Women of honour- Speaking out on rape in Syria

June 20, 2018 | By | Reply More

Despite death threats and rejection, Syrian women have found the courage to speak out about rape.

The first time a woman who had been raped inside a Syrian prison, it was November 2011.

womenI was in Homs and the city was under siege. We were there meeting victims of the first wave of crackdowns on residents of a city that had become known as the “capital of the revolution” against the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad. Many of them were children who had been tortured in the regime’s prisons.

On our last day in the city, we met a family whose daughter had been arrested during a demonstration. She had been held in a detention centre and raped. I knew she was in the room with us, but I didn’t know which of the women she was. I was told that she had changed her mind about talking to us; that she was too traumatised, too scared.

In the years that followed, I have often recalled the faces of those women, wondering which of them had just endured the one thing they could not bring themselves to name. And, ever since, I have thought about making a film in which women like her would finally be able to speak of it.

Making Silent War was to take a journey into the heart of darkness; to the most secret crime perpetrated against the women of Syria.

In talking for the very first time about what they endured in the prisons of the Syrian regime, the women in the film exposed what had, from the very beginning of the revolution, been imagined as the perfect crime. In a country where rape is such a taboo and where it is used to bring shame upon a woman’s entire family, destroying the woman without killing her, the regime had expected its victims to remain silent and their stories untold.

But they didn’t.

It wasn’t easy and it took a long time. But a few months ago, cracks started to appear in the wall of silence. With al-Assad still in power and the West seemingly accepting Russia’s new “peace and order” in Syria, I started to notice a need to talk among the survivors. Afraid that their wounds would never heal and that they’d be forgotten by history, they wanted at long last to name the crime that had been perpetrated against them.

I remember one of them telling me: “Since 2011, you the West have done nothing. Nothing has moved you; not 400,000 dead, not thousands of children, women and men dying in chemical attacks, not the Caesar files and the tens of thousands of bodies photographed. Maybe this, the intimate, ultimate, forbidden wound that can cost us our lives if we tell you about it; maybe this will move you.”

Press journalist for HRO media – Khizer Hayat reports.

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Category: Arab uprising

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