Syr­ian men are just as likely to be vic­tims of abuse, but have nowhere to turn for help

The Miracle - - Middle East -

LON­DON: Of all the many hor­rors of the war in Syria, it is the one least spo­ken about, even by its vic­tims. Per­haps es­pe­cially by its vic­tims. Sex­ual vi­o­lence is not a new phe­nom­e­non in war, but it is gen­er­ally as­sumed to be di­rected at women and girls. How­ever, a newly pub­lished in­ves­ti­ga­tion re­veals that in Syria, the vic­tims of tor­ture by rape and sex­ual as­sault are just as likely to be men and boys. Yet such is the stigma and so com­plex the rea­sons for that stigma, that their suf­fer­ing is al­most com­pletely un­ac­knowl­edged, let alone re­ported. “There are no or­ga­ni­za­tions that take care of them, and men don’t talk,” said one aid worker. In­stead they suf­fer in si­lence, their wounds — both phys­i­cal and psy­cho­log­i­cal — left un­treated.“It is com­pletely de­stroy­ing for men,” said an­other source work­ing with an in­ter­na­tional NGO. If it be­comes known that a man has suf­fered sex­ual vi­o­lence, “it means he has to leave his com­mu­nity (and go) where no­body knows that he has been sex­u­ally abused.” The au­thors of the re­port ad­mit that even their re­search can­not be classed as com­pre­hen­sive. Be­tween Septem­ber 2017 and July 2018, field work­ers from the All Sur­vivors Project (ASP), an in­terna- tional re­search and ad­vo­cacy or­ga­ni­za­tion, con­ducted in­ter­views with 66 in­for­mants. They in­cluded rep­re­sen­ta­tives of UN aid agen­cies, ex­perts in med­i­cal care and men­tal health, NGOs, hu­man rights ac­tivist and aca­demics. Two thirds of the in­ter­vie­wees were aware of incidents of sex­ual vi­o­lence against men and boys, ei­ther through pro­vid­ing med­i­cal at­ten­tion or other hu­man­i­tar­ian sup­port or hear­ing of such cases di­rectly from sur­vivors or from their fam­ily, friends or col­leagues. Some in­for­mants had di­rectly wit­nessed men and boys be­ing vi­o­lated. The re­sult­ing re­port, “De­stroyed from with- in,” is a shocking ex­pose of the sex­ual tor­ture suf­fered by men and boys in Syr­ian prisons, de­ten­tion cen­ters, at check­points and even in refugee cen­ters in neigh­bor­ing Turkey, sup­pos­edly af­ter reach­ing safety.

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