Al-Halaqi: Need for international cooperation to confront terrorists’ sexual abuse against women and children

Damascus, SANA – Prime Minister Wael al-Halaqi on Monday discussed with Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Zainab Hawa Bangura, and the accompanying delegation prospects of cooperation between Syria and the UN to confront sexual abuse committed against women and children in areas controlled by terrorist organizations.

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Premier al-Halaqi reviewed the steps taken by the government to combat sexual abuse and violence against women and children, which included passing laws to combat human trafficking and increasing penalties for rape and “honor crimes” and joining international agreements on anti-discrimination and women’s rights.

He asserted that the government is committed to maintaining a social protection system that covers women and children, stressing the integral role of cooperation between the government, civil society associations, and prominent social figures to promote the concepts of human rights.

Al-Halaqi also pointed out to the various violations committed by terrorists, which include rape of women and children, violating personal and religious freedoms, and trafficking in Syrian women in refugee camps in Turkey in Jordan, stressing the need for international cooperation to combat terrorism and its extremist mentality that promotes sexual violence, murder, and crimes against women and children.

For her part, Bangura lauded the Syrian government’s efforts to protect women and children and reduce the negative repercussions of the crisis that affect them, underlining the need to boost cooperation and implement joint plans and programs in this regard.

In the same context, Interior Minister Gen. Mohammad al-Shaar met Bangura and discussed with her the possibility of establishing a program to combat sexual violence crimes, stressing that Syria is committed to adhering to international laws and conventions related to this issue.

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Al-Shaar talked about the sexual abuse against women and the recruitment of child soldiers carried out by terrorist organizations in some areas in Syria, in addition to the violations committed by camps abroad where displaced Syrians are staying.

He said that the Syrian government is looking forward to having a productive cooperation with the UN in this regard, noting that the Interior Ministry works hard to help international organizations witness the reality of what is happening in Syria, citing the recent example of when the Ministry helped facilitate the visits of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to prisons in Syria.

In turn, Bangura said she hopes to reach a tangible agreement with the Syrian government on a work program within the framework of Syrian sovereignty to combat sexual abuse and violence and hold the perpetrators of these crimes accountable.

Meanwhile, Minister of Social Affairs Dr. Kinda al-Shammat discussed with the UN official the state and civil efforts to protect women who had been gravely abused by terrorist organizations.

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The minister stressed the importance of rehabilitating and empowering women and victims of violence and providing necessary care for them to be real partners in building society.

For her part, Bangura pointed out that she is visiting Syria to have a close look at the status of Syrian women and the services provided to them under the current events, affirming that efforts are underway, in cooperation with the Syrian government, to take practical steps to address the issue of violence against women.

A recent UN report found that extremist groups such as the Islamic State (ISIS) and Boko Haram are using rape as a weapon of war, indicating that 2014 was marked by hundreds of accounts of rape, forced marriage and sexual slavery in countries such as Iraq, Syria, Somalia, Nigeria and Central African Republic.

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