On a still warm day in October, I sat on a panel of mostly Syrian women at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. One woman wore a wool scarf draped around her shoulders in the black, red, and green of the Free Syrian Army. Most wore a hijab, the Islamic headscarf. Turn by turn, we described our work documenting and assisting Syrian women and children who were drawn into the ongoing Syrian conflict.
Read the full story on Women Under Siege.
By Louise Hogan/Guest Blogger — November 12, 2012
There is little violence on earth more merciless than what is happening to women in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
By Lauren Wolfe/Director — October 10, 2012
Good news! We were wrong! Women are not being raped in terrible numbers around the world in conflict!
I wish I could really say that.
All day I’ve been hearing how a new report out today “upends” conventional wisdom on sexualized violence in war—that we’ve all got it wrong, that the media is misleading the world into thinking all conflicts are laden with rape, that statistics have been badly skewed in ways that make the problem seem worse than it is.
After a decade in the region, NATO member states are preparing to remove their troops. The organization and the International Security Assistance Forces (ISAF) it leads have shifted from combat to preparing local forces for transition. Yet for the country to thrive post-war, ISAF will have to place special emphasis on gender issues. In a nation where women’s rights are trampled daily, the international community must prepare Afghan forces to safeguard them.
The war in Afghanistan won’t really be over until women’s rights are safe.
In Sudan, where tens of thousands of people have been displaced from their homes by fighting and destruction, where the lives of refugees have already been devastated by the loss of their homes and families, women bear a second, enduring pain. Because for many Darfuri women, the “crime” of falling victim to rapists and sexual attackers renders them valueless, “dishonored,” and rejected. Many have been divorced, exiled, and cast out by their own husbands and communities.
You may have heard that the UK recently launched a new initiative aimed at preventing sexualized violence in conflict. We’ve been fortunate enough to be part of the early stages of this ambitious new project, which has invited participation from NGOs and experts around the world. After attending two meetings this month in London, we want to share with you what the initiative may involve, and how we’re working to shape what could be a crucial effort to stop the horrors we document constantly at WMC’s Women Under Siege.
By Lauren Wolfe/Director — July 18, 2012
The UN asked me to present the first findings of a data analysis of our crowdmap of sexualized violence in Syria as the Security Council gears up to vote on international sanctions--potentially on Friday. Below is my testimony to a room that contained members of the council from France, Portugal, the European Union delegation, Egypt, Italy, and perhaps a few members from Syria (the jury's out on that).
By Lauren Wolfe/Director — July 16, 2012
I’ll start with a simple number: 20,000. Granted it’s rounded up a little—from 19,738. Rounding up works well on the page, but also belittles its subject. It gives us a solid number to latch on to, for the media to print, for the memory to hold. But 19,738 is the exact count of lives that have been lost so far in the war in Syria, according to a volunteer, nonprofit group called Syria Tracker. And when it comes to this conflict, every little number, every single life, counts.
By Lauren Wolfe/Director
A woman swathed in black squares her shoulders and calmly looks into a camera. She holds a Quran. Only a sliver of her face—her eyeglasses—shows. “What happened to me hasn’t happened to anyone, or if it has affected anyone else I do not know,” she says. “But I will speak and let all the people know what [Syrian leader] Bashar al-Assad and his men are doing.” Over the next four minutes, her breathing grows labored and her voice breaks as she describes how, in May 2011, five men wearing black entered her home on the outskirts of Homs and raped her.
By Michelle Seyler — July 3, 2012
“Do not keep them as wives, but rather rape them to make a difference and then kill them afterwards.” –Paul Bisengimana, Rwanda, April 8, 1994
Part of Women Under Siege’s mission is to try to understand and share findings on the complexities of wartime rape in its varied forms in order to develop targeted solutions that would work effectively in different situations. We need to get a better grasp on what’s happening so we can stop it, and to stop it we need to think creatively and strategically. Here are some ideas on how to end or prevent sexualized violence in the context of various conflict situations.
For many of us, the phrase “wartime rape” evokes blurry, broad ideas of military assault, battles, and weapons. Just like the common misconceptions that surround rape in places like the U.S. or the UK (such as the idea that rape is a crime committed by a shadowy stranger in a dark alley, when, according to UK charity Rape Crisis, “only 9 percent of rapes are committed by ‘strangers’”) it is easy to make incorrect assumptions about the causes and manifestations of wartime rape.
Not understanding what we’re up against will only slow us down from stopping it.
By Deanna Simpson/Guest Blogger — June 5, 2012
The loud, unexpected laughter stuck with me long after my conversation about sexualized violence with a women’s group from Kibera—Kenya’s biggest slum, located on the outskirts of Nairobi, and one of the hot spots for violence in the post-election conflict of 2007-2008.
By Lauren Wolfe/Director and Jackie Blachman-Forshay/Syria Researcher — May 29, 2012
By Lauren Wolfe/Women Under Siege Director — April 9, 2012
Everyone wants justice. Don’t we?
It seems easy—a crime is committed so we bring a lawsuit. Witnesses testify and justice is either served or punted over some kind of event horizon, never to be seen clearly again.
By Lauren Wolfe And Catherine M. Mullaly
When we hear about conflicts in foreign countries and imagine terrible acts, our thoughts don’t turn immediately to rape. We think of bombings and refugees and government suppression. If we think of sexualized violence at all, we may imagine a faceless, powerless woman, one unfortunate person who will eventually become a statistic—400,000 raped in Rwanda, 100,000 in Guatemala. When we hear about conflicts, we don’t imagine these stories. Or we consider them to simply be part of a larger horror.