20 women in Aleppo committed suicide to avoid rape. Here's one of their suicide notes.
When Syrian President Bashar Assad's troops captured eastern Aleppo on Monday, women in the city saw their fates crystallized. More so than death, many of them feared rape.
Following the siege, Abdullah Othman, the leader of one of the largest rebel groups in Aleppo, conveyed the urgency of the situation in an interview with the Daily Beast.
Othman told the outlet of civilians hopelessly trapped beneath rubble, of people being "cooked alive" by barrel bombs, of residents marched off to internment camps, and, finally, of a group of women who took their destinies into their own hands.
"This morning 20 women committed suicide in order not to be raped," he said.
"I am one of the woman in Aleppo who will soon be raped in just moments," she writes. "There are no more weapons or men that can stand between us and the animals who are about to come called the 'country's army.'"
Rape has long been not just a consequence of war, but a weapon of war — a tactic that equates the conquer of territory with the conquer of women's bodies.
"The opportunistic rape and pillage of previous centuries has been replaced in modern conflict by rape used as an orchestrated combat tool," the BBC reported following a 2004 Amnesty International investigation.
Gita Sahgal, then-head of the organization's gender unit told the BBC at the time, "Women's lives and their bodies have been the unacknowledged casualties of war for too long."
Such has been the case in Syria, where the Syrian regime has taken over 1,000 women as prisoners of war. One of these women, who goes by Rowaida Yousef, has been working to learn how many others are, like her, victims of sexual assault.
The writer of Tuesday's suicide note wrote that she did not want to give Assad's troops the opportunity to "savor" raping her. She went on to suggest an awareness that her death would be turned into a kind of symbol of the Syrian conflict — but she said the only thing it symbolizes, she wrote, is a hatred of and neglect for women.
"I am committing suicide and I know all of you will unite on my entering of Hell-Fire and that will be the only thing that you will unite upon: the suicide of a woman," she wrote. "Not your mother or sister or wife, but a woman you are not concerned about."