Words against silence

Joumana Seif, Wejdan Nassif

In prison, “You” don’t exist as a person, you mean nothing and you are nothing; consequently, all sorts of mistreatment can happen: insult, torture, humiliation, rape. (Nada)

Rape has a profound psychological effect…during my long detention years, only two women had the courage to come forward and tell me that they had been raped, I kept it to myself…This awful kind of imprisonment leaves a wound that is almost impossible to heal for years to come… (Lama)

Nada, who was captured during the revolution and Lama, who was arrested in the 1980’s, are only two examples of what imprisoned women have faced and still are. Their testimonies don’t only convey their sufferings, they also illustrate the experiences of all the women we interviewed. This report includes quotes that we have chosen from the testimonies of women who have experienced the ordeal of detention from 1980 to 2017, and have had the strength to resist.The report provides the opportunity to get acquainted with their stories, despite their harshness and cruelty. The first section of the report reviews the methods and duration of detention It also tackles the conditions experienced by the detainees, and how the security services responded to their special needs as women. The second part of the report highlights the forms of violence and torture they were submitted to, that varied from excruciation to sexual and psychological violence and stigma. The third part focuses on how their communities in general, and their families in particular dealt with their situation. This part relates about their experiences and their physical and psychological effects, including their ability to overcome and move on, continue the struggle against all forms of tyranny and abuse, fight for achieving justice and hold the perpetrators accountable.

The purpose of this report is not to prove that the regime has been using all forms of systematic violence against women boundlessly, including sexual violence since 2011: many reports have been issued in the last eight years (for instance by the Human Rights Council2, or Impartial international commission of inquiry3), and the reports of Syrian4 and international human rights organizations5 have demonstrated this. We rather intend here to reveal that detaining women and practicing violence against them has been a long-standing practice for the Syrian dictatorship. Since the 1980s, the Assad regime has followed brutal methods to break any opposition, discipline the Syrian society, and repress it politically.