“Imagine what it would mean to track rape in conflict in real time – we’re doing it in Syria,” declares the new website Women Under Siege.
“Our mission is to show the world that each woman raped has been illegally brutalized against her will. We aim to show that this woman, wherever she is, matters. As part of this, we’re trying something new: telling individual stories from Syria as they happen.”
The website is calling on women and men from Syria and those working with Syrian refugees to provide reports of sexualized violence as the crisis there continues to unfold.
A Women’s Media Center initiative, Women Under Siege is documenting and advocating against sexualized violence in conflict. Spearheaded by Gloria Steinem, this initiative explores historical evidence that sexualized violence occurred in wars from the Holocaust to the present day. In the belief that understanding what happened in the past might have helped us to prevent or to prepare for the mass sexual assaults of other conflicts, from Bosnia to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Women Under Siege is working to heighten public consciousness of causes and prevention.
“We are relying on you to help us discover whether rape and sexual assault are widespread—such evidence can be used to aid the international community in grasping the urgency of what is happening in Syria, and can provide the base for potential future prosecutions,” declare the website operator. “Our goal is to make these atrocities visible, and to gather evidence so that one day justice may be served.”
The website has partnered with a Harvard-based doctor and an epidemiologist from Columbia University, as well as multiple Syrian activists.
In an article titled “The cartography of suffering: Women Under Siege maps sexualized violence in Syria,” published on the new website, Lauren Wolfe and Catherine M. Mullaly write:
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.
But at Women Under Siege, our mission is to show the world that each woman raped is a person who has been illegally brutalized against her will, that she is part of a family and a community that may now be shredded. We aim to show that this woman, wherever she is, matters.
As part of this mission, we’re trying something new: telling egregiously underreported stories from Syria as they happen, with as much accuracy as possible. The blurred suffering of women who have been sexually violated in the raging but opaque Syrian conflict is now being made visible on our site, WomenUnderSiegeSyria.crowdmap.com.
Users can submit reports to the website anonymously or with one’s personal information, which will not be stored on any server or posted online.