Middle East

Rape used ‘systematically’ during Lebanon Civil War

A new report has shed light on the extent of “Gendered crimes” against women and girls during the 15-year Lebanese Civil War (1975-1990), a conflict which claimed the lives of over 100,000 people and displaced 1 million.

The report, “They raped us in every possible way, in ways you can’t imagine: Gendered Crimes during the Lebanese Civil Wars” was conducted by the human rights organisation, Legal Action Worldwide (LAW), and gathered the testimonies of Lebanese and Palestinian women and girls who suffered systematic violence carried out by both the government forces and various sectarian militias.

Many of the survivors spoke out for the first time in over 30 years, as “they were never asked”, the report stated, but also due to the fear of bringing “shame” on their families if they spoke of their experiences.

It also blamed “Decades of collective amnesia” obscured by “Lebanese resilience and shaming of victims” which made the female survivors and their families members “double victims” – first the sexual violence inflicted upon them, and then the “total and utter failure to hold individuals and state agents accountable for these grave violations or even acknowledge what has happened”.

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Detailing shocking and horrific cases of sexual violence, including rape, gang rape, mass rape, genital mutilation, sexualised torture and humiliation including electrocution of breasts and genital area, forced nudity and forced prostitution.

Rape, the report explained, was used as: “a method of war to persecute persons from particular communities, to humiliate them, to break their resistance, and to emasculate members of the family”.

Amira Radwan, now aged 54, testified that she witnessed the rape of girls in the village of Kfar Matta, which was the scene of a notorious massacre of Druze civilians by the Christian Lebanese Forces militia. “They used to tie up the father and brother and make them watch the girls being raped,” Radwan said, adding she also knew of women being raped using glass bottles.

The report calls for crimes against women to be further documented “to counter the male-dominated narrative of the civil wars and amplifying survivor and victims’ voices”, but also recommends that sexual violence against men should be recorded, too.

After the end of the civil war, an amnesty law passed in 1991 granted immunity for crimes carried out against civilians during the conflict, according to the survey, 99 per cent of all respondents stated that they do not support the Amnesty Law, which has enabled a culture of impunity and has denied the survivors any access to justice.

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