SYRIA: All-Women Armed Battalion Forms in Homs

Friday, June 22, 2012
The Daily Star Lebanon
Western Asia
PeaceWomen Consolidated Themes: 
Sexual and Gender-Based Violence

A group of women claiming to be from the Syrian city of Homs announced this week the formation of the first exclusively female armed organization to fight against the Syrian regime.

“We are a group of women from Homs and we have formed the Banat al-Walid battalion,” announced a member of the group in a video posted on the Internet Monday.

The previously unknown group, apparently named after Khaled bin al-Walid, a companion of the Muslim Prophet Mohammad and a renowned military commander, said it was not affiliated with any other military organization.

The speaker, who spoke on behalf of around 10 other veiled women appearing in the video, said the battalion's aim is to “help the wounded and refugees wherever they are, to train women to use various types of weapons to protect themselves from [President Bashar] Assad's gangs, and to monitor the regime's crimes and ensure they are published and exposed in the media.”

She said the reasons behind the formation of the group were repeated violations against Syrians in general and women in particular, the expulsion of residents, and “sniper attacks by the Shabbiha, Iranian mercenaries and Hezbollah elements despite the presence of U.N. monitors.”

Hezbollah has denied allegations that its members are fighting alongside Syrian military forces in Lebanon's neighbor.

Earlier this week, a report from Human Rights Watch indicated that Syrian government forces have used rape and other forms of sexual violence against men, women and children during the Syrian uprising.

The organization stated that it had recorded 20 incidents of sexual violence, gleaned from interviews conducted inside and outside Syria with eight victims, including four women, and more than 25 other people with knowledge of sexual abuse – including medical workers, former detainees, army defectors and women's rights activists.

Human Rights Watch's Middle East director, Sarah Leah Whitson, said that “the assaults are not limited to the detention facilities – government forces and pro-government shabiha militia members have also sexually assaulted women and girls during home raids and residential sweeps.”

Syria denies targeting civilians, blaming their deaths on “armed terrorist groups” and foreign-backed fighters who seek to topple Assad.