Myriam barely had time to hide her breastfeeding infant under the blankets when she heard the men breaking into her apartment. As regime forces dragged her into a car with her mother and teen brother, she screamed at the neighbors to watch the kids. She believes the men were looking for her husband. Hooded, she did not know which police station they were all taken to. She did not think anything could be worse than watching her 17-year-old brother’s fingernails being pulled off. But then the men stripped her naked and threw her into a cell full of women. She was on her period, and the women ripped the garments they did have to give her rags to stop the flow. Then the men came again, taking her away to a dark room. Most did not mind that she was menstruating and repeatedly gang raped her. Her voice breaks as she describes the humiliating positioning of her body for their pleasure. She breaks into uncontrollable sobs describing this. The commander, however, said he would wait until she was “clean.” As promised, he came for her a few days later. When he noticed she was lactating, he sucked her breasts as he raped her, laughing “Oh, you must have a baby somewhere? Shall we find your baby?”
While she was taken, a sniper killed her husband.
Today, Myriam is a 23-year-old widow of three young children struggling to survive as an urban refugee. She is luckier than most, she has found a job in a salon. She also does not discuss the torture and rape she endured on the outskirts of Damascus. She waits until her kids are asleep to break down and cry. She is determined to never let them know what she suffered. Here she has enough for the rent, barely. But she can’t fathom a future for herself or children in an unchanging status quo. Two of her three children are pictured: Lara, 7, and Muhammed, 6. (photographed 2015)