Women Seeking Safety Encounter Abuse in Syrian Refugee Camps

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Michael Ransom, Senior CorrespondentLast Modified: 00:33 a.m. DST, 10 April 2014

Syria Bedouin Woman, Photo by Marc VeraartDAMASCUS, Syria – By every metric, the Syrian countryside is a war zone. Suburbs are subject to aerial attacks and corner stores have become foxhole retreats from city gunfights. The death toll now exceeds 150,000 lives. Massacres waged by Syrian troops and rebel forces alike continue to raise questions about the legitimacy of either side's agenda. All the while, ordinary people either defend their community or seek stability in a less contentious Syrian locale or border country.

Amidst the chaos, the international community places bets on either the Syrian Army or various rebel collectives. The United States, Russia and Iran make high-stakes wagers in the form of assault rifles, chemical weaponry and large-scale explosives. Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey are also seated around this international card table. Given the current political landscape and the violations of basic human rights by the establishment and the rebellion, global efforts to arm either side are a gamble indeed.

One thing is certain. With increased weaponry provisions, a commensurate level of unfathomable bloodletting has followed throughout major cities like Damascus, Homs, Aleppo and Latakia. The widespread violence and continued threat of biological warfare has been a powerful impetus for Syrian migration to more stable nations. Over two million nationals have escaped the perimeter of their home country, while millions more try to cope in the crossfire. There, they face the reality of suicide bombers and large-scale attacks carried out by both factions.

Lebanon has been the principle destination for those people fleeing the ongoing turf war. To date, over one million Syrians have claimed refugee status in Lebanon, a staggering influx for a nation numbering less than five million before civil war broke in Syria three years ago. Thousands more seek safety in the Mediterranean nation every day. Lebanon has been a gracious host to Syrians seeking asylum, forgoing required permit fees upon entry and allowing their neighbors to live outside of designated treatment centers and refugee shelters.

Syrian migrants exercise this right, but not without adversity. Women are particularly affected by sexual abuse following their relocation. Human Rights Watch reports that female refugees are subject to improper advances and verbal abuse on a regular basis while living in their makeshift communities in Lebanon. Perpetrators range from employers to volunteers from religious institutions, according to HRW. The actual scope of abuses remains unknown, as many victims presumably have outstanding residency payments or have little faith in the criminal justice system. Assailants continue to act in the shadows of fear and silence.

For many of these women, leaving home meant a better life for themselves and their children. Rape is used in Syrian warfare as a tool of power and coercion against men, women and children indiscriminately. While President Bashar al-Assad and top leaders of various opposition forces have not openly condoned sexual assault of the enemy, the act is permissible and never punished internally. Externally, retaliatory rape is not uncommon. In a society where rape is taboo, victims are hushed and assaults go unreported. But anecdotal evidence confirms the disturbing and rampant nature of the mistreatment.

Journalist Lauren Wolfe directs The Women Under Siege project and discusses abuse against Syrian women in her feature Syria Has a Massive Rape Crisis. Wolfe cites a report from Ya Libnan news website in which a member of the Syrian Army was commanded to rape teenagers in late 2012. The girls were later slaughtered. Similarly, Wolfe describes a young rebel soldier who was arrested by Syrian forces. During his imprisonment, the man was forced to watch while Syrian security raped his fiancée, sisters, mother and other female acquaintances. Belligerents in both camps resort to these barbaric measures.

The mass-exodus of Syrians will continue so long as lawlessness persists. Massacres such as August's Ghouta chemical attack on civilians and the execution of 51 loyalist prisoners in July have only added fuel to vehicles of hate and violence. While the United States is heavily invested in the success of the rebellion, the White House now knows that many of these renegades are affiliated with al-Qaeda and other terror organizations. If history repeats itself, these weapons may be trained at their supplying nation in the future.

If the efforts of the States involved more non-lethal aid, certainly the people of the world would be grateful. The need for the increased protection of women is self-evident. When better mechanisms to report and convict perpetrators of sexual abuse are established in refugee camps, these facilities will truly be places of refuge.

Follow Michael on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Senior Correspondent: @MAndrewRansom

Indian Rapists Spared Death Penalty

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Patrice Ellerbe, Staff WriterLast Modified: 21:58 p.m. EDT, 28 January 2013

Indian Prisoners, Photo by Raj Patidar NEW DELHI, India - Weeks after the shocking death of the paramedical student in Delhi, according to Sandeed Joshi, a contributor of the news source, “The Hindu”, the Justice Verma Committee has ruled against recommending the death penalty even in the rarest of the rare rape cases, and also did not agree to lowering the age of a juvenile from 18 to 16 years of age.

The Justice Verma Committee is a group formed to further investigate crimes against women. The committee was given the task of suggesting solutions to further deal with the frequent sexual assault cases. They announced that the minimum sentence for a rapist should be pushed from 7 years to 10 years.

They also announced that when life in prison has been sentenced, the individual convicted must serve the remainder of their natural life in prison. The Justice Verma Committee also suggested that there be more action taken in forming a new authority that takes on issues dealing with education and non-discrimination of women.

Although there were speculations of getting rid of the death penalty, Verma now states they will “enhanced the punishment to the mean the remainder of life”. Many organizations focused on women and have expressed their strong disapproval of the death penalty.

