The victims of the war in Syria dying the loneliest deaths

Lauren Wolfe writes: In April, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said torture was routinely being used in government detention facilities and “almost certainly” in “a systematic or widespread manner.” Mental health support, as I recently wrote, is nearly nonexistent, both for Syrians who’ve suffered torture and for those who have not, both inside their country and in nearby states holding burgeoning numbers of refugees. And now suicide, according to doctors and social workers I spoke with, is rapidly becoming a very real fallout of this war — one that is so taboo, it is rarely spoken of within families, let alone publicly.

“Suicide is strictly forbidden in Islam,” said Haid N. Haid, a Beirut-based Syrian sociologist and Middle East program manager at the Heinrich Boll Foundation. Scholars often forbid the recitation of a funerary prayer for people who’ve committed suicide, as a way to punish the families of the dead and to deter others from taking their own lives. The cause of death is usually obscured — it is called an “accident” or “natural.” Suicide, Haid emphasized, is always “a big scandal that people will talk about for a long time.”

Despite the taboo, doctors I spoke with said they are seeing more and more cases of people with suicidal impulses — a trend confirmed by the number of reported instances in which, because of a feeling of being unable to provide for one’s family as a refugee, or because of the shame of rape, pregnancy through rape, or sexual humiliation, it has been carried out. Hard data are difficult to come by. But while I was unable to find formal statistics on suicide in the Syrian war, the picture painted by doctors working in and near the country is decidedly bleak — and given how precious few mental health services are available to Syrians affected by the war, it is probably just the tip of the iceberg. [Continue reading…]

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