“You are going to your death”: a human rights report confirms that refugees were tortured and raped after their return to Syria

“You are going to your death”: a human rights report confirms that refugees were tortured and raped after their return to Syria
“You are going to your death”: a human rights report confirms that refugees were tortured and raped after their return to Syria

On Tuesday, Amnesty International condemned the fact that dozens of refugees who have returned to Syria have been subjected to several forms of abuse at the hands of the security forces, including arbitrary arrest, torture and even rape.

In a new report entitled “You are going to your death”, the organization appealed to Western countries hosting Syrian refugees not to force them to “forced” return to their country, warning that Syria is not a safe place to deport refugees to.

The organization has documented “horrific violations” committed by the Syrian security forces against 66 refugees, including 13 children, who returned to Syria from 2017 until the spring of this year, from several countries, most notably Lebanon, France, Germany, Turkey and the Rukban camp on the Syrian-Jordanian border.

Seven cases of rape and a five-year-old girl

She said that the security services “subjected women, children and men to unlawful and arbitrary detention, torture and other forms of ill-treatment, including rape, sexual violence and enforced disappearance.”

Among the cases it documented, the organization counted the death of five people during their detention, while the fate of 17 of those forcibly disappeared is still unknown.

It also documented: “14 cases of sexual violence committed by the security forces, including seven cases of rape of five women, a teenager and a five-year-old girl.”

The report quoted Nour, the mother of the aforementioned child, as saying that she and her daughter were raped by an officer in a small room designated for interrogation on the Syrian side of the Lebanese-Syrian border. It quoted the officer as telling her, “Syria is not a hotel that you can leave and come back to whenever you want.”

The report also documented the experience of Alaa, who was detained in an intelligence branch for five days with her 25-year-old daughter, after they were arrested at the border upon their return from Lebanon.

Alaa said, “They took off my daughter’s clothes, put handcuffs on her hands and hung them on the wall, and beat her while she was completely naked… One of them put his penis in her mouth.”

The security men accused Alaa and her daughter of “talking against (Syrian President Bashar) al-Assad abroad.”

Among the accusations leveled against the returnees, according to the report, is “treason or supporting terrorism.” In some cases, returnees were targeted simply because they were previously in areas under the control of opposition factions.

While several countries are exerting mounting pressure to deport Syrian refugees to their country, most notably Denmark, Sweden and Turkey, Amnesty International warned that “any government that claims that Syria is now safe is a willful disregard for the horrific reality on the ground.”

“Military hostilities may have subsided, but the Syrian government’s tendency to commit flagrant human rights violations has not,” said Marie Forestier, researcher on refugee and migrant rights at Amnesty International.

Karim, who was arrested for six and a half months, four days after his return from Lebanon to his village in central Syria, said that the security forces told him that he was a “terrorist” because he came from a village known to be close to the opposition.

As a result of the torture he was subjected to, the nerves in his right hand were damaged and he was no longer able to use them.

“After my release, I couldn’t see any visitors for five months, I was too afraid to talk to anyone,” Karim said. “I had nightmares and hallucinations.”

The Syrian conflict, since its outbreak in March 2011, has caused the displacement and displacement of more than half of the population inside and outside the country, including more than 6.6 million refugees, who fled mainly to neighboring countries.

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