Women in Aleppo Choose Suicide Over Rape

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s troops swept into eastern Aleppo on Monday, recapturing nearly all of the rebel held areas. With the help of Russian forces and Shiite militias under Iranian command, the regime launched a relentless assault has resulted in wanton slaughter. As the 100,000 people packed into roughly five square kilometers in eastern Aleppo face the prospect of being cooked alive by barrel bombs, buried alive under rubble or executed by Assad’s forces, many are contemplating suicide. Women fear yet another humiliation—rape at the hands of the regime’s troops. Yesterday morning 20 women committed suicide to avoid this painful indignity, according to Abdullah Othman, the head of one of the largest rebel groups in Aleppo.  Human-rights groups have documented mass rape in Syrian regime prisons since the start of the conflict, but now ahead of a looming victory for the Syrian government after a cease-fire deal collapsed, these women took their own lives.

A Syrian women with blood on her face carries a child following a reported air strike by government forces on March 15, 2014 on the northern city of Aleppo. In Aleppo, once Syria’s commercial capital, the regime has retained the city’s west, while advancing around the outskirts of the rebel-held east and securing and reopening the nearby airport. AFP PHOTO / MOHAMMED AL-TAYBMOHAMAD AL-TAYB/AFP/Getty Images

“Yesterday, some residents who couldn’t take the bombardment anymore fled toward regime controlled areas, according to Othman. ‘Seventy-nine of them were executed at the barricades. The rest — everyone under 40 — were taken to warehouses that look more like internment camps. They face an unknown fate. This morning 20 women committed suicide in order not to be raped.’”

“Dozens of bodies reportedly litter the streets of a number of east Aleppo neighborhoods, with residents unable to retrieve them due to the intense bombardment and fear of being shot. Women and children — their screams can be heard underneath the rubble. Unfortunately, there is nothing we can do to get them out. Everyone is panicking.”

–Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein, the High Commissioner for Human Rights

Residents look for survivors at a damaged site after what activists said was a barrel bomb dropped by forces loyal to Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad in the Al-Shaar neighbourhood of Aleppo, Syria September 17, 2015. REUTERS/Abdalrhman Ismail – RTX242XG

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