Syria’s War Fought Unjustly

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I recently came across an article on the Vanity Fair website: Syria’s Unspoken Crimes. It struck me particularly because of how rape was being used, as a “deliberate tactic to terrorize and subjugate combatants and civilians“. This case is particularly special because usually you hear about wars being waged by a foreign enemy. However, the war in Syria is largely a civil war and the atrocities being committed on the people are often committed by their own government. President Bashar al-Assad’s army itself has been charged with some of the most atrocious crimes against humanity, over the past year.

In university I read a book by Michael Walzer entitled “Just and Unjust Wars: A Moral Argument With Historical Illustrations”. He explained that every war is judged twice. The first kind of judgement is adjectival in character. For example, we say a particular war is just or unjust. The second judgement is adverbial, where we would ask ourselves if a war is fought justly or unjustly.

At this point in time, why the war in Syria started is irrelevant but, how it is being fought is of great concern. It should be understood that there are two types of people in a war, the combatants and the civilians and the state exists to defend the rights of these members. Whether it be by luck or sheer patriotic duty, combatants are thrust into war through possibly no choice of their own and forced to give up their basic rights to life and liberty.

Civilians on the other hand, still rely on the state to protect their fundamental rights of liberty and life. In the case of Syria and  the epidemic of rape, these rights are being grossly violated. According to Walzer, a legitimate act of war is one that does not violate the rights of the people against who it is directed and state-sponsored rape certainly cannot qualify as a legitimate act of war.

Rape is a crime in war as in peace, because it violates the rights of the woman who is attacked. Rights, especially a civilian’s rights cannot be set aside, nor can they be balanced in a utilitarian sense against this or that desirable outcome. Simply put, a soldier cannot rape an innocent woman as a means to get information of insurgent or rebel activity that she may or may not be involved with.

Rape should not be used as a means to an end. It may seem that during a war, all rules are thrown out the window and in Syria’s case this may in fact be true. However, wars are largely rule governed. Just because a country is at war does not exempt them from complying with international law, it does not excuse their immoral behavior and it certainly does not make it OK to rape innocent civilians.

What do you guys think? Is a woman’s right to life, security and liberty less important if she is in a war zone? Who should be held accountable if such violence is state-sponsored?

We have a voice, use it.


5 thoughts on “Syria’s War Fought Unjustly

  1. Pingback: whataboutourvoice | UN’s New Sexual Violence Declaration – A Step Forward? Maybe Not.

  2. War isn’t an excuse for rape; a crime’s a crime. And instead of threatening more death and destruction in response to egregious acts of violence against civilians, the US offer should be to help protect these women, many of whom are now in refugee camps where the sexual assaults continue.

  3. It is with dismay that I say this, but the truth is that war and rape go hand in hand. I feel that while international and national laws prohibit such violent acts against women, in times of crisis, especially in the case of wars, rape is bound to happen and be used as a weapon. Speaking from experience being in the Army myself, I know that from the get-go, women are taught to be seen as objects. The psyche that is ingrained when going to a mission grossly and subtly makes women line up in the cross-hairs of soldiers. Locations the zones to attack and the mission code names are almost always common names of women. Marching songs chanted to lift ‘spirits of the men’ almost always have sections of rape or the objectification of women in them. When attacking, soldiers are always told to ‘attack her’ or to ‘kill her’. Add this to the fact that men would naturally see women as targets considering the fact that they would likely be far less strong and unable to resist being taken by force, and you have a recipe for disaster commonly dubbed: war.

    War affects soldiers minds; It corrupts them and destroys them from the inside. In hindsight, it’s not hard to see why war and rape go hand in hand. Using rape as a ‘tool for information’ is merely an excuse that leaders give in order to cover up the revolting crimes their soldiers commit while at war. They have no choice other than that, because any as any politician would tell you: the truth, is overrated.

  4. A person’s right to life, security and liberty should not be compromised whether in peacetime or war, regardless of sex. I think the reason why war rape is used as a tool by various parties is because of it’s unique ability to break the entire community. The women suffer physically and emotionally, or course, but for the men having to deal with loved ones violated so intimately, it’s a reminder of their inability to keep their women safe (however Neanderthal that sounds). Even in peacetime, men tend to take rape of their loved ones as a personal affront, never mind in war when emotions run so much higher. And for some men who can’t get over another’s physical invasion of their wife/mother/sister, rape creates a barrier in the relationship that wasn’t there before, whether that’s rooted in shame or anger or disgust, and this pulls families apart. So, while I don’t think rape in any situation is okay, I can see why wartime leaders choose to use it against their enemies or not stop their soldiers from committing such acts.

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