Since I see my role in writing these diaries as comforting the afflicted, I want the story of these women spread far and wide.
I want the truth about the 80 students slaughtered at Aleppo University by the Assad regime a week ago well known and beyond dispute.
And in a world that has been willing to sit on its hands while these people get raped and slaughtered, I don't mind if I afflict the comfortable.
I hope the title of this dairy gave you a true picture of what is happening today in Syria. It is the way one women died.
You may prefer not to know her story.
Well, now you do.
From Rooni's Corner, Nour Al-Ali wrote this:
Accounts of Violations & Deaths: Syrian Women Defiled
A Syrian woman was raped to death with a rat. A rat was forcefully thrust in between her legs, while in captivity, and then she died. Stop for a moment and try to fully fathom that. This happened in Syria. Not a sick Hollywood movie. This happened to my sister, your sister, my mother, your mother, my aunt, your aunt, my grandmother, your grandmother; this happened to us, all of us. Charlotte Proudman of The Independent reports:
?One woman described an assault on another prisoner, which she witnessed. He pushed a rat in her vagina. She was screaming. Afterwards we saw blood on the floor. He told her: Is this good enough for you? They were mocking her. It was obvious she was in agony. We could see her. After that she no longer moved.Another woman, who was taken for 48 hours, the Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR hereafter) reports, returned a corpse with marks of torture and barbarianism to her family. Survived witnesses also report to the SNHR that security personnel would urinate in the mouths of female detainees to break their will. Moreover, a detainee said that she was prevented from using pads during her period, which led her to sanitize herself using trash; hence, developing a reproductive disease. Male detainees similarly reported female prisoners being questioned while naked in separate cells.
Accounts of Gang-Rapes: Young Girls in Ruins
The Women Under Siege in Syria project (WUS hereafter), which is run by the United States based Womens Media Center, curated 133 reports of abuse, rape, and sexual violations of Syrians, both genders included. In one report, WUS translates an alleged confession of a Syrian Army solider, who says they [solides] were given two tablets of Zemax, a sexual stimulant, to swallow two hours before being commanded to take captured women of Baba Amr, who had just witnessed their husbands, sons, and brothers shot point-blank, into separate rooms to rape them. I raped three women. After the rapes we left the halls. I do not know what happened to those women,says he says in a video.
Instances of gang-rape have become so often that it was reported to the IRC a young girl was forced to stagger home naked after being violated by a group of men. Another girl, now in a safe hostel, along with 16 other cases, told Al-Arabiya of being gang-raped, where she witnessed her mothers death while being forcefully held down. She says (as per WUS translation):
They took the older women and children away and kept us, the younger women, in the square. They started with me. One of them untied me. When I resisted he pulled my hair and pushed me to the ground. I hit my head. When I screamed, my mother recognized my voice. I heard her saying, Please leave her, she is so young. Take me instead, I beg you. They just laughed.On the counts of mortality, The SNHR? documented the death of 3,517 that they know of, Syrian females, 1,079 being underage. Causes of their deaths vary from being shelled and victims of airstrikes to executions, rape, suicide, kidnap, and being tortured to death, SNHR adds. 495 females are currently detained, 27 of those not older than 18 years of age, SNHR says.
Three faces got close to mine, and many hands started touching my body. Within seconds I was naked. I tried to fight back. I was trembling like a slaughtered hen. Their arms were like octopus arms squeezing me. I eventually stopped moving. I felt paralyzed. I felt like I was suffocating. They smelled rotten, like death. They shouted, You want freedom? This is freedom, freedom, freedom. One monster hit me on the face and kicked my body. He stepped on my chest and I heard my bones cracking. Pain felt like a fire whipping me. I heard them cursing my screaming mom, Shut up, you .
The Big Picture: Social Taboos & Laws Aiding Criminals
Those accounts, though ghastly gruesome, barely depict the entire reality of what happens to females in Syria. Discussing rape, abuse, and what have you of violations done to them is considered a taboo in Syrian societies. Women are hushed, deemed guilty, and killed for honor because their body was defied. In fact, in what the IRC called an extreme case, a father shot his daughter when an armed group approached to prevent the disgrace of her being raped. Even prior to the revolution, often stories of brothers shooting their sisters, and females jumping off balconies would make it to headlines with words like shame and honor describing them. What saddens me most is that this harsh reality I speak of is not news in the Middle East today.
