This week on PITAPOLICY, we feature an article by PITAPOLICY Founder Mehrunisa Qayyum on a serious war crime: rape. What is the role of the media and the Arab diaspora in documenting this crime as a “weapon of war”, specially in recent conflict zones. Qayyum zeros in on this issue.
Strategically Change Tactics — Document Rape as a War Crime
By: Mehrunisa Qayyum
When a man is shot to death, that is a crime. But when a woman is raped by security forces, that amounts to a war crime, according to the Geneva Convention’s Chapter 32, Rule 93. So if investing in a strategy to better articulate why the international community should care about what is taking place in Syria, then why not make the case by starting from a stronger point? Treating rape as a war crime is not just a human rights concern; its documentation means that Syrian civil society will take on the ‘weapon of war’ by owning the the process of accountability.
New Diaspora TV Program NEEDS to Share Women’s Narrative
On January 1st in Washington, D.C., a group of Syrian Americans will launch a new Arabic TV program to educate the masses on the Syrian crisis. The goal is to call the American public into action. If this program aims to call the Syrian Diaspora and others into action, then both Arabic and English stories need to highlight the inhumane practices against women through eye-witness accounts. Describing alleged war crimes in both Arabic and English over local media leads to documentation, which leads to and snowballs into the layers of evidence needed to present at the International Criminal Court to indict Assad, his network, and other thugs.
By participating in larger non-Syrian group efforts to document the series of alleged war crimes, includingsystematic rape of Syrian women, both short-term and long-term goals are achieved. First, the international community receives more evidence to rebut Russian and Chinese arguments to steer clear of interfering with Syria’s autonomy. We know that the argument for autonomy is code for “no Western interference.” Second, if the goal is to prepare for a post-Assad society, then why not be strategic and ensure that political asylum cannot be an option for thugs?
Issues, rather than cultural identity, will galvanize the international community. Building on this theme, human rights as well as women’s rights groups cut across the ethnic and the sectarian noise that paralyzes coalition building among Syrian opposition groups. For example, women’s rights groups like “Women Under Siege” led by Lauren Wolfe. There is no better combination of a physician and Syrian activists to map out the incidences and reports in their crowdmapping project. As a result, Women Under Siege connects non-Syrians to the realities of the Assad regime exacerbated by the lawlessness of Syrian Armed Forces. Realities include: 1) the alleged use of rats and mice as torture during sexual assault; 2) over 1,500 women allegedly raped in prison; and 3) about 70 percent of sexual attacks against women and men allegedly have been committed by Syria’s Armed Forces.
[ Click here to read the full article.]