NGOs, due to the December 10, World Human Rights Day, made call to Turkey and world public opinion to rescue women and children in Syrian prisons with the slogan "Until the last Women and Children Free." In the call, women and children who were subjected to violence in prisons were demanded to be released as soon as possible.
The press statement carried out jointly by IHH (Humanitarian Relief Foundation), iHAK (Human Rights and Justice Movement), UMHD (International Refugee Rights Association), MAZLUMDER ( The Association for Human Rights and Solidarity forOppressed), ÖZGÜRDER (Free Thought and Educational Rights Association), YCED (Worldwide Association of Children), UHUB ( International Jurists Union), YAİDER (The International Association for Justice and Human Rights) and Lawyers Association. The statement was supported by famous actress Gamze Özçelik and a large number of participants too.
At the press conference, it was announced that the number of women detained from March 2011 until the end of 2017 is 13.581, and the number of women held in prison by the Syrian regime forces is 6.736. It was emphasized that women and children held in prisons had been subjected to violence for years, were sexually assaulted and raped and killed by torture.
At the meeting, it is pointed out that in wars, women and children should never be a matter of negotiation. In addition, women, who were imprisoned and abused during wartime in Syria and Bosnia and Herzegovina, expressed their suffering and struggle.
At the press conference, President Bülent Yıldırım spoke on behalf of IHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation and said, 'Women and children should never be a matter of negotiation in wars. To draw attention to the drama of these women, 10 thousand women from all over the world came together and carried out a movement and convoy of conscience .This issue came to the fore in Astana. Everyone has a big mission. Conflicts is constructed in the Islamic world. We must explain this situation well to the people and the states. We must stop these suffering and conflicts together as conscientious people. This should be the number one issue in Astana and Geneva. We call out to all the conscientious. Everyone should work and do best to revive the conditions of these women and children. We will make a great effort to bring this issue to the world agenda next January. Whoever resolves this matter, everyone has a big mission. We are also making a call to the Syrian regime. We want to go to all the prisons in Syria as observers. Prisons should be made available to the observation and supervision of international institutions. The same goes for those living in East Turkestan. What century do we live in? Now, no one has a right to do what Hitler did to the Jews. In this regard, the Muslim countries must stand out against this situation of China. The camps should be brought up. The suffering of women and children in Syrian prisons is a shame for all Muslims. For the eliminaiton of this shame, big task fall to everybody.
On the other hand, İHAK President Atty. Cihad Gökdemir stated that they came together because of the World Human Rights Day of December 10th and they wanted to announce the voice of Syrian women and children to everyone. At the meeting, Gökdemir read the press statement on behalf of NGOs and drew attention to the suffering experienced in Syria.
President Ramazan Beyhan, who made a statement on behalf of MAZLUMDER, declared that 'The World Human Rights Day has not fallen off the agenda for 70 years. Today as admitted by the United Nations is unfortunately for Westerners only and protects their interests. The worst situation in Syria did not end. Torture continues and deaths maintain. This topic cannot be raised in the international arena. Too much work has to be done in this regard. Everything in Syria, including humanity, culture and art was destroyed. Everyone should make an effort to solve this problem.
In the program, Bosnian and Syrian women shared their suffering with the press during the war period. Torment was written all over women's faces while they are telling the experiences of torture, pain and rape in the process of prison.
The famous actress Gamze Özçelik also gave support to the program. Özçelik, by thanking all the participants, pointed out that people are suffering from all over the world, in Palestine, in Arakan, in East Turkestan each and every day. She called everybody to strive for the solution of this issue.
Please read the text of the press in the program below. Under the text, you can also find some of the painful stories women experienced.
Speak up for the Screams of Women and Children in Syrian Prisons!
According to official figures, more than 450 people, including 20.000 children, died for 8 years in the ongoing war in Syria; it is not a sight or sound of 150.000 people. It is estimated that tens of thousands of people were tortured in prisons. There are thousands of women and children in prisons. However, these numbers are considered to be much more along with unidentified cases.
International NGOs operating in relation to Syria reported in the UN 73rd General Meeting that since the beginning of the war in Syria, "210.000 people have been arrested, 85.000 have been lost and 14.000 have been tortured in prisons." International reports say thousands of people were killed in prisons.
According to the latest data from the Syrian human rights organizations, the number of women in Syria from March 2011 until the end of 2017 is 13.581 together with the women who have already been imprisoned and have been detained. The number of female detainees in prisons is currently 6.736. Of arrested women, 6.319 are adults and 417 are children. 55 women died due to torture. However, these figures refer to those who can be identified. Some sources report that 16.000 women and children are currently held in different intelligence services and jails in Syria.
