Syria’s young Christian women are bearing the biggest brunt of the two-year-old civil war, according to a human rights group.
The report by Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, released by Open Doors USA, estimates there have been more than 100,000 casualties since the war’s beginning in 2011.
Five thousand of those casualties are children under the age of 16.
Open Doors spokesman Jerry Dykstra told WND that a disproportionate number of the casualties are young Christian women and girls.
“The fact is there have been reports of rape of women and girls in Christian communities of Syria. In some of the areas, students stay home from school and church. One report said 5,000 children 16 and below have been killed in the war,” Dykstra said.
International Christian Concern’s Middle East area specialist Todd Daniels says that non-Muslim Christian women are the target of a fatwa, a religious instruction under Islam.
“Women, especially those who are non-Sunni, have been particularly affected by the influx of militant Islamic extremists,” Daniels said. “They have taken to abusing non-Sunni women who are viewed as infidels or worse.”
He said the fatwa is an “example of the kind of ideology that is not only permitting but in some instances even encouraging treatment of these women in what is really an inhumane way.”
The fatwa was issued by Jordan-born Salafi cleric Sheikh Yasir al-Ajlawni, who said Muslims fighting to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad can legally “capture and have sex with all non-Sunni women.”
Daniels says that means the sheik is permitting rape of all non-Muslim women. Even though the fatwa includes all non-Sunni women, he said, Syria’s Christian women are getting the worst treatment.
Daniels said he has met with Syrian who still have close links to the country and has heard a number of stories of attacks.
“There have been a lot of refugees who have fled from the Qusair region to Damascus, and they have very bad stories of what they are experiencing,” Daniels said.
A young Syrian Christian woman told WND through Open Doors that before the war, Christians were on the fringes. She said that now they’re rebel targets.
“We Christians have no voice in Syria. We are people of the margin. But on the other hand I see that Christians now started wearing a cross, to show that they are Christians,” she said. “In some areas, for example in Homs, Christians were spared because of being a Christian. Now Christians are seen as with the government and can be killed.”
She said she fears retribution from the rebels.
“Whatever we did as Christians, we will be blamed for that, I fear. We will be punished. Before the crisis the government protected Christians, now I am afraid for our lives,” the Syrian Christian woman said.
Center for Security Policy Senior Fellow Clare Lopez said the treatment of Christian girls and young women is tragic but not surprising.
“In any war zone, and especially in the refugee camps, there are going to be incidences of rape,” Lopez said.
“I’m not sure of the numbers, but in any war situation, there will be those who prey on the refugee camps and there will be violence, and likely rape, against the women.”
The casualty figures vary from report to report, but Dykstra verifies the numbers in reports issued by Open Doors USA and the report by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
International Christian Union President Joseph Hakim believes that the Syrian civil war is being used as a pretext for getting rid of Christians.
He told WND the Christians are being forced out of their native cities, towns and villages.
“I feel that I am being accurate in calling what is happening genocide,” he said.
“The bloodletting in Syria is simply finishing off the work that was left behind by the Ottoman Turks.”