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The New Arab

Women bear an unimaginable burden in Syria's conflict

Countless women have become widows as a result of Syria's civil conflict [AFP]

Date of publication: 25 November, 2016

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A report by the Syrian Network for Human Rights identifies the Syrian regime as responsible for most female deaths in Syria. But women also suffer in other ways, often silently

Whilst Syria’s war has mainly been fought between men, women have been forced to bear unimaginable burdens as a result of the ongoing fighting. Conflict has led to the proliferation of a generation of widows forced to raise children alone due to the deaths of spouses, often in strange, alien environments as a result of forced displacement, while women are also at risk of abuse by combatant forces. 

Women have also been caught in the crossfire, as documented by a recent report from the Syrian Network for Human Rights, ahead of the International day for the Elimination of Violence against women today.

Documenting violent crimes against women in Syria between March 2011 up to the present, the humanitarian watchdog has counted a total of 22,823 female deaths in Syria, with regime forces viewed to be responsible for 20,287 — the vast majority of the deaths.

Further statistics in the survey stated that Russian forces were responsible for 668 female deaths (amongst both women and children), with Kurdish forces responsible for 59 female deaths.

The Islamic State group was identified in the survey as having killed 217 women, with opposition groups said to have been responsible for the deaths of 798 women. 

Regime forces were also identified in the survey as being responsible for detaining and torturing the most women out of any combatant force in Syria.

The Syrian Network for Human Rights called on European states to raise sanctions against Iran and Russia, the main supporters of the Syrian regime, and provide all possible assistance to local councils seeking to rehabilitate victims of detainment, and those who have lost loved ones. The group has also called for the UN Security Council to sanction independent investigations into female detention centres presided over by regime forces.

Speaking on the release of the report Fadel Abdul Ghani, the Syrian Network for Human Rights’ director, said that women in Syria have been subjected to taunting, torture, sexual violence, and restrictions on their movement and the clothing they are permitted to wear in order to avoid harrasment.

Ghani noted that documenting cases of violence against women is often more difficult than in the case of men due in part to divisive social norms that make it less likely for a woman to speak out publicly if she is the victim of abuse.

"There is nothing to encourage them to talk … impunity is still the master of the situation."

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