Posts Written by Alison

Rape & War in Syria: let’s frame sexual violence as a tactic of war, not a tragedy of it.

*Trigger warning*

In civil war, when groups of people with conflicting identities are forced together by imaginary political boundaries, women’s bodies become inevitable tools for humiliating the enemy. Perhaps the most notorious example of this is the former Yugoslavia, where sexual violence played a critical and strategic role throughout the nine year war. After 50,000-60,000 systematic rapes were reported, the United Nations finally declared rape “a tactic of war and a threat to international security.”

Over a decade later, sexual violence plagues the Syrian civil war: thousands of systemic rapes have been reported and thousands more, I imagine, befall in silence. Women Under Siege has fought hard to keep sexual violence in Syria in the media’s forefront. Yet most stories discuss “war in Syria” separately from “rape in Syria.” Narratives of rape are told as a product of conflict, rather than as an active weapon of attack.  According to  Syria Tracker, nine percent of reported causalities are of women. Women and girls are targets in this war, but we hear very little about why.

If rape is a threat to international security, shouldn’t we discuss it as an deliberate war crime, rather than a natural result of chaos?  How can we made an effort to conceptualize why rape is used during battle, and how to effectually report on rape as a war crime?

What does it mean that rape is a “weapon of war?”

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