News came out two days ago that hundreds of Syrians trying to flee to Italy from Egypt in a boat, are sending SOS messages to the world as their boats were sinking in the Mediterranean near the Sicilian coast, luckily they were saved by the Italian Navy. Every day, we hear of people drowned in the sea in their way to a place they would call home after they lost the place their country to mayhem and increasing numbers of Syrians are fleeing for their lives.
UNHCR registered more than 2 million Syrian refugees in neighboring countries, these are the refugees registered in the organization. Other thousands of Syrians fled to countries in the Arabian Peninsula and Libya. UNHCR also stated that women and children make up three-quarters of the refugee population. Most of them arrive with nothing but their clothes on. Before the revolution, the percentage of poverty in Syria reached %40; one can’t imagine the percentage of Syrians now that have nothing but their souls to flee with. The numbers of refugees increased drastically in 2013, making Al Zatari refugee camp in Jordan the second biggest refugee camp in the world.
In these dire conditions, women suffer the most especially those displaced inside Syria. Women have no means for personal hygiene and maternal health care. In a refugee camp called Atmeh inside Syria, near the Turkish borders, a Syrian woman told her story of giving birth under an olive tree in the open air, with no care provided to her and to her newborn. If the mother or the child suffered from any complication, one of them, or both, might die.
As many Syrians in refugee camps suffer from deprivation and poverty under scarcity, it is women who are sacrificed so the rest of the family can survive. Under severe conditions in Lebanon and Jordan, women and young girls (sometimes 14 years old) are married to much older men. Sometime men are wealthy, but other times the family just want to protect the girl. Tough marrying girls under 18 is not uncommon in Syria before the uprising, but the percentage might increase among refugees.
In a report issued by Oxfam and Abaad organization, the numbers stated that there was an increase in domestic violence among Syrian refugees because men feel that they can’t fulfill their traditional role as providers to the family and they familial ties starts to crack under the pressure of need. The report found that Syrian women refugees go regularly hungry, about %90 interviewed women said that they skip meals for their children and husbands. Women are also skip taking a bath for lack of water for their children, and women wearing hijab wears their head scarfs for weeks because there is no privacy to take it off. Syrian women refugees are always fear kidnapping, robbery, attacks and sexual harassment which leads to restriction of movement. Tension is rising especially in Lebanese communities that are witnessing an increase of Syrian refugee influx. Moreover, Syrian girls might not be sent to school because most Lebanese schools are mix and this is not usual in Syria. Finally, the report mentioned that some Syrian women feel that they lost their female identity, while other women said that the new responsibilities have empowered them.
Syrian refugees are facing oppression wherever they go. A few days ago, a 50 years old woman and a young man both fled from Syria, were shot dead after the Egyptian costal guards opened fire on a boat carrying refugees trying to reach Europe. Recently, Syrian refugees in Egypt are facing a crackdown by the Egyptian government, entire families are imprisoned including women and children, and many of them are forced to go back to Syria in a clear violation of the international laws to protect refugees.
In an attempt to protect Syrian women refugees in Turkey, the Turkish government issued a law stating that any foreign man wants to marry a Syrian woman he must pay $15000, in case of a divorce the man cannot marry a Syrian woman again. This law attempts to stop the exploitation of Syrian women that is taking placing in a number of Arab countries.
This is a call upon all governments and NGOs to protect Syrian refugees by issuing specialized protection laws, especially for women. And a call for the world to have mercy on Syrians who lost everything, even their humanity.