With the common occurrence of war rape, honor killing incidents have become more common in Syria during the past 6 years. Victims of rape are considered as a stigma to their families and communities and deserve killing. With the chaos and turmoil in the country, it is nearly impossible to get reliable figures and statistics of victims of rape or honor killings.
Stories coming from refugee camps are countless, speaking of young girls, boys, and adult women who were sexually abused or raped or bullied, and then they were punished by their communities for being a victim in the first place.
Worse than that, is the fact that the Syrian law protects the criminal who would kills his sister, daughter, cousin, nephew, or mother, or any woman under his authority under the name of “honor crime.” She might be killed because she was raped, or because she did something “inappropriate” in the eyes of that man. The criminal would be sentenced to jail for a few months and then it would be like nothing had happened because he was “defending his honor”. Ignorance and blind commitment to social or religious shabby costumes is growing in neglected communities.
Back in 2011, when we started hearing about an upcoming movement in the country to create “a change”, we had contradicting feelings. First we had the joy of having the chance to make radical improvements in Syria, social, political, educational and constitutional. On the other hand, we feared that this kind of movement at that time would be definitely exploited by external and internal powers to change the turn of events into something similar to Libya or Iraq especially that the movement took a religious attitude, and the prophecy came true.
When the conflict started in Syria in 2011, no one heard a protest calling “stop honor killing!” or asking for a civil law that protects all individuals equally and gives people the freedom to choose civil or religious marriage for instance. Instead, most protests insisted on cursing the souls of dead men, and promising exclusion of anyone who does not abide by their ideology. I was waiting to see the intellectual and educated “revolutionary elite” stick to its principles and stay in the country to continue what they’ve started instead of instigating people to protest while they sat in Europe’s hotels. I was waiting to hear of a strike calling for a secular law and constitution instead of supporting an army (Free Syrian Army) which started its activity with kidnapping and terrorizing safe civilians, and then was followed by a flood of terrorist militias from all over the world. I was waiting for a respectful, and reliable group to do something in order to promote “social justice” instead of just cursing souls and promising slaughter at protests. Protests came out of mosques, not out of cultural centers or universities; they did not come out to defend the rights of people who need social security before political one. One pattern was parroted, that of regime change. No one wanted to understand that if you change a thousand regimes nothing would change unless you change society first.
In its current war, Syria has truly realized the horrific threat of radical, backward, extremist thought, be it political or religious. Social structure has been devastated on many levels, and fixing that damage will take entire generations. People who still live inside Syria have the daily struggle to survive, and no one is paying heed to the honor crimes file. If someone comes out to speak they would say “Not Now!” or “this is not the right time!” Many women are daily abused, raped, and forcefully wedded because they were the victim of war.
I had a contact with a man who helps at a shelter in the capital, Damascus. This shelter provides support to individuals that were physically and sexually abused during this war. One of the horrifying stories is that of a girl who was repeatedly raped by her father in a camp in Turkey and then she was smuggled into Syria again with the help of her mother and found her way into this shelter. This initiative lacks logistic and human support; it was initiated by a group of civilians and it will not be strong enough until the person who kills in the name of honor is truly criminalized. This is something that we truly need to work on. And here we must ask ourselves:
When is the right time?
Is it until we accumulate a new pile of social and human traumas?
Is it after thousands of women and children lose their life because of an abuse that was not their mistake in the first place?
October 29 is a day when awareness is raised against this hideous crime, but I intentionally delayed publishing this just to confirm that fighting such crimes needs not an international day, it does not need a right time, it cannot wait for war to end, and it will not be solved on its own not today, not tomorrow, not after a thousand years.
There is no honor in killing.