Brutality against women hiding behind a polished façade

Orient Net - Ruthanne Sikora 2017-02-16 11:09:00

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Those who have not been following the Syrian revolution from its beginnings will have no memory of how crimes against women were being brazenly used by Assad’s security forces and criminal thugs (aka shabiha) as a tool for intimidating and trying to control the opposition that had risen up and refused to be silenced.

Behind the façade of a secular and progressive "president" with a glamorous western educated wife, there has always existed a subculture that glorifies power, domination, brutality and control, a super macho brotherhood of domestic terrorists that operates in the background with the impunity that is one of the perks of supporting Assad.

“Under cruel leadership, the worst of the worst behavior becomes acceptable,” a counselor who worked with women who had been victimized in Syria recently wrote on social media. 

“I did not understand this and the capacity we, as humans, have to be beyond cruel to one another until meeting with victims of political torture myself,” she added. 

“When you see the effects on its victims, when you witness them reliving that hell as they share it, it changes you forever because you then know that this is not something that faraway people do, people of other cultures, "bad people" -- but these are things your neighbors, even some of your own family members will do if they are inspired by those who present themselves as authorities who normalized brutality as a tool. 

“Assad is -- and always has been -- that kind of leader, as was his father before him. How anyone could ever doubt the sincerity of Syrians rising against him is unbelievable.”

The recent Amnesty International report on the atrocities being committed at Saydnaya prison was just the latest in a series of reports of crimes against humanity that are not shocking to those who are well aware of the evil that lurks in their midst. 

Even though some investigations have been conducted and reports published about crimes committed specifically against women, it continues to be a delicate subject for those who have been deeply wounded by their experiences.

And the abuse of women in Syria is just one more thing that Assad and his representatives continue to deny.

Recently Salah Iratah, former Baath Party member who continues to be an Assad loyalist, was interviewed on Al Jazeera’s “The Opposite Direction”, one of the most controversial talk shows in the history of Arab television. 

When the subject of crimes being committed against women in Syria was addressed, Iratah, who is just one more Assad tool attempting to disguise the barbarian nature of the regime with a veneer of civility, scoffed at the notion that anyone would believe that it actually happens.

Such responses by the regime’s media mouthpieces make it even harder for victims to open up about the nightmares they have been through.

One female detainee from the town of Al-Tal near the Syrian capital of Damascus, spoke to Al Jazeera Net after her recent release in a prisoner exchange deal with the regime. 

The woman, who was pregnant at the time of her arrest, told Al Jazeera that she had been detained in October 2015 while trying to cross into Lebanon and that she had suffered a miscarriage as a result of the torture she was subjected to after her arrest.

"I have been subjected to all types of known torture in the regime detentions and the most painful for me was the electrocution after sprinkling my body with cold water and hanging my hands with chains and lifting me from the ground which is known in Syria as ‘ghosting’," she told Al Jazeera.

"They also tortured me using what is known as the "flying carpet"; they were inserting my two feet into a wooden board while tying my hands and folding the board until my feet will reach to my head level to start beating me until fainting."

Her ordeal began in 2015 after being taken to a political security branch in Damascus — but her nightmare did not end there.

During almost 16 months of imprisonment she was transferred to four additional security branches where she was abused by the regime’s experts at humiliation techniques and sadistic methods of torture without ever being charged with a crime!

And she is far from being alone. 

At the beginning of the revolution young women in the city of Homs were too terrified to leave their houses alone for fear of being kidnapped, raped and tortured by Assad loyalists living in the area. Sometimes they were released alive after their ordeals, sometimes they turned up dead or where never seen again.

In 2011, a video was made for the purpose of documenting the crime of the body of a naked young woman whose head and hands had been burned beyond recognition. We assumed she had been torched after she was killed to prevent her body from being identified — the alternative is far too horrific to even contemplate.

Another time a group of young Sunni women were detained by regime security officers who forced them to undress and parade through their own neighborhood naked for the sole purpose of humiliating the young women who viewed chastity as an important tenet of their religion. 

There is no government body in Syria to which these types of crimes can be reported, and no laws that can be invoked to prosecute the perpetrators and hold them accountable for their crimes.

It is hypocritical of the international community to focus only on crimes against women committed by ISIS members and radical Islamic groups while ignoring the crimes committed by the Assad regime and its loyalists which have been going on for more than six years.

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