Conflict & Justice

Crowd-mapping sexual violence in Syria



Mustafa Ozer

With foreign journalists largely unable to report freely from Syria, news organizations and the concerned public have been forced to rely on eyewitness accounts though social media to understand the conflict.

A new website Women Under Siege, a project of the Women's Media Center that documents and advocates against sexualized violence, uses so-called "crowd-mapping" to track incidents of sexual violence in Syria.

Visit the site here.

The site compiles data on rape and other forms of sexual violence through collecting eye witness accounts via email, SMS, or Twitter, using the hashtag #RapeinSyria, said the New Scientist.

The site also uses traditional news reports corroborate accounts.

Women Under Siege uses crowdsourcing technology developed by Washington DC-based Ushaidi, which has created platforms to track natural disasters, elections and other conflicts.

The site features a map of Syria displaying an icon where each attack has allegedly taken place.

Users can find more information about each attack, which are categorized by the level of violence.

Women under Siege director Laren Wolfe told Mashable: "The emphasis is not so much the number, but that this is a crisis. Entire communities are torn apart by sexual violence and conflict ... My hope is to get the international community to realize that [the crisis in Syria] is also a public health crisis."

Mashable also noted the difficulties in collecting data on rape in a region where female sexuality is a sensitive topic.

“Confirming rape is so problematic in the eyes of the world,” Wolfe said. “For a woman to go against her community, which is telling her that it’s shameful, to seek out medical or legal help … it’s almost impossible.”