According to the information collected by the Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR), at least 8.533 women are kept in detention centers belonging to the conflicting parties and their fate is unknown. According to the Syrian Human Rights Network (SNHR), 7.009 women who are kept in prisons, out of 8.663, are detained without being prosecuted in the Assad regime prisons. Since 2011, about 14.000 women who have been detained in regime prisons and been still imprisoned, are the victims of sexual violence and rape which is more than detention and arrest. The Syrian regime's security forces, intelligence services and militants linked to the regime use sexual violence and rape against women prisoners as a weapon of war and interrogation. Such practices towards women have been made part of the military-political strategy in order to intimidate opponent women in the hands of regime forces or to direct conflicts over their spouses.
SNHR data indicates that regime forces are involved in 7.699 rape cases toward women in detention centers, at least 864 of whom are women and at least 432 of whom are girls under 18 years of age. However, in actual fact, it is known that the number of women imprisoned and raped is much higher than these figures. This is because most of the arrests are unregistered and rape victims are forced to remain silent.
From these persecuted women transferring their experiences we learn that women are placed in the same prison with men, they are kept together with 30 women in tiny cells, some of them have children whose ages are under 2, women who did not give answers that regime officers want during interrogation are threatened with rape or that another woman is being raped in front of their eyes or she was subjected to rape. In some cases, a woman was forced to live this abominable event more than once. This process is reflected in the reports that some women experience pregnancy and major trauma.
The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) on 19 June 2008 issued a decree in 1820; it described “sexual violence against women and girls in war-torn geographies as a war crime, a crime against humanity or behavior based on genocide.“ In the same session of the UNSC, sexual abuse was defined as an 'instrument of war' based on "to humiliate the civilian members of a community or ethnic group, to take a firm grip on them, create fear and eventually deterritorialize them."
In addition, according to the Geneva Conventions signed for the protection of civilians in times of war, the honors of women and children have been protected. According to Article 27 of the Treaty, it is said that "women will be protected from attacks on their honor, especially rape, prostitution and all kinds of sexual acts."
Although these decisions were taken long before the Syrian War, the world public opinion neither has been able to protect Syrian women and children from war, which has undermined human dignity nor has it been able to punish those who committed it.
In the last century, including two world wars, long-term captivity of women and children has not been experienced as such in Syria.
In recent months that international meetings have increased for the solution of the problems caused as a result of the war in Syria, we remind that the issue of "setting women-children prisoners and detainees free" is the most urgent issue to solve. "Women and children cannot be the material of wars, cannot be negotiated and cannot be used as a weapon."
At this point, Russia and Iran, which are the actors of the international meetings, have great responsibilities. These countries should take action to release women and children held in prisons in Syria without being subject to bargaining. After the end of the war in Syria, anyone who has a responsibility in this issue cannot escape from facing justice for war crimes against civilians, especially women and children, guaranteed by international agreements.
We call on all those who have a conscience to rescue women and children who have been tortured, harassed and raped in Syrian prisons for the past 8 years. To end the suffering of women and children, to be brought into life again and regain their freedom, we appeal to Turkey and the world public opinion.
Women and children cannot be the material of wars, cannot be negotiated and cannot be used as a weapon!
Speak up for the screams of these women and children!
UM MUHAMMED / Eastern Ghouta
In 2012, on the way to job in the morning, I was taken to the detention center with car by regime forces and I was beaten. After being questioned 3 times, I was placed in the same room with 7 female prisoners and forced to take off my headscarf. I was raped in front of everyone. Everyone’s pain caused by torture was written all over their faces. You go in there with your honor, but you can't go out with your honor. Women had been repeatedly raped and tortured. Those voices are still in my ear and in my brain. I cannot forget.
MARYAM / HAMA
I am 24 years old and mother of 4. There is no limit of our torture in prisons. I said to the commander who raped me, "Don't do it for God’s sake." He replied, "There is no God." I said "For the sake of Prophet." He replied, "He is on leave." They were asking digusting questions like "Who's sweeter? Do you prefer the ones in the Free Syrian Army, or us?" So far, we have worked to make our voices be heard. We went to human rights organizations and addressed the heads of state. But in vain. Anyone heard us.
In 2013, I was tortured in Syrian prisons and still could not get over my experiences. We were treading on corpses. Then they gave the corpses to the dogs. They hung us naked, and extirpating our nails. I know they dumped the corpses in the meat grinder. There were bits and scabies as we could not wash. They made me do all sorts of torture.They executed my son. My husband has been under torture since 2011 and still has no news from him. Now, there are more torture and rape than we had. When we lay down, they dripped ice-cold water on our heads. Those droplets was drummed into us. Still, when I heard sound of water, I remember the torture.
