- ‘They brought the stick of a mop and they inserted it in our anus. A strong bleeding started, and we were mutilated.’
Syrian state authorities and other militias are raping gay men, boys, trans women and non-binary people.
A new report highlights sickening levels of sexual violence against LGBT+ people in the country.
Victims report how officials have raped them with sticks pushed into their anus and up to their stomach. The torture they experienced has left them bleeding and traumatized. Some of the boys who endured sexual attacks were as young as 11 years old.
It’s a further example of the endemic violence LGBT+ people have faced in Syria.
However, the new report focuses on another terror LGBT+ face – sexual violence. Researchers interviewed 44 survivors who have fled to Lebanon. They revealed that both Syrian state and non-state rebels subjected them to horrific sexual attacks.
Prisoners raped trans woman and gay man while cutting them
The interviewees say guards at checkpoints would target them because they are ‘soft looking’ or effeminate. People in prison for other reasons also faced sexual torture.
Once in detention, interrogators would intensify their torture sessions if they discovered the victims’ sexual orientation or gender identity.
Most commonly they raped men with objects, including batons, wooden sticks, pipes, and bottles. They also beat their genitals, burnt them, gave them electric shocks and mutilated them.
Sexual violence also took place within the ranks of the Syrian army. Interviewees described cases of rape, genital violence, threat of rape, forced nudity, and sexual harassment.
One trans victim, Nalia, revealed her experiences in jail. The head of the prison ordered guards to move her to a cell for other inmates to rape her:
‘As soon as I entered the room I understood why I was there. I wasn’t alone experiencing this. There was a gay person… and he was also in the middle of the room and going through the same things I went through.
‘It had 30 men inside. They forced me with the gay person to have sex in front of them while beating us and cutting us with blades. Then they brought the stick of a mop and they inserted it in our anus. A strong bleeding started, and we were mutilated.’
‘They beat my testicles’
The sexual violence has left victims with ongoing physical and mental trauma.
For example, one gay male victim, Yousef, now 28, said:
‘When they get you down, the stick is the most terrible thing…. I still have problems with my anus now. It is ruined forever. Sometimes I bleed. So I had infections inside, because all the stuff they inserted [in me] was very dirty. It happened on multiple occasions.
‘Because I was beaten on my testicles, combined with how I was sitting [how they made me sit] for a long time, I had a hernia…Because of the sticks [used to rape me], I have bruises inside. I couldn’t go to the toilet. It was really bad.’
Moreover, international officials investigating Syria say the violence includes LGBT+ children:
‘Male detainees, including boys as young as 11 years, were subjected to a range of forms of sexual violence including rape, sexual torture and humiliation.
‘Generally, rape of males took place during admissions to a facility – in these cases, the perpetrators were often pro-Government militias supporting the detention facility – during interrogations to force confessions, and occasionally even after detainees confessed to further humiliate or punish them.’
Boy, 15: ISIS threw my boyfriend from a high building
The Human Rights Watch report also found insufficient support for victims, even once they fled to neighboring Lebanon.
GSN has previously reported on how organizations trying to help Syrian LGBT+ refugees are struggling to get by.
Survivors have emotional and psychological problems, including depression, post-traumatic stress, sexual trauma, loss of hope, and paranoid thoughts.
Meanwhile they may suffer severe pain in their rectum and genitals, rectal bleeding, and muscle pain. Many have sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.
Shockingly, some LGBT+ people have endured even harsher treatment, particularly at the hands of Islamic State in Syria.
GSN and other media reported on multiple cases of Islamic State throwing gay men from buildings and stoning them to death. One boy they accused of being gay and murdered in this way was just 15 years old.
The new report includes an interview with gay survivor Khalil. He is now 21 but was just a teenager when ISIS captured him and his boyfriend with a group of people. He said:
‘I was detained by ISIS for three months for being part of protests. I was 15. I was detained with my friends. My boyfriend was thrown from a high building by ISIS.’
In response, some LGBT+ people even formed a rebel militia in 2017 to fight back against Islamic State.
Calls for anti-LGBT+ violence and murder are common
Nor is the situation in Syria entirely out of context with the rest of the region. Many people in the Middle East favor honor killings of LGBT+ family members.
Meanwhile, as GSN again reported last month, social media users in the region often call for the murder of LGBT+ people. And social media platforms including Facebook allow these posts to remain up, even after other users flag them.
Human Rights Watch’s 77-page report is titled They Treated Us in Monstrous Ways: Sexual Violence Against Men, Boys, and Transgender Women in the Syrian Conflict.