Over the past 20 years, murder cases have declined as well as execution of death sentences since 1980; however, bringing on the death penalty for rape may not bring effects. The maximum punishment for rape is currently life in prison.

When it comes to reducing the age of a juvenile from 18 to 16 years of age, Verma did not favor. His reasons stated, if a 16 year old is sentenced to life in prison, it is likely that he will be released by the age of 30. There is no guarantee that the prisoner would be released as a person of higher morals.

In the past, the Committee has depicted the jails and juvenile homes as having a lack of rehabilitation and reformatory policies. If a convict is not counseled before leaving the facility, there is a strong possibility that they are leaving as the same person they came in as. If this is the case, there has been no improvement and no need for release. The convict will most likely return because they have not been evaluated or changed.

Follow Patrice Ellerbe on Twitter
Twitter: @nahmias_report Staff Writer: @PatriceEllerbe

'Heart of Darkness' | DRC Holocaust

Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 20:42 p.m. EDT, 12 February 2012

Heart of Darkness by Joseph ConradDEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO, Africa - We have written several posts about the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the war crimes that are occurring in a country also known as the heart of Africa.

Previously, we have focused on the human rights abuse of rape to control and terrorize a populace that has been severely victimized by internal and external players.

In the DRC, this heinous act has been defined by human rights group as 'weaponized rape,' because it is used like a gun to maim and kill its victims.

The DRC is the most egregious example of Neo-Colonialism on the Continent today.  Large multinationals encourage and promote destabilization to enable them to freely extract the natural resources of this mineral rich nation.

The rape of the Congo has been a long-running play first documented in the fictional story Heart of Darkness. Written by Joseph Conrad and published in 1903, the exploitation of this country and the subjugation of its people has changed little over the last 100 years.

'Heart of Darkness exposes the dark side of European colonization while exploring the three levels of darkness that the protagonist, Marlow, encounters: the darkness of the Congo wilderness, the darkness of the Europeans' cruel treatment of the African natives, and the unfathomable darkness within every human being for committing heinous acts of evil.[2]

Although Conrad does not give the name of the river, at the time of writing the Congo Free State, the location of the large and important Congo River, was a private colony of Belgium's King Leopold II.' (Source: Wikipedia)

When I was in school this book was required reading, but since we live in an increasingly digital era, I encourage readers to download a free copy of the book here.  Many consider this book racist, but within the context of its time, the prevailing view of black people and Africans, the language is consistent with that era.

Unfortunately, it is also consistent with how some people continue to think of African's today. The twenty-six minute video below provides an in-depth and informative background on the conflict in the DRC, the egregious human rights violations that occur as a consequence, and the massive collateral damage that is tantamount to an unacknowledged Holocaust.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vLV9szEu9Ag&feature=player_embedded]

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Twitter: @nahmias_report Editor: @ayannanahmias

Sexual Warfare in DRC | First Lady Leads Battle (Video)

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 17:23 p.m. EDT, 18 October 2010

First Lady Marie Olive Kabila - Democratic Republic of Congo

BUKAVU, Democratic Republic of Congo - First Lady Olive Lembe Kabila, the wife of President Joseph Kabila led approximately 17,000 women on Sunday in a march against sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The term 'weaponized rape,' has come to define the practice of raping women as a means of subjugating and decimating the enemy.

Most of the mass rapes which have occurred in the conflict ridden DRC, were perpetrated in the eastern region of the country where fighting is the heaviest.

Victims range in age from girls as young as 2-years to women as old as 90.

Defying the stigma associated with rape, throngs of Congo’s rape survivors filled the streets in Bukavu. CNN reports. “They have had enough, enough, enough, enough,“ said Nita Vielle, a Congelese activist. “Enough of the war, of the rape, of nobody paying attention to what’s happening to them.”

A U.N. report stated that 15,000 women were raped in eastern Congo last year, in regions where rebel groups move in and attack civilian populations they consider to be government sympathizers, employing systemic rape as a tool of warfare.

Methodical mass rape has plagued eastern Congo for years, but the situation has only gotten worse. In one particularly vicious spate, at least 303 rapes occurred between July 30 and August 2 in the Walikale region of North Kivu province alone.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-vGanZopQHg]

Read more about the problem of rape and war in the Congo via BBC News coverage here.

Follow Nahmias Cipher Report on Twitter
Twitter: @nahmias_report Editor: @ayannanahmias
 

Wounded Woman Project | Autobiography of Rape

Reinfried Marass is an Austrian, professional photographer, born 1960 in Vienna. He started photography at age of 18 after his graduation as mechanical engineer. His work is internationally acknowledged and awarded at some of the world’s most prestigious photographic contests. Reinfried's photographs have been published in numerous international magazines and books - primarily covers, full pages, double-spreads or centerfolds.

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World’s Untold Stories: Innocence for Sale

In the "World's Untold Stories: Innocence for Sale," Aaron Cohen and CNN go undercover in Cambodia. The program vividly depicts the abject cruelty, heartless abuse and dehumanizing condition of children sold into sexual slavery, often by their parents. Once imprisoned, pedophiles who travel to the country from all parts of the world can pay roughly the same cost as a round of drinks for sex with a child. The documentary will enlighten and inspire new conversation about the challenges currently preventing aid workers and authorities from winning the battle in the struggle to free children from this most despicable form of modern-day slavery.

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