Syria woman-only ‘battalion’ aims to train women to use weapons for protection

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Syrian women patients injured during the ongoing conflict in Syria are treated at a hospital in Lebanon.
A French delegation visits and talks to Syrian women, injured during the fighting between Syrian troops and anti-government forces in the Bab Amr area of the city of Homs, Syria. On March 14, 2012 the visit was made with the women as they received medical treatment at a hospital in Tripoli in northern Lebanon. Image: FreedomHouse

(WNN) Homs, SYRIA: In a move that has brought international concern and attention to the plight of the women of Syria under continued and intensified violence, a group of women from the city of Homs has formed a women-only ‘battalion’ to begin efforts to train women in the use of firearms for personal protection. 

The group has also made a public statement saying they are not affiliated with any military organization.

The armed woman-only organization calls themselves the “Banat al-Walid battalion” named after Islamic military officer Khaled bin al-Walid who lived during the time of the Prophet Mohammad conveyed Lebanese news agency, The Daily Star.

“Earlier this week, a report from Human Rights Watch indicated that Syrian government forces have used rape and other forms of sexual violence against men, women and children during the Syrian uprising,” outlined The Daily Star.

Human rights watch-dog organization, HRW – Human Rights Watch, has documented 20 separate detailed incidents of sexual violence and abuse against medical workers, former detainees and women’s rights activists caught in the cross-fire between ‘pro-Assad’ forces and anti-government forces across Syria during the year from March 2011 to March 2012.

According to The Daily Star, the women-only Banat al-Walid battalion has stated that their ultimate goal is to: “…help the wounded and refugees wherever they are, to train women to use various types of weapons to protect themselves from [President Bashar] Assad’s gangs, and to monitor the regime’s crimes and ensure they are published and exposed in the media.”

Sexual violence has not only occurred while under military or security detainment, some of the violence has also occurred in the homes of Syrian citizens, says Human Rights Watch in a detailed June 15 release outlining cases of torture and sexual humiliation at the hands of what is thought to be Syrian government forces, or allied operatives.

“The international community urgently needs to address the human rights violations going on in Syria,” said Human Rights Watch Mid-East Director Sarah Leah Whitson. “The [UN] Security Council should send a strong signal to the Assad government that they will be held accountable for sexual violence and other human rights violations – by referring the situation to the ICC [International Criminal Court at the Hague in Geneva],” continued Whitson.

Three male former detainees interviewed by Human Rights Watch have confirmed that sexual abuse of adult women and male children has occurred in government detention facilities across Syria.

Although, “Syrian survivors of sexual assault are reluctant to report sexual violence and seek treatment because of rampant stigma and the fear of reprisals by the attackers,” added the HRW. “Even if they seek help, survivors in Syria have limited access to medical or psychological treatment and other services due to a dearth of resources and inadequate mechanisms to facilitate and ensure access to appropriate health and other services,” they continued.

In the face of international concern, Syrian president Bashar al-Assad has recently made a public statement of denial before the Parliament in Syria. Denying any involvement of Syrian forces in the recent May massacre in the town of Houla, Assad blamed instead “foreign terrorists” for the intense violence that is reported to have included beheadings. The Houla massacre has been estimated to have killed over one hundred people, including numerous women and children.

“Not even monsters would carry out such an ugly crime,” outlined Assad. “We will remain ashamed every time we remember Houla…,” he added. “…We are now facing a real war from outside…,” said Assad referring to what the Syrian government feels has been armies of foreign insurgents inside the Syrian region.

“We are approached on a regular basis by representatives of different groups within Syria who are terrified of what comes next…,” said U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently on June 12. “The Syrian people want and deserve change,” Secretary Clinton continued.

We have been “pushing the Russians for months to break their military ties with the Syrian regime and they haven’t done it,” outlined U.S. State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland in response to a question about accusations that Russia has been supplying arms to Syria during the ongoing conflict and violence. “And instead they keep reassuring all of us that what they are sending militarily to Syria can’t be used against civilians. And now what are we seeing? We are seeing the Syrian government using helicopters to fire on their own people from the air.”


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