What’s going on in Syria is about a lot more than chemical weapons / The Guardian

Screen Shot 2014-03-09 at 8.12.31 AMWe’re off talk of “intervention” in Syria, and on to trying to get everyone to the negotiating table. It’s not going very well.

The head of the Syrian opposition has made it clear that they will not attend talks in Geneva unless President Bashar Al-Assad is removed from office. Scheduled for 23 November, the peace conference may not even occur unless all parties get to the room. In the meantime, atrocities are continuing daily in a kind of vacuum – it’s as if there is no war unless we are talking about chemical weapons.

The thing is, this war is so horrifying, so brutal, that it is hard to hold the constantly occurring atrocities at the forefront of our minds. But they exist, they are happening every minute, and we have to face them squarely if we are ever going to stop them.

Here, then, are just a few of the stories I’ve come across in my reporting. They are painful, but I think you should know about them.

There is a 14-year-old girl in southern Turkey who won’t speak to the press. Having been abducted, raped, burned, and otherwise tortured in a house run by shabiha (plainclothes militia) members in Idlib, Syria, this girl has suffered “a nervous breakdown”, a family friend told me. I know she is there because I have spoken to the hospital treating her, and the United Nations has documented her case.

There is a 12-year-old girl in a house in Lebanon who will only speak to ask for her mother. About 10 days after the girl was first arrested, the family received a video of a man in a uniform raping her from behind in a cell-like room. The girl is completely naked in the silent video. I know this because a family friend has seen the video and described it to me; I have not seen it personally.

There is a woman in her 30s locked in her father’s house in Idlib. Upon returning home from eight months’ captivity in two separate shabiha-run houses in Syria, her husband turned her away, saying, “Now that all these men have been in and out of you, you are not fit to be the mother of my children.” This is why she now lives with her father, who occasionally tells her, “I wish you’d died.” I know this because an activist named Raiefa Sammei has gathered details of this story from multiple sources and relayed them to me in person.

There is a 20-something-year-old woman in Aleppo pregnant after being raped at the city’s military security branch. I know this because I was asked if I could help find her someone to carry out an abortion. I also know she is not following through with it because she will no longer talk about what happened and will no longer accept that she is pregnant.

To read the rest of this op-ed, please click over to The Guardian.

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