CaptureHello, my name is Russell Hathaway.  I am a student at the University of Chicago and an intern at the Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office (UU-UNO), studying sexual and gender-based violence in the Syrian Civil War in coordination with our office program: Women: Security and Peacebuilding.  The program aims to encourage strong voices and actions of women in the peacebuilding process through targeted education, active participation of women in peacekeeping efforts, and ratification of key legislation and international agreements such as the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).  This report documents one of the most deleterious effects of armed conflict on women: accompanying crimes of sexual and gender-based violence.

The current human rights crisis in Syria is massive. As of 25 July 2013, the Syrian Civil War has claimed the lives of 100,000 people.  Within the country, upwards of 4.25 million are displaced and 6.8 million are in dire ne of aid.  Countries bordering Syria are taking in numbers of refugees far beyond their capacities; an estimated 1.9 million refugees from the conflict have fled Syria and have settled in host communities or refugee camps across the border.

In any large humanitarian crisis, however, there are aspects that slip under the radar. In January, the International Rescue Committee released a report on Syria that cited rape and sexual violence as a “significant and disturbing feature of the Syrian Civil War.”  This report and others like it included accounts from Syrian refugees who cited sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) as their primary reason for leaving the country.  This testimony prompted me to extensively research SGBV in Syria and compile a report that documents this under-reported and insidious aspect of the Syrian Civil War.

This report compiles and synthesizes testimony from survivors of SGBV in refugee camps, bringing together the evidence to unveil multifaceted trends of rape and sexual violence in the Syrian Civil War.  A thorough analysis of wartime sexual and gender-based violence informs my suggestions to better address the needs of SGBV survivors in refugee camps and host communities across the Syrian border.  Refugees are not only subject to continuous crimes of SGBV within Syria in brutal detention centers and during house raids.  Refugees across the border are also plagued by a human rights crisis in which inadequate SGBV-related care and complex “cultures of honor” place them at further risk of emotional and bodily harm.

The report can be read here.  The opinions expressed are my own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the UU-UNO or the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA).

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About the Author
UU-UNO Intern
The Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office has a very competitive internship program that takes on the best and the brightest students from schools around the New York City area. User posts come from office interns on relevant topics, events, and issues important to the work of the office.


  1. Normajean

    Imagine how terrible the anticipated bombardment by the U.S. on Syria will be if this violent threat is fulfilled. It can be stopped, however, as it is a violation of the UN Charter, chapters 2 and 33, which forbids the threat or use of force against the sovereignty or political integrity of one nation by another, and describes a host of acceptable means to settle disputes! There is NO actual evidence the Syrian government is responsible for the deaths on August 21st, it could even be the “rebels” who did it, but the issue is best brought before a court such as the ICC or the Hague, not a lynching by cruise or tomahawk missiles! I hope and pray that the UUA and the UN can play a meaningful part in bringing about an emergency intervention in the General Assembly to forestall and prevent an attack on Syria, and bring all parties to this war to the diplomatic table at last!

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