Sunday, 24 April 2016
Janine di Giovanni: The Morning They Came For Us
" 'I lay there hiding my face as they kicked and thought: “They are using my body to practise their judo moves.”
And the entire time they were beating me, they kept saying: “You want freedom? Here’s your freedom!” Every time they said freedom, they kicked or punched harder. Then suddenly the mood changed. It got darker. They started saying if I did not talk, they would rape me.'
By early 2012, reports began emerging of mass rape in Syria, they seem to be perpetrated predominantly by President Bashar al-Assad’s men, largely paramilitary agents known as Shabiha, or ‘ghosts’.
Although Assad’s own government troops were not always the perpetrators, the Shabiha did most of the dirty work when it came to sexual violence. Their tactics were largely to incite fear within communities — to enter towns or villages after the government troops had been fighting nearby, and spread the word that they would rape the women — daughters, mothers, cousins and nieces. Frightened, people would run, leaving scorched earth behind. It’s a convenient way to ethnically cleanse an entire region.