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On the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women: SNHR’s 11th Annual Report on Violations Against Females in Syria

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A total of 28,761 females have been killed in Syria since March 2011, including 94 due to torture, while 11,141 females are still detained, and SNHR has documented 11,526 incidents of sexual violence against females

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Press Release:

Paris – The Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) has released its 11th annual report on violations against females in Syria. Published on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, the report reveals that no fewer than 28,761 females have been killed in Syria since March 2011, including 94 due to torture, while 11,141 females are still arrested/detained. In addition, 11,526 incidents of sexual violence against females have been documented, noting that most of these violations were at the hands of the Syrian regime.
The 44-page report notes that Syria’s women have been an active and present force in all phases of the popular uprising for freedom that began in March 2011. They have left an impactful mark on crucial aspects of the uprising’s trajectory. Indeed, women still have a significant presence in the fields of human rights, humanitarian relief, and media. For this participation, many women have suffered violations, either because of their own activism or due to that of their husbands, or relatives. In some cases, the impact of those violations has been compounded.
Since many of the patterns of violations against women taking place in the context of the armed conflict and at the hands of the controlling forces as well as many of the instances of discrimination against women have yet to be addressed, the report shows accumulative figures which clearly illustrate the yearly deterioration in conditions, even if the number of violations is lower than previous years, as the accumulated total toll of violations is still rising. For instance, while a number of detained or forcibly disappeared females have been released, the actual number of females in both these categories has increased. This is also applicable, more or less, to the other types of violations against women.

Fadel Abdul Ghany, SNHR director, says:
“This report should be a reminder of the sheer severity of the violations against women in Syria. It is imperative to remember that neither these violations nor their agonizing ramifications have been addressed, even though women’s basic rights are being violated by all the parties to the conflict and controlling forces in Syria, of which by far the worst is the Syrian regime, which has forcibly disappeared thousands of women, who suffer the most horrible forms of torture. Prompt and decisive steps must be taken to bring about the release of all the Syrian women who have been arbitrarily detained.”
the report draws upon the SNHR’s archive that have been built through the daily and ongoing monitoring of violations that include extrajudicial killing, arbitrary arrest, enforced disappearance, torture, recruitment, sexual violence, and attacks using the various types of weapons since March 2011. The report provides an outline of the most notable violations against females at the hands of the parties to the conflict and controlling forces in Syria between March 2011 and November 25, 2022, according to SNHR’s database.
The report adds that while women in Syria have experienced various patterns of violations, all of which have displayed a violent and repeated nature, these differ in their severity and commonness, and in their current and future ramifications on Syrian females. The report focuses particularly on the gross and life-threatening violations as determined by the UN Security Council. Naturally, the killing of females is classified as the primary and most dangerous violation perpetrated against females in Syria, more especially considering the significantly high numbers of female victims. The second most dangerous violation perpetrated against females is arrest/abduction which goes on to become enforced disappearance in the overwhelming majority of cases, and then torture and sexual violence. The report also focuses on the conscription of female children, assaults on females, and the persecution of females at the hands of the parties to the conflict.
The report documents the killing of 28,761 females at the hands of the parties to the conflict and the controlling forces in Syria between March 2011, and November 25, 2022, with 22,008 of these female victims killed at the hands of Syrian regime forces, while 1,602 females were killed by Russian forces. In addition, a total of 981 females were killed by ISIS, and 85 were killed by Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham. Furthermore, the report adds that Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) was responsible for the killing of 269 females, while all armed opposition factions/Syrian National Army (SNA) killed 1,323 females. Lastly, 961 females were killed in attacks by international coalition forces, while 1,532 children were killed by other parties. Analyzing those figures shows that the Syrian regime has been responsible for 78 percent of all extrajudicial killings of females. According to the accumulated death toll, 2013 saw the highest documented death toll among females, followed by 2012, then 2014, and then 2015.

