Today, January 17, 2013, we celebrate First Lady Michelle Obama's birthday. As the Obama family and the American public celebrate this joyous occasion, people from across the world are learning that women and girls in Syria are trapped in an imaginable state of terror.
According to a recent report by the International Rescue Committee (IRC), "Many women and girls relayed accounts of being attacked in public or in their homes, primarily by armed men. These rapes, sometimes by multiple perpetrators, often occur in front of family members." The report continues on to explain that the threat of sexual violence is a primary reason families are fleeing their homes.
Although the report does not directly identify the Assad regime as perpetrators, according to numerous news organizations the vast majority of checkpoints where these rapes occur are in regime controlled areas where allegations of human rights abuses have been made against regime troops - in particular its "Shabiha" militia.
In their struggle for freedom—horror has descended on these beautiful women who have been enduring a violent war for almost two years now.
“They tore my clothes and burned my body with cigarettes, and they raped me,“ wailed one emotionally distraught mother. There have been documented accounts in which Syrian authorities have restrained captive women and inserted rats into their private parts and mutilated their genitals.
A 28-year-old woman from the southern town of Dara'a, now a refugee in Jordan, told the IRC that her children used to see dead bodies thrown in the garbage pile across the street from her home: "I told them not to look out the window anymore. It didn't help," she says. "When they raided the house next door, we could hear the rape of my neighbor, my friend. And then they arrested my brother and tortured him for days."
The Syrian people are in a struggle for liberty against an oppressive regime that has subjugated them for over 40 years. Syrian women are paying the price with their lives and their bodies.
As one of the most recognized and respected women in the world, First Lady Michelle Obama can bring immense attention to the horrific sexual attacks Syrian women and girls are enduring on a daily basis. We ask that the First Lady lead women and men of conscience in the United States to condemn these heinous crimes.
To access the IRC report please visit: www.rescue.org/sites/default/files/resource-file/IRCReportMidEast20130114.pdf.
The Syrian American Council is a grassroots organization devoted to promoting educational, civic, economic, and human development, as well as advancing civil liberties and human dignity in Syria. It aspires to build bridges of understanding and cooperation between the American and Syrian peoples and institutions.