SOHR exclusive | The suffering of Syrian women refugees continues and no end in sight
For 11 years, refugees and internally female displaced Syrians have suffered greatly in asylum countries and camps in Syria, where they have experienced a tragic situation. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) has shed light on such tragedies in several reports previously and warned against the serious repercussions of such situations on Syrian women who have been the weakest element of any military conflict.
As the United Nations has described, Syrian females in asylum countries are struggling with a disastrous humanitarian situation and dire living conditions which have deepened their sufferings and badly impacted them, both mentally and physically, and many have been robbed of their right to live. These females have been hit hard with economic hardships in many countries, as well as with exploitation by employers who pay low wages that do not match the minimum level of salaries stated by the International Monetary Fund, taking advantage of the Syrian women’s utmost need of money.
Not only have Syrian females suffered from economic hardships and social and sexual exploitation, but also many have been forced to marry in young age and threatened to be killed in the case of rejection. One example, among many, was the murder of a Syrian girl in Jordan, who was stabbed to death for refusing to marry a Jordanian man.
Losing breadwinners, whether husbands, fathers or brothers, has also exacerbated the refugee Syrian females, situation, where they have found themselves forced to work to earn their living and secure their families needs.
Studies conducted by the UN institutions referred to the fact that assistance provided to Syrian refugees, which aims at helping them to mingle with the new societies they have moved to and improve their living conditions, are not sufficient. Accordingly, they find themselves obligated to search for work to help them to afford the soaring living costs.
In an interview with SOHR, the women rights activist, Jihan Khalaf sees that the disaster which has led to unprecedented mass exodus, which is also the first of its kind in a century, has negatively affected female refugees and displaced Syrians. The activist says “the lack of statistics about distribution and the number of female refugees outside Syria and lack of needed databases have caused major issues, including the fact that many categories which need support, especially women refugees, do not get any support, because those individuals, institutions and organisations that are entrusted to set reports and documentation, in general, are not concerned with women affairs or those reports to be set for other objectives. On the other hand, when specialist institutions and centres are the bodies setting such reports, then there is considerable difference regarding focusing on details. When the victims are women, the institutions setting these reports have to focus on and search for the health, social, physical, mental and psychological effects on women, the negative effects which may hit them at all levels, and how far these women can be responsive with the hosting society. Moreover, many reports ignore searching for the reactions of women and to what extent of being impacted by the surrounding security conditions and do not mention the repercussions of the war which women are struggling, including displacement which has deepened the sufferings of women and made them shoulder extra burdens and responsibilities, as many women have become the breadwinners of their families, after losing fathers, husbands and brothers.”
“Such situations have badly impacted the role of women in all sectors and fields and placed many unaffordable challenges in front of women. On a few occasions, such circumstances give woman power and make them stronger, especially when these women have received high education or have crafts and jobs. Illiterate women or those who have received poor education and women who have been hit with poverty and personal weakness due to obsolete traditions have become fragile and weak. Accordingly, this category has been ignored by the bodies and institutions setting reports; this, in turn, has contributed to ignoring their situations. This marginalisation has let media outlets, journalists and researchers face great challenges to shed light on their plights and seriously handle female refugees’ situation, so that reports about the situation of these refugees will be more substantive and contain statistics and data documented by reliable international centres. The institutions setting such reports have to focus on marginalised categories. Furthermore, journalists and media institutions in the countries of asylum must avoid hate speech racist rhetoric and language, as well as addressing the issues of refugees and setting reports about their situations in an impartial way meeting the media code of ethics and the international conventions and charters, especially since media now has broad authorities and ability to affect local and international public opinion.”
Speaking to SOHR, the human rights activist, Rima Harbat has confirmed that no situation can be more cruel than the situation of these living for years in tents that cannot protect them from the extreme hot weather in summer and freezing temperature in winter, not to mention the lack of basic livelihood, extreme poverty, oppression and security vacuum. The activist says, “I stand idly by when I meet those women who are in pain for their illiterate children in the current age of knowledge and technology, especially since many of these children have lost their fathers. These women have found themselves forced to undertake unaffordable responsibilities to raise their children and encourage them to cope with the chronic living crises. Every year, children die of harsh weather conditions and hunger in front of their poor, powerless and helpless mothers.”