There are laws in Jordan (article 308), Morocco, and other Middle Eastern countries that exempt rapists from the death penalty and let them marry their victim. When 16 year-old Amina Filali committed suicide, everyone went haywire for a while. And then, just like that, her story, her agony, her struggle, was buried along with her violated body. As a collective society, we get these momentarily collective outcries against the system, but then we move on to the next hot thing. As awful as it is, it is not only a matter of one female getting raped. It is the concept of aiding a perpetrator and thus reproducing a new generation of rapists, because as bad of a crime as it is, as easy of a crime it is to get away with in the Middle East.
With Syria, however, those violations have crossed every metaphorical line possible. The IRC reports that one of the leading causes that the 600,000 documented Syrian refugees have fled for was in fact fear of rape. The situation for refugee women and girls is grim, states the report. Even then, female refugees are not safe, with elevated levels of domestic violence, as they are in dire need of medical attention, and are forced, even sold, to marriage. Hassan Hassan of The National reported in September of 2012:
It is common to see on Arabic online forums requests by men seeking marriage from Syrian girls. At a price ranging from 500 to 1,000 Saudi riyals (Dh490 to Dh980), girls are reportedly being taken from refugee camps in Jordan. Saudi Arabia is most often named as the destination, but a similar trend is reported in other countries including Iraq and Turkey.
Where You Come In: Your Voice is Heard
I dont know who you are, reading this right now. I dare not ask you to put yourself in a what if situation where this happens to someone you know. It is far too awful even for imagination to grasp. I ask of you, if you, just as I, do not have the power to stop this, raise awareness; condemn the violence; stand firm against it; and do not, please, I beg of you, do not be silenced by fear, nonchalance, or whatever your reasons may be. If not by a protest, then tell your friends. If not by a petition to your government asking them for support, then tweet about it, Facebook it, blog about it; do something, anything. You alone have a voice, and along with other voices, you make an echo loud enough to generate a difference. Be that difference. It does not end with just your voice, but it starts with it.
The Syrian American Council has started a petition, asking the US First Lady to condemn Assad for his crimes against females, sign here.
If you are considering starting an organization to aid raped / abused Syrian females; please email me. Let us start working towards a better tomorrow for Syria today.
Note: All quotes used in this post have been cited from and attributed to their original source.
Nour Al-Ali adds this note:
I spent more than twelve hours writing this post, eight of which I used on research and fact-checking; reading heart-wrenching accounts of rape, narrated by victims, or witnesses who were lucky to survive. I also went out for an unplanned 6 a.m. two hour walk, wearing hotel disposable slippers and nothing but my jammies. It led me to nowhere in specific. I was chasing sunrise. The closer I got to the sun, the further it went up towards the middle of the sky. In a sense, I feel as though my encounter with the sun is similar to attaining freedom in Syria. The more we walk towards freedom, the more we lose our soul, identity, and heart. This is the point of no return, you see. Our nation has been bent, altered, defiled in countless of ways from all sides contributing to destruction that retreating is as impossible as it is to touch the sun and not burn out. But there is this faint spark of hope that yearns to be proven right. This fight we will win, and our country we shall rebuild; brick by brick, stitch by stitch, and blood by blood, we will rebuild our Syria. By the time I had gotten home, my body was weary, but I was emotionally refined, for I had vouched to myself, to God, and now to all those bearing witness, that I, Nour Al-Ali, will dedicate my future, career, life, being and existence to aiding and helping all Syrian women who undergo (past, present, and future) rape / abuse recover from this ordeal. Rape is a can of worms that has been let loose in the Middle East, and I will spend every waking moment of my life disposing of it.
EAWorldView has this important followup to the attack that killed more than 80 students at Aleppo University on 15 January 2013
Within minutes, reports flooded social media that a regime warplane had fired two missiles at the campus. A student posted on Twitter:
On 15 January, two explosions, three minutes apart, ripped through Aleppo University during the first day of final exams. At least 80 students were killed, and many more were wounded.
Many witnesses saw an aircraft. Several contacts told EA that the aircraft was at a relatively high altitude when it fired, then it circled around and fired again. However, no videos appeared to show an airplane. One video may have revealed the puff of a jet vapor trail. but this was inconclusive.
A plane hit with two shells. We saw the plane with our own eyes. I am not going to doubt my eyes and believe regime media.
When the plane roamed above the university following the shelling, the university guards and soldiers told us, "Hide, the plane is back!"
