U.N. official: both sides in Syria responsible for sexual violence

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Both sides in Syria’s civil conflict are responsible for sex crimes, Zainab Hawa Bangura, the U.N. special representative on sexual violence in conflict, said on Tuesday.

“Crimes are committed by both sides of the conflict,” Bangura told Al Arabiya’s bureau chief in New York Talal Alhaj. The representative blamed the Syrian government for failing to protect its citizens.

“So the first person we blame is the government not being able to provide the security that it requires for its citizens,” she said.

Bangura said that more information has come to light of crimes committed by both sides, including the sexual abuse of men during detention.

“They are using it [sexual abuse] as a way to humiliate, degrade and dehumanize their opponents in a way to inflict maximum damage to communities and families and individuals,” said Bangura.

According to the representative, Syria’s traditional and religious society means that “accepting rape by itself is unacceptable, so we are finding that it is not only dealing with the victims, it is also dealing with the families.”

Bangura said that U.N. organizations were dealing with incidents of honor killing and parents prefer to marry their children at a very early age, or disowning them rather than accepting that they have been raped.

Efforts were underway to find out if Syrian girls were being trafficked to refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, Bangura said, adding that an investigation on what she described as “marriage in exchange for a certain amount of resources” was taking place.

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