HomeReportUnshakable Voices: Syrian Women Who Overcame the Trauma of Detention and the...

Unshakable Voices: Syrian Women Who Overcame the Trauma of Detention and the Tribulations Following Their Release


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Press release: (Download the full report below)

The Hague – The Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) today released its latest report entitled, ‘Unshakable Voices’, in which it sheds light on Syrian women and their plight in detention, and how they overcame the tribulations they encountered following their release.

The report shines a light on the most notable challenges faced by Syrian women, who continue, despite all they’ve endured, to play a key role in the struggle for freedom and dignity, achieving in the process some outstanding success stories. To that end, the report contains eight first-hand accounts from women victims and survivors from the governorates of Homs, Hama, Latakia, Rural Damascus ‘Rif Dimshaq’, Damascus, Deir Ez-Zour, and Suwayda. Some of these women have sought asylum in Europe, while other live in Türkiye or are still in Syria. All of these women have played a unique and prominent role in the service of their communities, despite being brutalized by the Syrian regime’s monstrous machine of arbitrary arrest, torture, sexual violence, and enforced disappearance, all because of the dynamic, constructive roles they’ve played since the beginning of the popular uprising for democracy in March 2011.

The report records that that no fewer than 10,197 of the women arrested by the parties to the conflict and controlling forces in Syria between March 2011 and December 31, 2023, are still detained and/or forcibly disappeared. Of these, 8,493 women are still detained/forcibly disappeared at the hands of Syrian regime forces, while 255 women are still detained/forcibly disappeared by ISIS. Meanwhile, 45 women are still detained/forcibly disappeared by Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), whereas 878 women are still detained/forcibly disappeared by all armed opposition factions/Syrian National Army (SNA). Lastly, 526 women are still detained/forcibly disappeared by Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The report further stresses that the Syrian regime is responsible for at least 83 percent of the total number of arrests and enforced disappearances involving women compared to the other parties to the conflict. This suggests that the Syrian regime has been persecuting, pursuing, arresting/detaining, and forcibly disappeared women, for various motives, in a calculated and deliberate manner.

The report also reveals that 115 women have been documented as dying due to torture at the hands of the parties to the conflict and controlling forces in Syria between March 2011 and December 31, 2023. The report notes that 2015 was the worst in terms of the number of women’s deaths due to torture. with all women’s deaths due to torture documented that year being at the hands of regime forces and ISIS. The next worst years in terms of numbers were 2012 then 2022, with the Syrian regime being the only party responsible for women’s deaths due to torture in both those years. Furthermore, the report documents at least 21 of the women forcibly disappeared by Syrian regime forces were later registered as dead in the civil registry records between 2018 and December 31, 2023. Similarly, the report documents that at least 11 of the women forcibly disappeared by regime forces were identified from the photos leaked from regime military hospitals, known as the ‘Caesar’ photos, between 2015 and December 31, 2023.

The report also records no fewer than 10,060 incidents of sexual violence against women between March 2011 and December 31, 2023, stressing that the Syrian regime has been responsible for approximately 75 percent of cases of sexual violence recorded, followed by ISIS. This can be explained by the fact that both parties have used sexual violence as a weapon of war and retaliation to intimidate society. The two parties are followed by all armed opposition factions/SNA and the SDF who used sexual violence in a discriminatory way to extort the victims and their families.

As the report further reveals, the arrests carried out by Syrian regime forces are performed in several ways. For one, the report details, women have been arrested at checkpoints and crossings or while travelling between cities. Women have also been targeted in ambushes, while others have been arrested in raids on their homes, places of residence, workplaces, or at universities where they’re studying, or in regime attacks on dissident activities such as demonstrations and protests. Women have also been arrested while carrying out humanitarian work, such as tending wounded people or assisting IDPs, or abducted in the street or other public places, while others have been arrested after being summoned to security branches for questioning. Similarly, some women have been arrested when they went to visit relatives imprisoned in regime detention centers. Finally, some women have been arrested while attempting to flee areas besieged by regime forces, being detained as they passed through regime checkpoints. Moreover, the report notes that women have been detained over their involvement in activism and participation in peaceful demonstrations calling for political change, as well as their involvement in various civil, media, and human rights activities. As mentioned above, women have also been arrested while carrying out essential humanitarian work, including providing aid for IDPs, wounded people, children, and affected families. The report also stresses that the plight of arbitrary arrest does not end with the targeted women being released from detention centers. Rather, the suffering continues beyond the detention itself, as those women suffer multiple violations and face additional challenges in their lives. In that, the report pinpoints at least 14 main types of violations and challenges faced by women survivors following their release. Most of those women suffered at least four of these violations and challenges all in together.

By shining a light on some women’s success stories, the report shows that Syrian women have cemented their legacy in the uprising through their active participation despite facing numerous social, political, and legal challenges. This continuing involvement has been a crucial contribution to the fight for freedom and respect for all human rights. In turn, the report further underscores, there is a need at the community and political level to acknowledge women’s unique contributions and accomplishments.

The report stresses that the Syrian regime, who by far has committed the largest percentage of the totality of violations in the Syrian conflict, has violated many articles concerning women, such as those included in the Protocol II Additional to the Geneva Conventions, including the prohibition of “violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture… outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment,” and “rape, enforced prostitution and any form of indecent assault…”. The report also proves that there has been discrimination against women manifesting in a number of practices, which contravenes the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), which outlines the rules states must adhere to, in order to protect women against the negative effects of discrimination. Those practices also constitute a violation of Security Council resolution 1325.

The report calls on the Syrian regime to respect its obligations to the CEDAW agreement, implement the General recommendations of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, including General recommendation No. 30, respect the two International Covenants on Human Rights as well as the Geneva Convention, and as such cease the commission of crimes against humanity and war crimes. The report also calls on all the parties to the conflict to immediately release all arbitrarily detained women, particularly those detained in relation to the armed conflict. The parties to the conflict must also respect international laws on detaining underage girls, including separating them from men, inspection, and designating women guards, as well as respecting the protocols on inspecting prisoners when entering detention to internally report incidents of sexual violence.

Meanwhile, the report calls on the international community and the UN Security Council to apply pressure on all parties to the conflict and controlling forces in Syria to release arbitrary detained women and forcibly disappeared women, ensure protection and assistance for forcibly displaced women, including women IDPs and refugees, and to pay attention to their special needs, particularly with relation to protection, in addition to making other recommendations.


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