MAJD IZZET AL-CHOURBAJI
I was put inside in Damascus in 2013. The reason was to telling the location of the Sahara Hospital and to participate in peaceful demonstrations. Then my husband and my 3 children were put inside. The last time I saw my husband was while being transferring to another prison. His face, his eyes all over him were drenched in blood. 6 months after I got out of prison, my husband died as a result of torture in prison. Then we couldn't even find his body. They just gave me back the stuff on him. Approximately 7 months, I've been in Syria dungeons. They have been beating people with iron sticks. In the last place that I stayed, 20 people were kept in an area of 20 square meters. We haven't slept for days. Many people were standing, and others could sleep. They have been permitted for toilet only three times in 24 hours. Most of the time people were making their toilets on them. The newborn baby of many women died in prison. Humans have been subjected to unimaginable psychological violence. For days, for hours we have subjected to torture. I have brought to court by staging hunger strike. That's how I got out.
My name is 11, that's the name they gave me in prison. I belong to one of the minorities that Assad claims to be protecting. Maybe it was my second fault to be a minority and not to be a supporter of Assad. That's why I was sending medical supplies, aid and milk for babies to the places under blockade. This was a crime enough to be in prison for at least 20 years and to receive a life sentence. Even though it has been a year out of prison, I still couldn't get over. I'm physically here, but I'm still psychologically there. I'm still with the young people I see in human slaughterhouses called hospital. Ever since they were martyred and their bodies shattered. Or I am with young people who are waiting for death whose fattest was no more than 35 kilos. I'm with the girl who died because she still dares not say that she's sick. I'm still there with the children imprisoned with his mother, his brother and his grandmother for 5 years. Only one of his family was imprisoned because s/he chose to be on the other side, not on the side of the regime. A boy who was detained at the age of three and was in prison for five years. What can you expect from him? I want my voice to reach as many people as possible. They should know that there are cities underneath the cities, there are slaughter houses. Death is the thing which people see as the greatest and beatiful dream in there. I want you to put an end to the crimes and sadism of that murderer.
SAYHA EL-BARUDAYI / HAMA
I'm a mother of two. When I was going to Beirut with my husband, I was detained at a checkpoint on the way. I was tortured in the first place because I refused to take off my headscarf. I was raped in front of everyone. Even a 55-year-old woman was raped. There was a high-school girl. She was raped by six people in front of everyone in the room. Our nights were like hell. They were hanging on us. When we fainted, they electrified to make us recover consciousness. They tortured us every morning, and raped in the evening. Nobody heard us. If you knew what would have happened after 12. Commander Solomon brought to his room the most beautiful girls. There were 2 rooms in the office. Back room was the rape room. A girl who was raped became pregnant. She was raped while she was pregnant. She gave birth in the sixth month. They shot infant with a bullet in front of her. That girl lost her mind. Now his family ties her with a rope. The people in the prisons were just like the bodies that only have bones because of hunger, grew older due to beating. They were just like moving corpses. I was just smelling death and corpses. The rooms always smelled of death.
MARIYA / ŞAM
The regime soldiers came to pick up my sister for helping the opponents. They imprisoned me because I didn't hand them over my sister. We've been in prison for 100 days. They started to torture when we did not give what they want. Every day was like a hundred years. Sometimes they put us in the same cell and sometimes in seperate cell. They tortured me so much with my sister. I was scared and shriveled when they struck with whip. They forced me watch while they were raping my sister and vice versa. One day, they threw me into the air and I felt into place and both my waist and my foot were broken. I've had thirteen days of unconsciousness. When I woke up, I saw my sister in blood. I figured out that they did the same thing to her. She was begging me to help her when they tortured her, but I couldn't do anything. They did not give us food for days, they gave the rice or pasta wetted in water that insects were full. When we say why you give such food, they say that you have to eat them. We even ate the insects. In the end, my sister and I got out of prison, but after what we lived we could not even look each other's faces. We cannot live together. My sister went to a European country. I came to Turkey.
MARIYA / HAMA
I am married and have 3 children. On August 3, 2012, I was arrested on my house as a result of the raid. The torture of me persisted for three days and continued violently. This questioning started at two in the afternoon and lasted until eight in the evening. Two of the women in prison each day were taken to the office of Lieutenant Colonel Süleyman Cuma. This office was equipped with two beds for sleeping and a toilet, and a freezer filled with alcoholic beverages. The fourth day of the arrest; after the end of the interrogation with blasphemy and puonding, I was taken to Lieutenant Colonel Suleyman's office with one of the young girls imprisoned like me. Lieutenant Colonel Süleyman and his comrades alternated us with a series of rape. Lieutenant Colonel Süleyman, cursing towards these young people and used derogatory, rude expressions. He mockingly said that “we give you the freedom you want, you dogs” and he returned to the act with dignity. His ugly act with me and the other young girls continued for 24 days. At the same time, this period is my entire period of detention in there. I was released during the exchange agreement between free army in Hama and the officers. I can't forget what happened to me for the rest of my life. No matter what, I'm going to take my rights from them.