"Widespread and systematic" sexual violence taking place in Syria, Iraq

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Zainab Bangura, Special Representative of the Secretary General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, briefing the press about her recent visit to the Middle East. UN Photo/Mark Garten

Sexual violence is being committed in a widespread, systematic and sophisticated manner in Syria and Iraq, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, has warned.

Zainab Bangura, was speaking in New York following a mission to the region in April.

Stephanie Coutrix reports

Ms Bangura's two week trip took her to Syria and Iraq, as well as to neighbouring countries, Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan.

She met women who had been subject to sexual violence perpetrated by terrorists of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

The terrorist group is operating in various parts of Syria and Iraq fueling conflict and insecurity.

But Ms Bangura said it's not just ISIL that is targeting women.

"I found that sexual violence is being committed strategically and in a widespread and systematic manner with a high degree of sophistication by most parties to the conflict. The pattern that we have seen is that women and girls are at high risk at every point; in the midst of active conflict, in areas under the control of armed actors, at checkpoint and border crossings and in detention facilities."

Ms Bangura listed examples of the horrors suffered by women.

They included one who had been forced into marriage over 20 times and after each occasion forced to undergo surgery to repair her virginity.

The Special Representative said she had requested that the Security Council integrate protection and empowerment of women into its counter-terrorism response.

Stephanie Coutrix, United Nations

Duration: 1’19″

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