including: murder; torture; rape, and persecution, adding that forced marriage may also amount to a crime against humanity; the ISIS terrorist group practiced this violation in a widespread manner, and it has also been practiced by Hay’at Tahrir al Sham.
The report reveals that the crimes included in it that the Syrian regime and the parties to the conflict have practiced include: Sexual violence, lethal violence, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and outrages upon personal dignity.
The report recommends that the international community should provide protection and assistance to forcibly displaced women, including IDPs and refugees, especially girls, taking into account their specific needs, primarily for protection.
The report adds that all countries worldwide must ratify CEDAW, fulfill their obligations under it to hold the Syrian regime accountable, expose the regime’s criminal practices, and make every possible effort to mitigate and stop these.
The report also recommends that the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and local and international humanitarian and relief organizations should coordinate humanitarian aid operations according to the areas worst affected and should reject attempts at pressure and blackmail by the Syrian regime which is working to harness aid to its advantage, as well as urging these organizations to allocate adequate resources for the rehabilitation of female survivors, especially those who have been subjected to violence, sexual exploitation and forced marriage, and should establish special care and protection refuges for abused women who have been ostracized by their families and communities.
The report also recommends that European States and European Union should intensify economic sanctions on the two main backers of the Syrian regime, namely Iran and Russia, should provide every possible assistance to the active civil society groups working to rehabilitate and reintegrate female victims into their communities, and should support the operations for the support and rehabilitation of female survivors in areas of displacement and asylum, in addition to supporting the judicial accountability process, and supporting the path of litigation through universal jurisdiction. The report also provides other recommendations to various United Nations bodies and the international community.