With regard to arrest/detention, enforced disappearance, and torture, the report notes that no fewer than 11,141 females are still under arrest/detention and/or enforced disappearance at the hands of the parties to the conflict and the controlling forces, divided as follows: 8,935 females are still detained and/or forcibly disappeared by Syrian regime forces, 48 children by HTS, 921 children by SDF, and 961 children by all armed opposition factions/SNA. The report adds that 276 of the females who are still forcibly disappeared were arrested by ISIS before the group became defunct for the most part in Syria. The report further notes that, according to the accumulated toll, 2015 was the worst in terms of arrests/detentions and enforced disappearances involving females, with 78 percent of all arrests in that year made by Syrian regime forces.
The report records that 94 females have died due to torture in Syria since March 2011, including 75 females who died in Syrian regime detention centers, while 14 died in ISIS detention centers, two died in SDF detention centers, two died in detention centers for the armed opposition/SNA. Lastly, one female has died due to torture at the hands of other parties.
According to the report, Syrian regime forces show no regard for females’ nature or needs at their detention centers. In that, females suffer the same detention conditions that their male counterparts endure. By the same token, females have been subjected to the same forms of torture as males. The report notes that in many cases, women were arrested with their children, while other cases saw women pregnant get arrested, only adds to the suffering of women, with pregnant women in detention denied the most basic medical and nutritional needs, as well as their needs and the needs of their children. Children are also subjected to the same conditions endured by the mothers during the entirety of the detention duration. The report records no fewer than 167 incidents where children were arrested with their mothers between March 2011 and November 25, 2022, and at least 91 cases of childbirth during detention in the same period, in all of which cases the women suffered the absence of any post-natal medical care and were denied the most basic nutritional, medicinal, medical, and psychological requirements. As a result, seven of the 91 newborn children whose births in detention we documented died soon after being born.
Furthermore, the report notes that the Syrian regime has used sexual violence as a weapon of war against its enemies and as a cruel, yet effective, method of torture. Sexual violence was also used by the Syrian regime to spread fear and indignation among the male and female detainees. The report adds that sexual violence was used by regime forces on sectarian basis or in a retaliatory sense, depending on the role that a certain female detainee had played in the popular uprising for democracy. In other cases, the report notes, female detainees suffered sexual extortion in return for basic certain goods and services, such as food and water. The report outlines the most notable forms of sexual violence practiced by the regime forces, stressing that regime forces have committed no fewer than 8,014 incidents of sexual violence, including 879 incidents taking place in detention centers, while 443 cases involved girls below the age of 18.
Additionally, the report notes that SDF has, besides their extrajudicial killing crimes, practiced conscription in a widespread manner within its territories. In that, the group targeted both adult females and female children who were forced to join its ranks, thereby depriving them of education. In this context, the report documents no fewer than 102 girls who have been recruited by and are still active with SDF since the group’s foundation. The report adds that SDF has practiced multiple forms of sexual violence against females, either in its detention centers or in the camps run by the group. To that end, the report has recorded no fewer than 13 incidents of sexual violence by SDF as of November 25, 2022.
The report also sheds light on practices of persecution and assaults against females by the SDF, particularly women calling for their rights to work and freedom of expression, as well as female activists and women active with civil society organization in the SDF’s territories.
As regards HTS, the report stresses that Syrian women suffer from negative discriminatory practices in the group’s territories, with restrictions on freedom of movement and clothing being only one aspect of that. In fact, discrimination against women in those areas exceed such practices by far. Women’s suffering is only compounded if they were working, or wish to be involved in the public sphere or with civil society organization. The report records that many women who were involved in the public sphere have suffered from persecution and intimidation in order to compel them to leave their work, citing a number of examples of such cases. In this context, the report has recorded, as of November 25, 2022, no fewer than 112 incidents where women were targeted over their job or opposition to the practices of HTS

Moreover, the report outlines the most notable violations by the armed opposition/SNA, stressing that those groups targeted females in detention/abduction operations, either because of their activism or voicing their opposition to the armed opposition’s practices in their territories. In some cases, those violations exhibited an ethnic aspect. According to the report, most of these incidents take place with no judicial warrant and without the involvement of the police apparatus, namely the administrative apparatus authorized to make arrests on judicial grounds, and without any clear charges being presented.
Female detainees by the armed opposition/SNA are subjected to various forms of torture. They are also denied medical care, food, and needs. Further, mothers are separated from their children in case they were detained together.
The report concludes that the parties to the conflict have failed to show the proper treatment of women, as established by the international law and Rule 134 of the customary international humanitarian law. The parties to the conflict in Syria, particularly the Syrian regime which is responsible for the majority of violations in the conflict, have violated many legal articles regarding women, as included in Protocol II additional to the Geneva Convention, adopted in 1977.
this report shows that patterns of discrimination against women have been exhibited in a range of practices, which constitute violations of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, which established all the articles states must implement to protect women from the negative effects resultant from discrimination. In addition, such practices constitute a violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1325.
The report stresses that among the violations outlined that have been perpetrated by the Syrian regime in the form of widespread and systematic attacks in a way that qualifies them as crimes against humanity are: murder, torture, rape, and enforced displacement.
The report adds that among the violations outlined in this report that have been perpetrated by the Syrian regime, as well as the other parties to the conflict, in a way that qualifies them as war crimes are: sexual violence, violence to life, particularly murder in its different forms, mutilation, cruel treatment, and outrages upon personal dignity.
The report recommends that the international community provides protection and assistance for forcibly displaced females, both IDPs and refugees, particularly girls, and respect their specific needs, most importantly protection.
The report also calls for coordinating humanitarian relief operations by focusing on the worst affected areas, and avoid the pressure and exploitation by the Syrian regime that attempts to solicit aid in its own favor. Moreover, the report calls for according sufficient resources to rehabilitate female survivors, particularly victims of sexual violence, sexual exploitation, and forced marriage. This includes establishing institutions to protect and care for female victims who have suffered exclusion from their families and communities.
In addition to other recommendations made by the report.

