Act to end the Assad regime's use of sexual violence against children as a weapon of war

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In the six years that war has ravaged their country, the Syrian people have fallen victims to almost every crime imaginable. They’ve been massacred, tortured, bombed and subjected to chemical weapons. But there is one crime that, until now, has remained hidden under a thick veil of silence: child rape. And yet, in the prisons run by the Syrian regime, at checkpoints and during raids, the forces of the regime are taking advantage of the chaos to abuse the children of the opposition in total impunity.  

#THE STORY OF NORA, 11 year-old 
In May 2011, 11-year-old Nora was arrested near Deraa by soldiers of Bashar al-Assad's army in search of her father. “We are going to hold your daughter hostage until your husband turns himself in,” the officer announced to her mother. 

But despite the girl’s father turned himself in, his daughter would remain a prisoner for the next 45 days with 40 other women and children. 

From Day 1, the prisoners were given pills. The youngest were also given injections. Indeed, medical tests carried out after Nora’s liberation showed that the little girl had also been injected with hormones. For what purpose? Certainly these injections could have made Nora’s body’s lose its childish shape. 

On the 40th day, the jailers told the children to “get ready”. The children thought that the hour of liberation had finally arrived. It is not. Soldiers took Nora from the cell. Soldiers undressed her then brought her into another room. There, a naked “man with grey hair”-- the director of the military base-- was waiting for her. “He took me. And he raped me. He slept with me,” told Nora to her mother Fatima who carried on: “He then gave her a small yellow pill and gave her a shot in her right arm. He hit her so hard that her head started spinning.” The next morning, the little girl woke up in an interrogation room. She was covered with blood and several officers were standing around her. Nora has no idea what these other men did to her but she remembers seeing the man who raped her. 

“There is proof that girls and boys scarcely over the age of 12 have experienced sexual violence, including both torture to their genitals and rape,” said international human rights organization Save the Children in its 2013 report Childhood under Fire.  

In 2014, in a publication by the UN Secretary General on “children and armed conflict in Syria”, UN investigators don’t hesitate to state that “this violence [against children] serves to humiliate, wound, obtain forced confessions or to pressure a parent to turn himself in.” In the prisons run by the Syrian regime, at checkpoints or during raids, if the settings vary, the strategy stays the same. A former director of Aleppo’s civilian prison confirms: “Sometimes, the orders were literally ‘Drag this person out of his home. If he isn’t there, you can take anyone-- his wife, his daughters. And we’ll keep them until the man who we are looking for turns himself in’.” That’s what happened to Nora, the little girl from Deraa.  

In Syria, the rape of children - indiscriminately girls and boys - has thus become a "weapon" in the service of the repressive machinery of the regime. This strategy was deliberately put in place as demonstrated by the investigative report we published on Mediapart. 

As determined producers and filmmakers, we believe that everyone has a responsibility to change the mentalities and systems that perpetuate impunity. Because those in power have not lived up to the challenge of recognizing the serious mistakes of the past, Nicolas, Stéphane and I (Marion) decided to launch the ZERO IMPUNITY movement so that these crimes do not go unpunished and happen again. 

In order to build the basis for international legal action, it is essential to request the first independent investigation led by the United Nations into sexual violence against children in Syria.