The regime claimed that these were car bombs. With no hard evidence, the question of who killed the Aleppo students seemed destined to remain a mystery.
This video shows the smoke rising from the roundabout, the location of the first blast. As the cameraman walks towards the blast, just around the 27-second mark, there is a loud sound. It is the roar of a self-powered subsonic aircraft-delivered explosive --- a missile.
This is not a car bomb. Neither the sound, nor the explosive pattern, nor the flash of flames, nor the debris field match that type of explosive.
Consider the damage pattern in this picture from the University. The cars are leaning to the left, away from the building and towards the road, indicating that the blast came from the right side of the road (click for full-sized image):
An analysis of the audio on the video reveals no evidence that this was faked. Moreover, a second video corroborates the audio, with a similar sound is heard immediately before the 2nd explosion.
Spectrographic analysis software indicates, the sound shares many characteristics with that on the first video, though the acoustics are different. This suggests that both videos have captured the audio of the same missile from different angles.
Another analyst looked more closely at the first video. Immediately before the explosion, one can make out the missile in four different frames. In frame 1. the missile is near the lamp post, in the 2nd frame it has moved forward, in the 3rd it is barely visible, and in the 4th there is an explosion (click for full size):
A question remains: was this a missile launched from an aircraft, or was this a missile launched from the ground? If it was the former, then this was a cold, per-meditated attack on the behalf of the pilot, and likely his commanding officers. If it was the latter, is it possible that the insurgents launched a surface-to-surface rocket or a surface-to-air missile, trying to hit a regime warplane, which went astray and struck the University?
In initial dissections of the event, the consensus of a group of arms specialists and military experts was that the insurgents do not have any weapons this advanced. No RPG or shoulder-fired missile has this destructive power. It is unlikely that a vehicle-mounted SAM could do this level of damage, and it is even less likely that such a weapon was in range. The insurgents have also not been seen with GRAD rockets or any other long-range surface-to-surface or surface-to-air missile that is capable of this kind of damage.
The first explosion was 400-500 feet north of the second, at the roundabout. The cameraman was walking north, towards the roundabout, and was about 400-500 feet away from the second explosion --- we can tell by video analysis and the audio delay). Felim McMahon of Storyful has created the map below:
View Double explosion at Aleppo University in a larger map
We know that the missile travelled from the south because we hear the missile before we see or hear the explosion. We also know that the two explosions were three minutes apart. The proximity of the blasts point away from a dumb-fired rocket or artillery shell, given their relativ lack of precision, particularly since there was a significant and unpredictable wind that day. The closeness of the two explosions could be explained if the missile or artillery shell were fired down the road from a relatively short range. But, in this case, the insurgents are almost certainly not responsible, since the western half of Aleppo is occupied by the regime, and to the south of the university are Assad's largest military bases in the region.
Nothing in the video is consistent with a surface-to-surface missile or artillery shell. All but the most advanced surface-to-surface missiles are not under active power when they strike their target. The rocket fires, propels the missile on a course, and then the rocket glides to its destination.
This audio does not sound anything like an unpowered rocket obtainable in Syria. It sounds even less like an artillery shell. It is the sound of a fully-powered missile, like the ones fired from jet fighters.
Furthermore, the larger surface-to-surface rockets would leave destroyed rocket casings and other tell-tale signs that we constantly see across Syria. None of this evidence is visible.
But where is the airplane? The answer may be in the first video we posted above. Around the 40-second mark, a low roar can be heard. Analyzing the frequencies of the audio. it is clear that the sound is not caused by wind --- that set of frequencies are only consistent with the roar of a jet fighter.
Here's what the evidence suggests. A regime jet fighter lined up on the main street that leads south to north through the center of Aleppo and fired a missile. The plane then circled, lined up on the boulevard again, and fired a second missile three minutes later.
While the evidence clearly supports this conclusion, it also raises a disturbing question. The precision of the two strikes suggests that this was a deliberate target --- a clearly non-military target --- with explosions designed to have maximum impact. Did at least some of the command structure of the Syrian military, and not just the individual pilot, have knowledge of this mission? If so, was the goal was to kill as many students as possible and then --- using the quick reaction of the Syrian media --- blame this attack on the insurgents?
Those are questions deserving further examination. But, at least on this occasion, it is possible to at least get past the initial "fog of war" to establish responsibility.