As the report notes, the continuous bombardment by Syrian regime forces since March 2011 has resulted in the partial or complete destruction of no fewer than 1,119 schools and 30 kindergartens, most of which were put out of commission. Furthermore, the report additionally notes that Syrian regime forces and its allies have turned dozens of schools into military centers. The report also reveals that the worsening reality of education, the forced displacement of hundreds of thousands of children and rampant poverty have all led to a rise in the levels of child labor, which has become one of the most widespread phenomena across all of Syria.
Additionally, Syrian regime forces have resorted to recruiting children since the early stages of the popular uprising, with the Syrian regime also facilitating child recruitment for foreign militias. To that end, the Syrian regime has not carried out any investigations or inquiries about child recruitment by these forces. As the report reveals, no fewer than 67 children have been killed in action as of November 20, 2022. The report also estimates that at least 1,425 child recruits are currently serving with Syrian regime forces. Of those, no fewer than 86 children have been recruited by Iranian militias or pro-Iran militias, including 24 children who were killed in action.
The report stresses that remnants of the weapons used by the Syrian regime and its allies in widespread and indiscriminate attacks against areas that broke free of its control continue to pose a serious threat to the safety and lives of civilians, especially children. At the top of this list are cluster munitions which have an indiscriminate nature. In this context, the report records that no fewer than 442 children have been killed either directly as a result of the attacks themselves in which the Syrian regime used cluster munitions or as a result of old munitions exploding in areas that were previously bombed using cluster munitions. The second most prominent threat of this nature is posed by landmines which have been planted by the various parties to conflict.
The report also stresses that he Syrian regime’s violations have caused a mass displacement affecting millions of Syrians. Northwestern Syria, which broke free of the regime’s control, houses the largest population of internally displaced people (IDPs), with children making up roughly 46 percent of IDPs. A large percentage of the displaced children were in fact born and brought up in camps, which means they lack the most basic life necessities, such as hygiene, privacy, proper bathrooms, and safe housing. Additionally, the dire shortage of health and educational facilities has further eroded the already minimal levels of healthcare available in those camps, with children forced to travel to other areas to receive healthcare, while education has become a very expensive luxury. As a result, diseases and illiteracy have become rampant issues among displaced children.
Moreover, the report notes that Russian attacks in which cluster munitions were used have resulted in the killing of 67 children since the start of Russia’s military intervention in Syria on September 30, 2015. In addition, Russian attacks have caused damages to no fewer than 221 schools in the same time period.
The report also outlines the violations against children by HTS. In addition to killing and imprisoning children, the group has also established dozens of training centers and encouraged children to join its ranks, putting them through religious indoctrination courses to alter their beliefs in a manner that emulates the ISIS model. The group also took over many schools in iareas under its control and turned them into civilian or military centers. As the report further notes, three schools have been attacked by HTS as of November 20, 2022.
Furthermore, the report reveals that the SDF has also conscripted children in a widespread manner despite the fact that the Kurdish Self-Administration signed a joint action plan with the UN agreeing to put an end to child recruitment, and to release children already recruited. Additionally, the People’s Protection Units (YPG) and Women’s Protection Units signed a deed of commitment with the Geneva Call organization in 2014 banning the use of children in wars. Nonetheless, the group’s recruitment of children has not stopped. The report documents that no fewer than 213 children have been recruited by and are still active with the SDF since the group’s foundation. The report also reveals that the SDF has attacked no fewer than 16 schools as of November 20, 2022.
The report also outlines violations against children by all armed opposition factions/SNA. In addition to killing and imprisoning children, armed opposition factions have recruited children, taking advantage of their poor living conditions. According to the report, 12 children have been killed in action with armed opposition factions, while no fewer than 36 schools have been attacked by all armed opposition factions/SNA as of November 20, 2022.
The report stresses that despite the abundance of international instruments establishing and protecting human rights at all times, violations against children in Syria have not stopped for 11 years. All parties to the conflict have failed to respect those rules. The Syrian regime has not been deterred by those conventions, despite having ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child, from committing violations against children, some of which qualify as crimes against humanity through the acts of extrajudicial killing, enforced disappearance, torture, while others qualify as war crimes through the acts of forced conscription Furthermore, many of the violations committed by the other parties to the conflict against children could amount to war crimes if they were committed in the context of the conflict, and also as widespread violations of international human rights law if they were committed against children affiliated with those forces.
The report calls on the international community to ensure the protection of and aid for forcibly displaced children, both IDPs and refugees, especially girls and ensure their needs are met, particularly as regards protection.
The report stresses that all possible legal, political, and financial measures must be taken against the Syrian regime and its allies, as well as against other perpetrators of violations in the Syrian conflict, in order to put pressure on them to compel them to respect children’s rights. It also stresses the need for states to meet their financial pledges, to help the countries neighboring Syria and to provide every possible bit of support to improve the level of education and healthcare in those countries that are housing the largest proportion of child refugees. The report also calls for devising mechanisms to stop the bombing of schools and kindergartens, to protect those facilities, and to work on creating a safe educational environment.
The report also calls for coordinating humanitarian relief operations by focusing on the worst affected areas, and underlines the need to avoid falling prey to the pressure and exploitation by the Syrian regime that attempts to solicit aid in its own favor, as well as to secure the necessary resources to rehabilitate children, while placing especial emphasis on the special needs of girls who have been directly affected by violations, ias well as making a number of other recommendations.

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