News / Middle East

    Syrian Forces Accused of Sexually Assaulting Detainees

    Women take part in a demonstration against Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, May 31, 2012.
    Women take part in a demonstration against Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, May 31, 2012.
    VOA News
    Human Rights Watch says Syrian government forces are using sexual violence to torture men, women, and boys detained during the country's 15-month uprising against President Bashar al-Assad.

    The New York-based rights group Friday released a statement saying soldiers and pro-government armed militias are also sexually abusing women as well as girls as young as 12 years old.  The group based its report on interviews with former detainees who described being sexually abused or witnessing abuses, including rape, beatings and electric shocks.  

    The group says it documented more than 20 incidents of sexual assault between March 2011 and March 2012, with most of the cases occurring in the opposition stronghold of Homs.  But it said the full extent of sexual violence in and outside of Syrian detention facilities is not known.

    While Human Rights Watch said it does not have evidence that senior military commanders ordered soldiers to commit the sexual violence, it said no action has been taken to investigate such abuses.  Syria's government has not responded to the allegations.

    The report comes as activists report a continued surge in violence, which threatens to escalate the country's conflict into an all-out civil war. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says that government forces were shelling rebel-held areas and clashing with opposition forces in Homs, Aleppo, Douma and Damascus.  

    Russia on Friday denied U.S. accusations that Moscow is fueling the violence by supplying Syria with new helicopters.  Russia's Foreign Ministry said in a statement that Moscow has only carried out repairs of helicopters sent there "many years ago." Earlier this week, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Russia was making new deliveries of helicopters, which activists say are being used to kill civilians.

    Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also denied reports suggesting that Russia, a key ally of Damascus, is discussing plans for a political transformation in Syria that would include the departure of President Assad. Lavrov said such discussions would contradict the position of Russia, which has helped block the U.N. Security Council from taking more serious action against Assad.

    With international efforts to mediate an end to the bloody conflict stalled, members of Syria's fractured opposition are meeting in Istanbul on Friday in an attempt to settle their differences and present a unified front.

    Opposition leader Ammar al-Qurabi said the aim of the opposition is not necessarily to find a replacement for President Assad, but to find a way to bring democracy to Syria.

    "The problem is not about the shape or any umbrella. We discuss paper, we discuss democracy," he said. "The people fight Assad because they hate the dictatorship."

    The meeting, which also includes delegates from the U.S., Britain, and France, comes as world powers make tentative plans to hold a meeting in Geneva on June 30 to try to revive a U.N.-backed peace plan that has so far proven unsuccessful.


    Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.

    You May Like

    US Watching as North Korea Opens Biggest Political Meeting in Decades

    As Workers' Party Congress opens, Washington anticipating possibility of another missile launch or nuclear test as top officials gather

    Video Pop Icon Prince Quietly Helped Afghan Orphans for Years

    He sent thousands of dollars to help an aid group rebuild a training center for orphan boy and girl scouts in Kabul, but kept his involvement secret

    Britain’s Muslims See London Mayor Race as Victory

    Mere running of 45-year-old former government minister and son of Pakistani immigrants Sadiq Khan seen by many as turning point

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: kafantaris from: USA
    June 15, 2012 12:24 PM
    Why exactly do we expect Russia to act differently than it has on Syria? Can we not see that Syria is a microcosm of Russia? For decades a strong ruler has governed both countries -- effectively denying citizens a say so in their government. If Russia helps fix this in Syria, it might have to fix it next at home.
    Why would Putin want to do that at when Syria has become a diversion at home where he needs to play up Russia's strength in the world? Better to stick with the old script and keep on raiding the offices of political opponents or drumming up bogus charges against businessmen.
    Forget Russia then. When the ground begins to shake below your feet, you stick with your friends.
    Though the steamroller of the Information Age is getting closer and closer to their nose, the Putins, the al-Assads and the Ayatollahs of this world are too drunk with power to get out of the way.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Donations Rescue Afghan Parents, Children From Forced Labori
    X
    May 05, 2016 6:44 PM
    A Facebook campaign organized by a VOA radio host raised 150,000 Afghan rupees to rescue a family from forced labor at a brick kiln in Nangarhar province – the result of the father’s unpaid debt. Video by a VOA reporter in Jalalabad went viral this week and triggered the Facebook campaign.
    Video

    Video Donations Rescue Afghan Parents, Children From Forced Labor

    A Facebook campaign organized by a VOA radio host raised 150,000 Afghan rupees to rescue a family from forced labor at a brick kiln in Nangarhar province – the result of the father’s unpaid debt. Video by a VOA reporter in Jalalabad went viral this week and triggered the Facebook campaign.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Troops Recount Firefight Which Killed US Navy SEAL

    A U.S. Navy SEAL killed Tuesday, when Islamic State fighters punched through Kurdish lines in northern Iraq, was part of a quick reaction force sent to extract other U.S. troops trapped by the surprise offensive. VOA's Kawa Omar spoke with Kurdish troops in the town of Telskuf -- the scene of what U.S. officials called a "dynamic firefight."
    Video

    Video British Lawmakers Warn EU Exit Talks Could Last A Decade

    Leaving the European Union would mean difficult negotiations that could take years to complete, according to a bipartisan group of British lawmakers. While the group did not recommend a vote either way, the lawmakers noted trade deals between the EU and non-EU states take between four and nine years on average. Henry Ridgwell reports on the mounting debate over whether Britain should stay or exit the EU as the June vote approaches.
    Video

    Video NASA Astronauts Train for Commercial Space Flights

    Since the last Shuttle flight in 2011, the United States has been relying on Russian rockets to launch fresh crews to the International Space Station. But that may change in the next few years. NASA and several private space companies are developing advanced capsules capable of taking humans into low orbit and beyond. As VOA's George Putic reports, astronauts are already training for commercial spacecraft in flight simulators.
    Video

    Video US Worried Political Chaos in Iraq Will Hurt IS Fight

    The White House is expressing concern about rising political chaos in Iraq and the impact it could have on the fight against the Islamic State. The U.S. says Iraq needs a stable, central government to help push back the group. But some say Baghdad may not have a unified government any time soon. VOA's White House correspondent Mary Alice Salinas reports.
    Video

    Video Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limited

    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Taliban Threats Force Messi Fan to Leave Afghanistan

    A young Afghan boy, who recently received autographed shirts and a football from his soccer hero Lionel Messi, has fled his country due to safety concerns. He and his family are now taking refuge in neighboring Pakistan. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from Islamabad.
    Video

    Video Major Rubbish Burning Experiment Captures Destructive Greenhouse Gases

    The world’s first test to capture environmentally harmful carbon dioxide gases from the fumes of burning rubbish took place recently in Oslo, Norway. The successful experiment at the city's main incinerator plant, showcased a method for capturing most of the carbon dioxide. VOA’s Deborah Block has more.
    Video

    Video EU Visa Block Threatens To Derail EU-Turkey Migrant Deal

    Turkish citizens could soon benefit from visa-free travel to Europe as part of the recent deal between the EU and Ankara to stem the flow of refugees. In return, Turkey has pledged to keep the migrants on Turkish soil and crack down on those who are smuggling them. Brussels is set to publish its latest progress report Wednesday — but as Henry Ridgwell reports from London, many EU lawmakers are threatening to veto the deal over human rights concerns.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora