Sexual Violence as a Weapon of War in Syria

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Whether used to instill fear, humiliate, or punish; destroy lives, families and communities; or enforce social order and power dynamics, rape and other forms of sexual violence have been widely documented in the Syrian conflict. The strategic use of sexual violence as a weapon of war in violation of international law is of course not unique to Syria, but it’s widespread nature and protracted impacts have often gone underreported and unaddressed amidst the myriad other atrocities of the Syrian conflict. Moreover, while rape and other forms of sexual violence have been recognized as war crimes, crimes against humanity, and elements of genocide - as well as serious violations of human rights, including the prohibition on torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment - the widespread lack of accountability perpetuates the cycle of violence and division.  

In this podcast, we speak with leading experts and practitioners about the strategic use of sexual violence as a weapon of war in Syria. We’ll discuss the how sexual violence has been used against women, girls, boys and men in Syria by government forces and armed groups, and what impact it has had on survivors, and their families and communities. We’ll also discuss how humanitarian actors can better assist survivors inside Syria and in situations of displacement, how perpetrators can be held accountable, and the longer term implications for peace. Key questions include:

  • How prevalent has sexual violence been as a weapon of war in Syria? What are its root causes, and what impacts has it had on individuals, communities and the conflict at large?
  • How can humanitarian actors better respond to the needs of those affected by sexual violence in Syria and in situations of displacement?
  • How has international law evolved to criminalize wartime sexual violence, and how can perpetrators be held accountable?
  • How have grassroots organizations in Syria organized to respond to sexual violence, and what are the implications for the peace process?

Featuring expert commentary from: 

Laila Alodaat

MENA Director, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom

Lina Biscaia

Former analyst, International Commission of Inquiry on Syria

Marie Forestier

Independent researcher and journalist focusing on conflict-affected countries




Careem's picture

When there is a war and conflict; women and children are the one becomes vulnerable to sexual violence; this is happening across the globe and Syria is not an exception. From my perspective, the point here should be urging the world to 'Stop-War'. Peaceful societies have less prevalence of violence against women and children. The major causes of conflict and war in many parts of the world especially in the Middle East is attributed to the 'West's New World Order' they are imposing in many countries around the world and changing regimes they don't like. We have seen this in Vietnam, Korea, Iraq, Afghanistan and now in Syria. Don't we know who has been arming and financing the anti-state elements including the ISIS in Syria?. The so-called intellectuals, writers, and film makers of the civilized world must stand against their rulers to put a full stop of regime changing for their political interest, they should leave it to the people to decide and change their regime. Writing books and debating through podcast blaming only the Syrian regime is not going to work nor can make people fool. I am sure after many years of the war the western intellectuals, writers, and film makers will writing books and producing movies telling the world that their boss was wrong - but that will be too late!.

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