Syrian refugee boys as young as 10 are being raped and tortured, a new study by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has revealed.
The UNHCR found that sexual violence against boys and men caught up in the Syria crisis is far more pervasive than previously believed.
Researchers uncovered "shocking accounts" of violence against refugees as young as 10 and men in their 80s, carried out by armed militants in Syria.
In refugee camps in Lebanon, Iraq and Jordan, they spoke to refugee boys who said they were assaulted on a "daily basis" by older men in their community.
Several interviewees said perpetrators used weapons when assaulting them and electrocuting their genitals.
One man told UNHCR: "When I was in detention in Syria I was tortured in every possible way. We were 80 persons in one cell with no light for 30 days. We were all naked. At night, they hung us from our hands – they tortured us with electricity to the genitals. They would come into the cell to violate us, but it was dark - we couldn't see them. All we could hear were people saying, 'Stop! Don't! ... I thought we would die."
Ahmed*, a refugee living in Lebanon, said his uncle was horrifically raped after he was arrested in Syria.
"He told us – he broke down, crying in front of us – that there was not one spot on his body that had not been abused by an electric drill. He had been raped... After he was released he stopped eating and became alcoholic. He died from kidney failure," Ahmed told UNHCR.
Gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex individuals are particularly vulnerable to violence in the conflict region, the study warned.
Charu Hogg, director of the All Survivors Project and Associate Fellow on the Asia Program at Chatham House, told IBTimes UK : "Sexual violence is perpetrated by Syrian authorities in government checkpoints and during house searches as well as by pro-government militia and the opposition military including Jabhat al-Nusra and Isis."
"Arrest, detention and sexual violence is targeted towards activists, journalists, people participating in demonstrations, working in medical or humanitarian aid, opposing the government and defecting from the Syrian security forces and the army," she said.
Stigma and shame prevents many boys and men from reporting the violence, Hogg said. "Existing gender norms which build around notions of masculinity and societal taboos have prevented these facts from coming to light earlier."
"These are most disturbing accounts revealing just how grave the risk of sexual violence has become both for women and girls and, as shown by this recent report, also men and boys," said Volker Türk, UNHCR's Assistant High Commissioner for Protection.
He described the current situation for boys and men in the Syria crisis as a "vicious cycle, [with] little help being available, limited outreach to male survivors, inaccessible services, and a culture of silence – all of which reinforce a myth that this problem is rare."
*All names have been changed to protect the identities of the victims.